Lightning-Devils Preview

The Associated Press

The New Jersey Devils don't believe the addition of defenseman Marek Zidlicky will change the dynamic of a team playing its best hockey of the season.

It shouldn't affect the Devils' recent success against the Tampa Bay Lightning, either.

Zidlicky is expected to make his New Jersey debut Sunday against the Lightning, a team the Devils have routinely frustrated over the past few seasons.

New Jersey (35-21-4) acquired the 35-year-old Zidlicky from Minnesota on Friday in exchange for three players and two draft picks. He had 14 assists and 24 penalty minutes in 41 games with the Wild, and is expected to aid an inconsistent defense while helping direct the power play.

The Devils have converted 16.5 percent of their chances with the man advantage and have gone four games without a power-play goal.

"This makes us better," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Even more important is the message to the guys in the room from up top that there's a strong belief of what we're doing and what we're capable of doing."

The Devils once seemed like they could be sellers prior to Monday's trade deadline, but a 9-2-1 stretch since the All-Star break has the team believing it could make a Stanley Cup run. Captain Zach Parise doesn't feel that the addition of Zidlicky will hurt the chemistry established in the last 3 1/2 weeks.

"I don't see anything changing by bringing one new guy in," Parise said after Friday's 2-1 loss to Vancouver. "We are a really close team. We get along really well. I don't see any reason why that would change."

New Jersey had won four in a row before Friday's setback. The Devils outshot Vancouver 31-16, but their lone goal came in the second period when the puck deflected off David Clarkson's skate. It was Clarkson's 24th goal and third in as many games.

A game against Tampa Bay (27-28-6) could be just what the Devils need to bounce back. Even without Zidlicky, whose career plus-9 rating versus the Lightning is his best against any opponent, New Jersey won the first two meetings this season in Tampa and has taken 15 of 17 overall.

Martin Brodeur has been instrumental to that success, going 11-1-0 with a 2.11 goals-against average in his last 12 games in the series. He stopped 21 shots in his lone start of the season against the Lightning, a 4-2 win Nov. 19.

Dainius Zubrus scored in both matchups this season, and Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias also have given Tampa Bay problems. Kovalchuk, who leads the Devils with 25 goals and 59 points, has four goals and four assists in six games against the Lightning since the start of last season, while Elias has three goals and three assists.

Tampa Bay, owner of the NHL's third-worst road record at 9-19-4, arrives in New Jersey hoping to avoid losing all three games on its current trip.

After having a three-game winning streak end with Thursday's 4-3 defeat to Winnipeg, the Lightning suffered a humiliating 8-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon.

Mathieu Garon is expected to start in net after Dwayne Roloson was between the pipes for all the goals Saturday.

Garon, however, struggled Thursday against the Jets, surrendering four goals on 18 shots in under 23 minutes of work. In his lone appearance against the Devils this season, Garon replaced an ineffective Roloson and stopped 8 of 10 shots in 38 minutes.

Steven Stamkos, who leads the league with 43 goals, saw his four-game scoring streak end Saturday. He had two goals in a 5-4 loss to the Devils on Dec. 12.

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