Although they’re one point removed from last place in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils aren’t giving up on their slim playoff hopes.
Making a postseason push without their future Hall of Fame goaltender, however, might not be as realistic.
Brodeur earned his 615th win in a 4-1 victory over Montreal on Sunday despite leaving after the first period with what turned out to be a strained right knee. He stopped all 11 shots he faced and left with New Jersey (19-30-4) leading 2-0.
“I went into a butterfly and my leg got caught up under me and I kind of heard a click,” Brodeur said.
Hedberg stopped 14 of 15 shots Sunday, and is 1-4-1 with a 2.94 goals-against average in seven games since the start of January. He took over for an ineffective Brodeur in New Jersey’s only previous meeting with the Hurricanes this season on New Year’s Day, turning away 15 of 18 shots in a 6-3 loss.
Brodeur stopped four of seven shots in 8 minutes before being pulled in that one, but had been playing much better lately. The four-time Vezina Trophy winner has gone 8-1-1 with a 1.92 GAA and one shutout in his last 10 starts for the Devils, 9-1-2 in their last 12 games.
Despite New Jersey’s turnaround, it’s 16 points back of the Hurricanes (26-21-6) and Atlanta for the final East playoff spot.
“We still have a lot of work cut out for us, and I don’t think anyone’s looking too far ahead, but that said, (Carolina’s) a team that’s got the eighth spot right now. We’re playing them a bunch of times,” center Tim Sestito(notes) said. “We just have to make sure we’re getting two points, not just one.”
While it has been 5 1/2 weeks since the last meeting, these teams are about to become much more familiar with one another.
The Hurricanes, opening a five-game road trip, conclude their trek next Wednesday against New Jersey. The teams then meet three days later in Raleigh.
The Hurricanes, losers of four of five on the road, are looking to avoid a letdown after beating Atlanta 4-3 in overtime on Saturday. Erik Cole(notes) scored the winner as Carolina pulled even with the Thrashers in the standings.
“We talked about this being a huge game and we won it, so we should enjoy that,” coach Paul Maurice said. “We should build off it.”
Cam Ward(notes) made his 12th straight start for Carolina on Saturday and turned aside 34 shots. He made 25 saves versus the Devils last month, improving to 5-3-0 with a 2.00 GAA in his last eight starts against them.