While their chance at the playoffs are done, the New Jersey Devils (36-37-5) still want to finish the season strong.
After playing one of their "worst games" Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens, the Devils look to rebound tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins (46-35-8) at the CONSOL Energy Center.
The Canadiens officially eliminated the Devils Saturday night, defeating them 3-1. It marks the first time in 15 years that New Jersey will miss the playoffs. Jacques Lemaire wasn't happy with his team's performance, saying it may have been the worst game of the season.
"That was not one of our good games," he told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "It could be one of the worst, if not the worst.
"We played the night before. You're trying to find out what really happened. But it was not only one guy. It was pretty much the whole team and when it's the whole team what would come to your mind is we played the night before. We're getting tired. We'd been on the ice for the last 10 days."
Despite their playoff elimination, Lemaire still wants his players focused on the last four games of the season.
"Oh yea, it always crosses your mind that maybe there's a letdown (with the playoffs out of reach), but this is our job to get the players as ready as possible and the players' job is to play," Lemaire told Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger. "If we all do our job, we'll be fine."
New Jersey should have no problem focusing on a game against their division rivals tonight. Pittsburgh currently sits fourth in the Eastern Conference, holding a slim one-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Pens lead the season series, 3-1-1, but both teams have combined for just six total goals.
Scoring was almost nonexistent during the most recent meeting. Both the Devils and Penguins failed to score during regulation and overtime, with Martin Brodeur stopping 26 shots and Marc-Andre Fleury making 21 saves. James Neal scored the only goal in the shootout, giving the Pens a 1-0 win.
Brodeur will start tonight for New Jersey. He's 8-1-1 with a 0.79 goals-against average and four shutouts in his last 10 starts against Pittsburgh.
Even without the playoffs, Devils players still want to win.
"We have to win hockey games, that's our job," Brian Rolston told Chere. "Is it a letdown to play these last four games and not being in the playoffs? Absolutely it is. I think we're human. But at the same time, we have to continue to win hockey games."