It's been an easy two weeks for the New Jersey Devils.
Last week, the team played just two games. They began this week with a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens last night, winning their third straight game.
This week, the Devils have just two games. But the competition won't be easy, as the Devils play two games against teams in the thick of the playoff race.
New Jersey kicked off their two-game schedule last week on Valentine's Day against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center. They entered the matchup riding a four-game win streak, and stretched it to five with a 3-1 win. Ilya Kovalchuk led the offense, recording his first hat trick as a Devil. He added an assist for a four-point night. Martin Brodeur stopped 29 shots as the Devils won the season series over the Sabres, 3-0-0-1.
The Devils returned home Friday night, sweeping their two-game schedule with a 3-2 shootout win over the Anaheim Ducks. Adam Henrique and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored second period goals, spotting New Jersey a 2-0 lead. The Ducks would respond, with Corey Perrey and ex-Devil Sheldon Brookbank tying the game. Patrik Elias snapped home the game-winner, beating Jonas Hiller in the third round of the shootout.
The three game winning streak stretched the Devils record to 8-1-1 since the all-star break. They've vaulted ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference standings, sitting fourth overall. They're tied with the Northeast-Division leading Boston Bruins with 72 points, and trail the New York Rangers by nine points.
Brodeur said the team is still far from satisfied.
"That's the hard thing when you have success," he told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "Sometimes you sit back and you think it's going to come easy, but nothing has been easy so far this year for us. We've worked and we've listened to our coaches and what they want us to do every night and we're here because of that."
"We've just got to keep the roll going," Devils coach Pete DeBoer told Gulitti. "I've said numerous times this year the key to having a good season is extending the winning streaks and really stopping the losing streaks quickly. We're on a roll here now and we want to keep this going. Our schedule gets tough. We've got some very tough opponents in our division coming up, so we've got a lot of road left ahead."
This week, the Devils have just two games, but both come against opponents fighting for playoff position. Here is the week ahead for the Devils:
Tuesday, February 21: New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maple Leafs - 7 p.m. (MSG Plus 2)
The New Jersey Devils head to the Air Canada Centre for the third of four meetings this season. The teams have split the season series. New Jersey won the recent matchup, 3-2, in overtime on December 6. Toronto native David Clarskon scored two goals, including the game-winner in overtime. Phil Kessel and Matt Frattin scored for the Maple Leafs, who enter the week eighth in the conference, tied with the Winnipeg Jets.
Friday, February 24: Vancouver Canucks at New Jersey Devils - 7 p.m. (MSG Plus)
The Canucks travel to New Jersey for their only meeting of the season with the Devils. Vancouver enters the week second in the Western Conference, two points behind the Detroit Red Wings for first place. They've won four straight games, and face off against the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings before facing the Devils.
Goals: Ilya Kovalchuk - 25
Assists: Patrik Elias - 36
Points: Ilya Kovalchuk - 58
Plus/Minus: Adam Henrique - 11
PIM: David Clarkson - 90
Wins: Martin Brodeur - 21
GAA: Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg - 2.53
Save %: Johan Hedberg - .908
Shutouts: Johan Hedberg - 2