New Jersey (24-15-3) at Carolina (22-19-4)

Fair Currently: Raleigh, NC
Temp: 23° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Thu Jan 10, 2008
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Goalie Cam Ward gave Carolina’s defense a much-needed lift the last time the team took the ice.

Now, the Hurricanes will be trying to build off their third shutout of the season as they host the New Jersey Devils on Thursday in a matchup between division leaders.

Ward stopped 19 shots in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Boston and has been in net for each of Carolina’s three shutouts. The victory was just the Hurricanes’ second in six games and came three days after a 1-0 defeat in St. Louis.

“I feel very good. The guys played a great game in front of me,” Ward said.

Michael Leighton had started the previous two games in place of Ward, who had lost six of his previous eight starts while allowing 31 goals. Leighton, who made his first two appearances of the season, allowed four goals in the two games, but lost both.

Goalie John Grahame, who went 4-6-1 with a 3.83 goals-against average in 13 games, was sent to the minors on Friday.

“It’s definitely been a little tough for me lately,” Ward said. “That said, it’s a long season and I can learn from my mistakes.”

The Hurricanes (22-19-4) are hoping their goalies can continue to play well. Carolina ranks among the worst defensive teams in the league with 3.11 goals allowed per game and is killing off a league-low 76.4 percent of its opponents’ power play chances.

“When you’re giving up goals and you’re losing because of it, it’s something you look at,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “There’s a fine line between playing too much defense and giving up offense.”

The Hurricanes have been much stronger offensively, scoring 2.98 goals per contest. They added another scoring threat on Tuesday, claiming Sergei Samsonov on re-entry waivers from Chicago.

Samsonov played nearly 21 minutes against his former team that night on a line with Rod Brind’Amour and Cory Stillman. Samsonov, who had a career-best 75 points in 2000-01 for Boston, had managed just four assists in 23 games with the Blackhawks this season.

“I haven’t played much hockey in the last month or so, so it was nice just to go out there and have fun with those two guys, who are such great veterans,” Samsonov told the Hurricanes’ official Web site. “It’s easy to read off of them, and I thought we had pretty good possession of the puck for most of the game, and we just weren’t able to score.”

While Carolina has a five-point lead over Atlanta in the Southeast Division, New Jersey is clinging to a one-point lead over Pittsburgh in the Atlantic.

The Hurricanes have dropped three straight at home against the Devils (24-15-3), but ended an overall five-game losing streak to New Jersey with a 7-2 win in the last meeting on March 17.

The Devils have won six of eight, including Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout victory over Buffalo. They could have won in regulation but gave up a goal with 1:47 left in the third period.

“It was a game in which both teams didn’t want to give up much,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said. “It’s always disappointing giving up a goal in the last two or three minutes of a hockey game, but we found a way to win. All points are big, any way you look at it.”

Patrick Elias scored the game-winner in the shootout and assisted on Andy Greene’s first-period goal. Elias has three goals and four assists in his last six games.

Goalie Martin Brodeur made 23 saves and improved to 6-1-0 with a 1.26 GAA over his last seven starts. Brodeur had last played on Friday, beating Philadelphia 3-0 for his 96th career shutout and fourth this season.

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Thursday, Jan 10