Despite the New Jersey Devils (32-32-4) outstanding play of late, they haven't made up much ground in the NHL Eastern Conference standings.
Tonight, they can inch closer to a playoff berth by defeating the Atlanta Thrashers (29-28-12) at the Prudential Center.
With a win, the Devils would pass the Thrashers and move into a tie for 10th-place with the Toronto Maple Leafs. New Jersey has won two of the three match-ups with Atlanta this season.
Travis Zajac played hero in the last game, scoring an overtime winner for a 3-2 victory on Friday. Zajac connected on a power-play opportunity, converting a feed from Patrik Elias for his second goal of the game.
Zajac will look to tie Ken Daneyko's team record for consecutive games played tonight. The center will play in his 388th straight game tonight.
Despite their torrid 22-3-2 streak, New Jersey hasn't found much room to move up the standings. On February 21, the Devils were 10 points away from a playoff berth. Despite their 7-2-0 record since then, they still remain eight points out of the playoffs.
Atlanta, who entered the All-Star break in solid playoff position, has struggled the second half of the season. A mixture of injuries and inconsistent play sunk them, knocking Atlanta out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference.
Martin Brodeur will start tonight for the Devils. The future Hall-of-Famer has started New Jersey's last seven games, going 6-1-0 with a 1.51 goals-against average. He stopped 24 shots in Friday's win over Atlanta.
The Devils defense, much-maligned during the team's first half struggles, turned around during their run. The team extended their modern NHL record of 16 straight games without allowing a first period goal. That doesn't bode well for Atlanta, which has scored in the first period in just one of their previous nine games.
The Devils last nine games were decided by one goal, and their previous two wins were overtime victories.
Playoff Tracker 2011
While the Devils continue their incredible run toward the playoffs, they will continue scoreboard watching to see the results of those teams ahead of them. Here are the games directly affecting the Devils playoff chances tonight:
New York Islanders at New York Rangers (7 p.m., MSG) - While the Isles are still on the fringe of the playoff race, the Rangers are the more important team in this match-up. The Devils' rivals sit in eighth place, eight points ahead of the Devils for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Carolina Hurricanes at Buffalo Sabres (7:30 p.m., HSBC Arena) - It's too bad someone has to earn points from this game. Both the Hurricanes and Sabres sit ahead of the Devils in the standings. Carolina currently holds the ninth position in the conference, four points ahead of New Jersey. Buffalo sits seventh in the conference, eight points ahead of the Devils. The worst-case scenario is both teams earn a point in tonight's game.