The New Jersey Devils are looking for more consistency heading into the playoffs, and back-to-back wins are certainly a start.
They haven’t won three straight games since before Christmas, but the Devils have a good chance to finally forge another significant winning streak Saturday as they visit the New York Islanders.
New Jersey (40-23-3) was perhaps the NHL’s steadiest club early this season, but a 6-12-2 stretch between Jan. 14 and Sunday had the Devils scrambling to regain their swagger before they begin pursuit of a fourth Stanley Cup.
Two victories this week - their first in consecutive games since Jan. 9 and 12 - could be a start. After a 6-3 win over the New York Rangers on Wednesday, New Jersey pulled within two points of Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh with a 3-1 victory over the Penguins on Friday.
The Devils haven’t won three in a row since a five-game winning streak Dec. 12-21, but another big effort from Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) could help end that drought. Kovalchuk, acquired from Atlanta on Feb. 4, sparked Friday’s victory with a goal and two assists.
“It’s nice to score a goal and help others to score, but it’s more important to win,” he said. “I think the way we’ve been playing as a team the last few games, I’m going to get my chances to score. I’m not worried about it. I’ll get my goals.”
The four-time Vezina Trophy winner had allowed at least three goals in 10 of his previous 12 starts before Friday, losing his job as Team Canada’s starter in the process.
He bounced back to stop 34 shots against the Penguins, including all 15 of Pittsburgh’s third-period attempts.
“Brodeur played as well as he can play,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “He was on the top of his game and played very solid.”
The Devils still have plenty of room for improvement on the road, where they won their first nine this season but have lost eight of their last nine. They had dropped three straight on Long Island before their latest visit.
New Jersey’s 4-2 win at Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 23 started the Islanders (26-32-9) on a 3-12-1 stretch. New York’s current four-game losing streak has all but ended its playoff hopes.
The Islanders’ only point during their four-game skid came in a 2-1 shootout loss to St. Louis on Thursday, but the young team was still held to two or fewer goals for the third straight game - all losses by one-goal margins.
“We’re in a little bit of a slump,” forward Matt Moulson(notes) told the Islanders’ official Web site. “We’re going to have to get the greasy goals and greasy wins, that’s how you’re going to be a successful team in this league. Those one-goal games, we’re going to have to learn how to win those more often than not.”
While Moulson scored his team-leading 24th goal against the Blues, some of New York’s other young players have cooled. Rookie John Tavares(notes) has been held to one goal and two assists in his last 14 games, and Kyle Okposo(notes) - the team leader with 42 points - has two points in his last six contests.
Moulson scored twice in the Islanders’ 4-0 win over New Jersey on Jan. 18, their only victory in four meetings with the Devils this season.