The New Jersey Devils are already assured of playing in the postseason and may know if they have home-ice advantage for the opening round when they take the ice on Friday night.
The Philadelphia Flyers, meanwhile, are simply hoping to make the playoffs as they meet the Devils for the final time in the regular season at the Wachovia Center.
The Devils (45-28-7) will clinch the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference if the New York Rangers get no points in their game with the New York Islanders on Thursday. New Jersey also could lock up home-ice advantage with either a win over the Rangers on Sunday at the Prudential Center.
“That’s the thing we need to get,” the Devils’ Zach Parise said of having the home-ice edge in the quarterfinals.
New Jersey is 24-14-2 at home this season, and has only three regulation losses in its last 13 at its new arena.
The Devils were blanked in their first game against the Flyers this season, but have won six straight from them by a combined 28-12 score with special teams play being the key. Over the last four meetings, the Devils are 8-for-24 on the power play, and they tied a club record with five man-advantage goals in a 7-3 road win on Jan. 22.
Philadelphia (40-29-11) enters this game ninth in the East, one point behind Boston and Washington, who are tied for seventh.
They will be returning home to face a New Jersey team which has won three in a row—all after regulation—including a 3-2 shootout victory over Boston on Wednesday.
Parise was the hero for the second straight game after beating the Bruins’ Tim Thomas for the lone goal in the tiebreaker. On Tuesday, Parise tallied his team-leading 32nd goal 29 seconds into overtime of a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders that clinched the Devils’ 11th straight playoff appearance.
“We are trying to move forward and play well going into the playoffs,” said New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur, who stopped all four Bruins he faced in the shootout en route to his 43rd win. “We got rewarded by a big goal at the end.”
After losing five consecutive starts in Philadelphia between February 2004 and March 2006, Brodeur is 6-1-1 with a 3.07 goals-against average in eight starts there. He is 16-1-1 in his last 18 starts against the Flyers overall.
Philadelphia had picked up five of a possible six points through a three-game swing in the New York City area, but was beaten 4-2 by Pittsburgh on Wednesday in its final road game of 2007-08. The Flyers will close the regular season on Sunday against the Atlantic Division champion Penguins.
“We still hold our fate in our hands. If we win our next two we’re in,” the Flyers’ Mike Richards said. “Two games at home is a good position to be in.”
Philadelphia has won three in a row at home, and is 6-2-0 there since a six-game losing streak from Feb. 6-23.
Briere, who’s wrapping up his first season with the Flyers after signing an eight-year, $52 million free-agent deal, has only two goals and two assists in seven games versus New Jersey. He leads Philadelphia with 31 goals and is second with 72 points, two behind Richards.