The New Jersey Devils continue to show they are just as dangerous on the road as they are on their home ice.
The Devils, in the midst playing nine of 10 on the road, close a five-game road trip against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.
New Jersey improved to 3-1 on its’ current swing with a 5-2 win at Buffalo on Friday night. Martin Broduer continued his outstanding season with 31 saves, and Brian Gionta had two goals and an assist for the Devils, who have allowed more than two goals just eight times this season.
“When you allow two goals you should win,” said Brodeur, who got his league-leading 18th win.
The Devils opened the trip with a 2-0 win over Philadelphia, then lost 5-4 to the New York Islanders before beating Atlanta 3-0 on Thursday. The Devils return home to face the Islanders next Friday before heading out again for a four-game road trip.
Brodeur’s two shutouts on the trip have given him an NHL-best eight on the season and helped him lower his league-leading goals-against average to 1.61. The 31-year-old, who leads all active goaltenders with 72 shutouts, has started all but one game this season.
“We have the confidence knowing that he’s going to be there and up for the challenge and he loves it,” left wing Jeff Friesen said of Brodeur. “The pressure never gets to him, that’s the key.”
New Jersey’s two road losses are the fewest in the league and the team has just as many victories away from home as it does at Continental Airlines Arena—where the Devils are 9-4-3 this season.
The Devils are 6-1-1 over their last eight games and have moved within two points of the Flyers for first place in the Atlantic Division.
The Blackhawks continued their struggles and fell to 1-12-3-3 in their last 19 games with a 3-2 loss at Detroit on Friday. Brett McLean and Burke Henry scored for Chicago, which held a 17-3 advantage in shots after the first period but could only manage a 1-1 tie.
“To come out of that period and not be a couple of goals ahead was tough,” defensemen Nathan Dempsey said. “We knew they were going to pick it up in the second period.”
The Blackhawks, whose only win since Nov. 7 came against the Red Wings on Dec. 11, will be glad to return home after falling to 0-10-0-1 in their last 11 road games. They are 3-13-3-1 on the road this season.
Chicago plays seven of the next eight games at the United Center, where the team is 4-4-3-2.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 19): Devils - 43 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Atlantic Division. Blackhawks - 23 points, 4th place (tied), 23 PB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Patrik Elias, 9 goals and 24 points; Elias and Brian Rafalski, 15 assists; Scott Gomez, 26 PIM. Blackhawks - Kyle Calder, 10 goals; Steve Sullivan, 12 assists; Mark Bell and Sullivan, 17 points; Scott Nichol, 70 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 19): Devils - Power play: 16.3 percent (20 for 123), 12th in NHL. Penalty killing: 89.8 percent (97 for 108), 1st. Blackhawks - Power play: 10.7 percent (17 for 159), T-29th. Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (136 for 161), 17th.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Devils, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 2, 2002; Devils, 5-1. At East Rutherford, N.J., Jamie Langenbrunner scored the first of his two goals only 10 seconds into the game as the Devils cruised to the win after taking a 3-0 first-period lead.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devils - 9-2-4-0 on the road; Blackhawks - 4-4-3-2 at home.