Devils eye division title, face Maple Leafs - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Devils eye division title, face Maple Leafs

Author:
Publish date:

By Santosh Venkataraman

Stats Editor

Toronto (32-34-13) at New Jersey (49-26-4), 7 p.m. EDT

NEWARK, New Jersey (AP) -- The New Jersey Devils don't exactly

feel like they have righted their ship, but they are playing

better than they were not too long ago.

The Devils look to clinch the Atlantic Division title as they go

for their third straight win Tuesday night when they host the

Toronto Maple Leafs.

New Jersey (49-26-4) seemed poised to make a run at the top

record in the East, but lost six straight from March 22-April 1,

with only one coming in overtime. The Devils have bounced back a

bit with two one-goal wins, 5-4 over Tampa Bay on Friday and 3-2

at Buffalo on Saturday.

"It hasn't been easy," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "We

haven't played a full 60 minutes. But we've played well enough

to win hockey games and that's the bottom line."

The Devils are seven points ahead of Philadelphia in the

Atlantic race, and only need one more point to clinch.

They also sit two points behind Southeast Division champion

Washington in the race for the No. 2 seed. New Jersey plays two

of its final three games at home while the Capitals play their

last three on the road.

The improved play of captain Jamie Langenbrunner was a big

reason why New Jersey ended its losing streak with the

back-to-back wins. He had three goals and one assist in the two

games after managing only one goal and two assists during the

six-game slide.

"The last few weeks have been tough for us," Langenbrunner said

after Saturday's win. "But last night, we were able to scratch

out a win. And tonight, the first two periods were the best

we've played in a while."

Langenbrunner and his teammates haven't fared too well against

Toronto (32-34-13) this year. The Maple Leafs used shootouts to

win the first two meetings before New Jersey won 3-2 in overtime

on March 3.

Brodeur improved to 4-0 since returning from elbow surgery in

that victory. He lost his next start, then won five in a row

before starting every game of the Devils' six-game slide.

Brodeur has a 3.51 goals-against average in his last eight

games, including Friday's win over Tampa Bay when he entered in

relief of an injured Kevin Weekes.

The Maple Leafs haven't been much of a threat recently with four

losses in five games. They have conceded 28 goals in that span,

including dismal defensive efforts in back-to-back losses.

Toronto fell 8-5 at Philadelphia on Friday, and returned home to

lose 6-2 to Montreal the next night.

Coach Ron Wilson called out his players after the last two

defeats.

"We've had a couple of guys come back off of injuries that have

wanted to play, but haven't played very hard," Wilson said. "You

send some guys down who worked really hard here, some of the

younger people who give you effort. That's the difference, it's

just that simple."

Wilson did not specify which players he was referring to.

Defenseman Tomas Kaberle returned for Toronto on Wednesday after

missing nearly a month with a broken hand while left wing Niklas

Hagman came back March 28 after being out over a month with a

concussion.

TOP HEADLINES