The New Jersey Devils (36-38-5) aren't used to playing out a season. The Toronto Maple Leafs (37-32-11) are well aware of what that feels like.
Both teams will meet at the Prudential Center tonight with nothing but pride on the line.
The Devils furious second-half comeback fell short of carrying them into the playoffs. After going 23-3-2 between January 9 and March 15, New Jersey climbed to within six points of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. But a 1-4-1 slide dropped them back in the standings and ended their playoff hopes.
It's the first time since the 1995-96 season that New Jersey won't participate in the postseason.
The Maple Leafs set a new franchise record in missing their sixth straight postseason. An 18-7-6 run in their last 31 games kept them in the hunt, but the Buffalo Sabres' defeat of the Tampa Bay Lightning ended their postseason dreams.
New Jersey enters tonight's game losers of two straight. They're looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak since January 1-8.
The Penguins defeated the Devils, 4-2, last night in Pittsburgh. Pascal Dupuis had two goals and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 22 shots. New Jersey failed to win a game in Pittsburgh this season, going 0-2-1 at the new CONSOL Energy Center.
Johan Hedberg, who made just 23 saves in the loss, criticized himself.
"I don't think I played that well," he told Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger. "I made some bad decisions. I couldn't really find my groove. I was not playing as patient as I hoped I would. I made some bad decisions and it cost me and the team, I think."
Martin Brodeur will likely get the start tonight. In his last five starts against Toronto, Brodeur is 1-3-1 with a 1.81 goals-against average.
Toronto has held a decisive advantage over the Devils, posting a 7-1-3 record in their last 11 meetings. They lead the four-game season series, 2-0-1.