Ducks-Devils Preview

The Associated Press

The New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks are two of the hottest teams in the NHL.

Ilya Kovalchuk is the spark behind the Devils' surge, while coach Bruce Boudreau seems to be making a difference for the Ducks.

Fresh off his first hat trick with New Jersey, Kovalchuk looks to continue his torrid scoring pace as the Devils host the red-hot Ducks on Friday night.

New Jersey (32-20-4) has won six of eight games (6-1-1) following a three-game slide, during which it totaled three goals. The club has been much better offensively lately, with Kovalchuk and Zach Parise each netting six of the team's 29 goals in that span.

Kovalchuk has added 10 assists in the last eight games, and the star left wing leads the Devils with 25 goals and 56 points.

He came up big again Tuesday, scoring a hat trick and setting up another tally to power a 4-1 win at Buffalo. Kovalchuk's previous hat trick came in a win at Anaheim (24-24-9) as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers on Feb. 15, 2009.

"He's taking his game to another level," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Obviously, he's a key guy for us, but we're getting that type of effort from all of our leaders. If they do that, everyone else follows."

The Ducks are also experiencing a turnaround under Boudreau, who replaced the fired Randy Carlyle on Nov. 30. They're 17-11-5 since the switch and 14-2-3 with a league-leading 31 points since Jan. 6.

Still, Anaheim is 13th in the West.

"We had the group in here to play like this all season," center Ryan Getzlaf said. "For whatever reason the start of the season was just tough for us, and we couldn't get it done. We've found a way now, and we're rallying around our coach and rallying around each other."

Corey Perry, the reigning Hart Trophy winner, is a big reason behind Anaheim's recent success, scoring 13 goals and setting up three others over the last 19 games. The right wing has five goals during a three-game scoring streak, finding the net once in a 2-1 win at Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Perry has just one goal in five career meetings with New Jersey, but has added three assists.

Teemu Selanne also has 16 points over the past 19 contests, and his eighth goal of that stretch provided the difference against the Penguins. The future Hall of Famer has 656 career tallies, tying him with Brendan Shanahan for 12th on the NHL's all-time list.

He's three goals behind Philadelphia's Jaromir Jagr for 11th.

Selanne, though, hasn't scored in seven games against New Jersey.

Anaheim is 3-0-1 on this season-high eight-game road trip, and the Devils are 15-10-3 as host after losing their last two at Prudential Center.

New Jersey is trying to change that after winning five in a row on the road.

"We haven't played really well at home, so I think you need to play well somewhere if you want to be successful," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "It's been good on the road. We've just got to keep going."

Brodeur is expected to be back in net after making 29 saves Tuesday. He's won five of his last six games, posting a 1.81 goals-against average and one shutout.

Brodeur has stopped 58 of 60 shots to lead the Devils to wins in the last two meetings with Anaheim, making 27 saves in a 2-1 victory on Oct. 29, 2010.

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