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New Jersey Devils At San Jose Sharks: Devils Face Tough Test On The Road

(Sports Network) - Perhaps Devils head coach John MacLean should try benching more players in an effort to kick start his team.

New Jersey is still looking for answers this season and its six-game road trip now carries the club out west where it will visit the San Jose Sharks, who are still looking for their first victory at HP Pavilion.

New Jersey has lost four of its last five games and seven of nine to begin the season. Things took an interesting turn for the Devils on Saturday, when Ilya Kovalchuk was made a healthy scratch in an eventual 6-1 loss to the Sabres for reasons MacLean did not reveal.

Kovalchuk returned to the lineup the next day in New York and scored New Jersey's lone goal in a 3-1 setback versus the Rangers. The Devils have just 15 goals on the season and have been held to just one goal in three of their last four games.

"I think we played a good game, we just can't score goals right now," Kovalchuk said after potting his third goal of the season. "We need to be a little more simple and get more traffic in front. It seems like all the goalies play their best games against us. We need to get through that together."

Martin Brodeur stopped 31-of-33 shots in defeat for New Jersey, which dropped the opener of its six-game swing and will visit San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Vancouver before capping the swing in Chicago on Nov. 3.

The Sharks, who are winless in two games at HP Pavilion this year, caught a little of what has been ailing the Devils as they had scored 10 goals over a two-game winning streak before getting shut out by Calgary, 4-0, on Sunday.

Joe Pavelski had scored three goals over his previous two games and led the Sharks with six shots in defeat.Antti Niemi allowed three goals on five shots before being lifted in the first period in favor of Antero Niittymaki, who halted 24 shots the rest of the way.

"In the first period there probably could have been two pucks on the ice and we wouldn't have had either one of them," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "We weren't playing the way we're supposed to play as far as the system went, and it was very disappointing."

With Niemi posting a 4.50 goals-against average over his first four starts, Niittymaki is likely to draw the start tonight. He is 2-0-1 with a 1.81 GAA in four games, but just 3-7-5 with a 2.79 GAA in his career versus the Devils.

Brodeur is 10-6-0 with a pair of ties and 2.33 GAA in his career when facing the Sharks, who have lost three straight and seven of their last eight versus the Devils.

New Jersey has also won three of its last four trips to San Jose, where it notched a 4-3 win last year. Kovalchuk had a goal and an assist in that meeting to give him a pair of goals and five points in 10 career games versus San Jose.

Pavelski had one of San Jose's goals, giving him a pair in four career meetings with New Jersey.