A successful road trip has the New Jersey Devils on the cusp of the Atlantic Division lead.
The Devils can take first place in the division if they conclude their six-game trip with a victory Monday against the struggling Nashville Predators in the first meeting between these teams in more than two years.
The Devils (27-15-3) have won four of the first five games of this trip - their longest of the season. They now have 57 points, one behind the division-leading New York Rangers and tied with Philadelphia for second. Both the Rangers and Flyers are idle Monday, meaning New Jersey can move into first place with a victory.
Playing close to home, the Devils earned their third straight win Saturday, beating the New York Islanders 3-1 at Nassau Coliseum. Zach Parise netted his team-leading 26th goal and assisted on another to give him six points in the his five games. Travis Zajac scored for the third consecutive game for New Jersey, and David Clarkson had the other goal to extend his point streak to four games.
“I was pleased with the win,” Devils coach Brent Sutter told the team’s official Web site. “Any time we come on the road like this, we need to move forward like we have been. We’re 4-1 on this road trip. I think we played well. Our goaltending has been good. I’ve said that all along.”
Scott Clemmensen provided the good goaltending Saturday, stopping 32 of 33 shots. Clemmensen, who took over as the team’s top goaltender after Martin Brodeur went down with a torn biceps and Kevin Weekes struggled, also started New Jersey’s last meeting with the Predators. He didn’t fare well, making 15 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss at home on Oct. 19, 2006.
The Devils have won five of six visits to Nashville all-time, and are 7-4-1 in the series versus the Predators.
Special teams play has helped New Jersey on this road trip. The Devils have six power-play goals in their last 12 chances and have killed off 16 straight penalties.
“Our special teams have been really good the whole trip,” Parise said. “The PK has been great. We’re feeling good about ourselves right now. Everyone’s playing well. It’s good to get on the road for a while and be around the team and we’re taking advantage of it right now.”
Nashville (20-22-3) is not playing well, with losses in two straight games and eight of the last 11. The Predators allowed three goals in the first 11 minutes Saturday at home against Atlanta en route to a 7-2 defeat - their most lopsided loss of the season.
“It’s embarrassing,” said center Jason Arnott, Nashville’s leading scorer with 15 goals. “A sellout crowd for us tonight, and we put on a performance like that. I’m surprised they didn’t leave after the first period, to be honest. We had a talk in here. We know what’s got to happen, and now is the time to do it.”
The Predators have only seven goals in their last four games, but Arnott has an assist in three consecutive contests.