New Jersey has won a season-high six straight games to post the club's longest winning streak since an eight-game tear from Oct. 29-Nov. 14 of last season. The Devils have also gained a point in their last nine games (8-0-1) and they have an amazing 14-1-2 mark over their last 17 contests.
Tonight's contest is an important battle in New Jersey's quest for a playoff spot, as Carolina is currently holding onto the eighth and final postseason seed in the Eastern Conference. With 64 points, the Hurricanes are 12 ahead of the 13th-seeded Devils.
The Devils have taken two of three from Carolina this season and both New Jersey wins have come in February. New Jersey's most recent win over the 'Canes was on Wednesday, when the host Devils notched a 3-2 decision. Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias scored 85 seconds apart early in the third period to lift the Devils to the comeback victory.
In addition to taking two straight over Carolina, the Devils have also won three of four and six out of eight meetings in this series. However, Jersey has lost five of its last six in Raleigh and was dealt a 6-3 loss when the clubs met at RBC Center on New Year's Day.
Kovalchuk enters tonight riding the longest current point streak in the NHL, as he has reached the scoresheet in nine straight games. He scored the only goal of the game in Friday's 1-0 home victory over the New York Rangers and has seven goals and four assists during the scoring run.
Kovalchuk scored near the midway mark of the second period on Friday. The speedy winger gathered the puck at center ice, went in on a breakaway and beat Henrik Lundqvist with a wrister.
"Yeah, I'm feeling confident," Kovalchuk told New Jersey's web site. "I've been here more than a year, and the coach trusts me a lot. When you feel that kind of positive thing from behind bench, it gives you a lot of energy and you want to work really hard."
Brodeur had missed four straight games with a sprained knee, but he was back on the bench to serve as Hedberg's backup on Friday. Brodeur owns a record of 13-19-2 with a 2.74 goals-against average in 38 games this season.
It's uncertain if Brodeur or Hedberg will get the start tonight.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, picked up a 3-2 regulation win Friday against visiting Philadelphia. Erik Cole scored the go-ahead goal with 3:03 left in the third period to lift Carolina to its first victory against Philadelphia in more than two years.