An important home-and-home series kicks off Wednesday in New Jersey, as the Devils host the Philadelphia Flyers in a clash between playoff-hopeful teams.
The Devils appeared to be well on their way to the postseason after an 8-1-3 start to the year, but the club has gone 4-8-2 since and is now sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, has scuffled all season long and the 12-14-1 club is currently three points out of a playoff spot.
Both teams were in the playoffs last spring and the clubs met in the Eastern Conference semifinals where the Devils slammed Philly in five games. New Jersey went on to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Finals, but lost to the Los Angeles Kings.
New Jersey has won both games against the Flyers since that playoff encounter, beating Philadelphia in a pair of games at the Prudential Center. The Devils have won four of the last five regular-season meetings overall and three straight on home ice.
However, the Devils had No. 1 goaltender Martin Brodeur for the two earlier meetings this season, but the future Hall of Famer is currently out with a sore back. Brodeur has missed the last nine games with the ailment and Jersey is just 2-6-1 in those contests.
Two of the club's wins without Brodeur, however, have come over the last three games. Most recently, New Jersey was able to notch Sunday's 3-2 shootout win against visiting Winnipeg. The Devils blew an early 2-0 lead, but Patrik Elias scored the only goal in the shootout to help them get two points.
After the first four shooters came up empty, Elias skated in and snuck a backhander through the five-hole of Ondrej Pavelec to put the Devils in front. Winnipeg's Andrew Ladd had a chance to extend the shootout, but Johan Hedberg was able to turn away Ladd's wrister to send the Devils to victory.
Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta scored in regulation for New Jersey. The Devils also received 23 saves from Hedberg, who improved to 4-7-2 on the season.
"When we got to the shootout, I knew that we were in good position to win the game," Hedberg said. "I really needed this, and maybe now I can put a few good games together."
The victory moved New Jersey to 8-3-2 as the host this season compared to a 4-6-3 mark on the road.
The Flyers are just 4-10-0 as the visiting team in 2013 and have lost both of their road games in March.
After getting shut out Saturday in Boston, the Flyers regrouped for a win the following night against the visiting Buffalo Sabres. Simon Gagne and Maxime Talbot scored early goals and Philadelphia held on for a much-needed 3-2 win.
Claude Giroux added the eventual game-winner 17 seconds into the second period, while Kimmo Timonen recorded two assists in Philadelphia's first victory after three consecutive defeats.
Ilya Bryzgalov aided the cause as well, contributing an assist on Gagne's goal in addition to making 18 saves between the pipes. Bryzgalov is expected to start for the 26th time in 28 games on Wednesday.
"That's a step forward," said Giroux of the win. "We needed those two points tonight and we obviously have a big test in front of us [Wednesday at New Jersey], so we need to make sure we're pretty sharp going forward."
The Flyers will host the finale of this series Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.