The New Jersey Devils entered the all-star break a surprise team to some analysts, sitting in the top eight of the Eastern Conference.
It was a position familiar to fans of the organization, which had made the playoffs 14 of the past 15 seasons. But hanging onto the eighth seed wasn't where the team wanted to be, and coach Pete DeBoer said his team needed to find another level.
"Those guys realized that we needed a push here in order to get in," he told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "We went into the all-star break sitting tied for eighth with a tough stretch of games coming out of it. We knew that the rubber was kind of hitting the road, so to speak, and we needed to find another level. Those guys have done that."
New Jersey, 7-1-1 since the all-star break, will look to climb into fourth place in the conference tonight against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Gametime is 6 p.m. and can be seen on NBC Sports Network.
Martin Brodeur will get the start against his hometown Canadiens. The Quebec native has started all three games against Montreal this season, going 2-1-0 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. He's been hot in his last 12 starts, going 8-3-1 with a 1.80 goals-against average and .928 save percentage.
The Devils enter tonight's game looking to stretch their two-game win streak. They defeated the Anaheim Ducks, 3-2, in a shootout Friday night at the Prudential Center. Adam Henrique and Alexei Ponikarovsky spotted New Jersey a 2-0 lead, but Anaheim tied the score on goals from Corey Perry and Sheldon Brookbank. After a scoreless overtime period, Patrik Elias beat Hiller for the only shootout goal.
Montreal enters tonight's game tied for 11th in the conference, six points behind the eighth-place Toronto Maple Leafs. They defeated the Sabres Friday night in a shootout, 4-3, to snap a two-game losing skid. The two teams traded scores all game, with Montreal coming back from two one-goal deficits during the first period. They couldn't hold onto a lead in regulation, allowing Tyler Ennis to tie the game at three in the third period.Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais scored in the shootout for the win.
New Jersey is playing its third straight game against a non-playoff team, but DeBoer stressed that it's still an important game.
"Obviously, the first priority is to get in and then it's to hunt down the teams ahead of you and, hopefully, get home ice," he told Gulitti. "There's a lot of things that we're playing for here."