In the first of three meetings in an eight-day span, the Atlantic Division-leading Devils look to avoid losing three straight for the second time this month when they face the Maple Leafs on Friday night.
After their first meeting, they’ll play Tuesday in Toronto and again next Friday back in New Jersey before concluding the season series in on March 18 in Ontario.
This stretch against the Maple Leafs (17-27-10) - second-to-last in the Eastern Conference - could be the ideal time for the Devils to turn things around. New Jersey (34-16-2) has lost five of seven after falling 2-1 in a shootout at Buffalo on Wednesday, yet still holds a three-point lead in the division over second-place Pittsburgh.
Though Toronto takes a four-game losing streak and an 8-16-5 road record into this contest, the Maple Leafs won three of four against the Devils last season, including both games in New Jersey.
To avoid extending that slide, New Jersey will need improve on the offensive end. The Devils have 12 goals during a 2-5-1 stretch, and have scored five while losing two of their last three at home.
“When you get more chances, you want to win,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “You get a point, but (that) is a game that I felt we should have won.”
Parise, who leads the team with 23 goals and 51 points in 2009-10, has six goals in his last six games against the Maple Leafs, but none in his last two.
Martin Brodeur(notes) made 30 saves versus Buffalo, but fell to 1-2-1 with a 2.42 goals-against average since posting his league-high seventh shutout of the season Jan. 20 at Florida. Brodeur is 31-16-2 with a 2.17 GAA this season, but has a 3.48 GAA while losing two of his last three starts against the Maple Leafs.
Hagman, who has a team-leading 20 goals, has four with two assists in his last five contests. He also has just four points in 18 career games against the Devils.
Despite losing three in a row, Jonas Gustavsson(notes) could make his fourth straight start in place of the struggling Vesa Toskala(notes), who’s allowed 10 goals in his last two starts since blanking Philadelphia on Jan. 14.
Gustavsson is 9-12-8 with a 2.98 GAA during his rookie season.