Four day breaks can kill any win streak, and the New Jersey Devils (22-30-4) know this.
To keep their slim playoff hopes alive, though, New Jersey can't let their long break affect them. The Devils will go for their fifth straight win tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes (27-22-8) tonight at the Prudential Center.
The Devils have been on a roll since January, going 12-1-2 in their past 15 games and 6-0-1 since the All-Star break. They've made up 15 points in the standings and currently sit 14 points behind the eighth-place Hurricanes for a playoff spot.
But after seven games in 11 days, the players welcomed the break.
"It's not about a roll," right-winger Dainius Zubrus told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "We've never talked about it, but we had a lot of games - seven games in 11 days - so I could tell we could use a day off after that stretch. Now, you take a day off, you have a good couple of practices, you work out, you do your routines that you normally do with a day off in between (games) and now you feel a bit more refreshed."
The Devils resume games with an important matchup against the Canes. With a game in hand, the Devils know they can't afford to lose these games, especially against Carolina.
"We have to win every game," center Jason Arnott told Gulitti. "It's better if it's Carolina because that's who we're chasing, but now to the end we can't afford losing too many games. So, I think every game from now is important."
Last season, it took 88 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey would need to win 20 of their final 25 games to reach that number.
Tonight's meeting will be the third of the season between the two teams. New Jersey won their most recent matchup, 3-2, in overtime on February 8. Trailing 2-1 in the third period, Nick Palmieri pushed home a rebound to tie the game. In overtime, Travis Zajac carried the puck through the neutral zone, leaving a drop pass for Mattias Tedenby. The rookie right-winger cut to the slot and fired a shot past Cam Ward for the game-winning goal.
Carolina defeated the Devils, 6-3, on January 1st.
Despite the four day layoff, Devils coach Jacques Lemaire believes his team won't come out flat.
"I think we'll have more energy with these two days off. We should," Lemaire told Gulitti. "You can tell. There were a lot of guys that wanted to stay on. They stayed on for half an hour (after the end of the main part of practice). You get back into practicing. You're having fun. You want to stay on. That's how it works."