For the New Jersey Devils, this year's second-half push by the Anaheim Ducks must remind them of their own run last season.
Anaheim travels to New Jersey Friday night 14-3-2 in their last 19 games, trimming a 20 point gap in the Western Conference playoffs to just eight points out of eighth place. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said the Devils can't take them lightly.
"They're a hot team," he told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "They're a big team too. Nobody expected them to fall back like they did early on. You look at their stats and they're maybe a little misleading, but we can't take days off against any team. It doesn't matter where you're at in the standings. We need to do our thing and play hard. It could be the Rangers or anybody. It doesn't matter."
New Jersey will look to stop the red-hot Ducks tonight at the Prudential Center. Gametime is 7 p.m. and can be seen on MSG Plus.
Kurtis Foster will face the Ducks for the first time since Anaheim traded him to the Devils on December 12. The defenseman wants to beat his former team, but left with no ill will toward the organization.
"You always want to play well against your old team," Foster told Gulitti. "It's part of what being a pro athlete is. When a team decides to let you go, you want to show them when you play the next time that maybe they made a mistake. You want to have a good game against them. But I can't say anything but good things about Anaheim."
Rod Pelley, one of the players sent to Anaheim, will make his first trip back to the Prudential Center.
"It's definitely a little different," he told Gulitti. "(Thursday) walking in here, it was a little strange walking into the visitor's room, but I'm sure once I get on the ice tonight everything will feel just like another important game that's a must-win for us and I'm sure all that stuff will be on the back burner."
New Jersey enters tonight sixth in the Eastern Conference with 68 points, one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins. They're tied with the Ottawa Senators in points. The Devils defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 4-1, Tuesday night to snap a two-game skid. Ilya Kovalchuk collected four points, including his first hat trick as a Devil. Adam Henrique finished with two assists as the Devils took the season series over the Sabres, winning three of four games.
Kovalchuk has come back from the All-Star break as one of the league's best players. He's recorded 16 points (6g, 10a) in eight games.
Anaheim enters tonight's game riding a three-game win streak. They defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-1, After falling behind, 1-0, the Ducks scored two goals over the final two periods to get the come-from-behind win. Corey Perry, who has 14 goals since January 1, recorded a goal in the win. Jonas Hiller stopped 25 shots for his 26th win of the season.
This is the first and only meeting between the two teams this season. Last year, the Devils defeated the Ducks, 2-1.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer knows that, like the Devils last year, Anaheim isn't a team anyone is looking forward to facing. He said it's just one more reason why New Jersey can't take them lightly.
"Look at their record, the games they've won recently," he told Gulitti. "I watched them play Pittsburgh, a very good team. They're finding ways to win and any time you've got players like Perry, (Ryan) Getzlaf, (Bobby) Ryan, (Teemu) Selanne in the lineup, it's a dangerous team."