While the Philadelphia Flyers could emerge from the weekend atop the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils can only hope to remain in playoff position.
The Flyers host the Devils on Saturday in the first of two tough Atlantic Division matchups on back-to-back days for each club.
Philadelphia (30-14-6) hasn't led the East since Dec. 22 but will reclaim at least a share of the top spot if it wins this game and defeats the conference-leading New York Rangers on Sunday. That's the only game this weekend for a Rangers team which has a three-point lead on the Flyers and Boston.
New Jersey (28-19-3) is seventh in the East and has been no worse than tied for the final postseason berth since Dec. 11. However, the Devils will be out of the top eight by the end of the weekend if they suffer regulation losses to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh while the ninth-place Capitals defeat Montreal and Boston.
The Flyers are 2-0-1 in this season series and 3-0-2 in their last five overall, a stretch which began with a 4-1 win in New Jersey on Jan. 21. Claude Giroux assisted on both of Scott Hartnell's power-play goals, and Wayne Simmonds had a goal and two assists.
Ilya Bryzgalov made 29 saves to best Martin Brodeur, who had just 16, and has given up one goal in each of Philadelphia's two games since the All-Star break.
"He looks really sharp," Laviolette said. "He's focused. He's worked really hard in practice and often that reflects in games."
Bryzgalov's only shutout came in his other appearance against the Devils, a 3-0 win Oct. 8.
Brodeur also lost that game and is 1-7-1 with a 3.34 goals-against average in his last nine starts against the Flyers. He's lost six straight in Philadelphia.
The four-time Vezina Trophy winner has allowed three goals in four of five starts, but he's won both of New Jersey's games since the All-Star break as the offense has shined. The Devils defeated the Rangers 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday and rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Canadiens 5-3 on Thursday.
"I feel like we have a lot of offensive power," Brodeur said. "I know some nights it doesn't look like it because our power play's not working, but I think if you look individually we have guys who can put the puck in the net."
Two of those guys are David Clarkson and Zach Parise, who each scored three goals in those two wins. Clarkson, who also had two assists in those games, scored the tying goal with 48 seconds left Tuesday before Parise had the go-ahead goal Thursday.
Parise and Clarkson scored in the only meeting at Philadelphia as the Devils won 4-3 in a shootout Nov. 3.
New Jersey is scoreless in 14 chances with the man advantage during the season series but has scored a power-play goal in three consecutive games.
The Flyers have one in five straight, going 8 for 20, but are facing a Devils club that leads the league in penalty killing at 89.6 percent.
Simmonds scored on the power play Thursday en route to his first two-goal game of the season in a 4-1 home win over Nashville. The 23-year-old winger has five goals and five assists in his last 10 games.
"His confidence is growing," Laviolette said. "He's a difficult person to get the puck from. He holds onto the puck and makes plays."