DEVILS (20-18-11) at COYOTES (22-16-9)
Season series: This is the first of two games between the New Jersey Devils and Phoenix Coyotes, teams that last faced each other on Oct. 27, 2011. Martin Hanzal had the decisive goal in a 5-3 victory for Phoenix at Jobing.com Arena.
Big story: Phoenix enters Saturday ninth in the Western Conference while New Jersey is 10th in the East. Each team is mere points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff berth, however.
Cory Schneider has started four of the past five games for the Devils, but Martin Brodeur was spectacular Tuesday in beating the Montreal Canadiens. Mike Smith, who has supplanted Brodeur as one of Canada's goalies for the 2014 Winter Olympics, broke out of a 1-7-3 skid with a shutout against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.
Coyotes: Phoenix blanked Vancouver 1-0 on Thursday to snap a four-game losing streak and now the team will look to start a winning streak.
Scoring more goals will be key. The Coyotes averaged 3.2 non-shootout goals in winning 18 of their first 31 games, but just 2.1 while losing 12 of the last 16.
"I think we can be still much better than we were (Thursday) and that’s what we’ll be looking for (on Saturday)," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "We don’t want to rest on our laurels. We’ve got a long way to come. We dropped some games that we needed to have and now we’ve got to get ourselves back in the race.”
Mike Smith, who stopped all 29 shots he faced Thursday, will be back in net against the Devils, whom Phoenix has defeated the last three times these teams have played in Glendale.
The Coyotes have scored a power-play goal in six straight games. The franchise record is 14 games set in 1987-88 when the team was based in Winnipeg.
The Devils are expected to start future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur in goal for this game.
"When you play against Marty he’s ultra-competitive and you love playing against guys like that," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "On top of that he’s the winningest goalie of all time and whenever you get the chance to play someone who is the greatest of all time that’s pretty special."
Devils: A four-game road trip concludes for New Jersey, which didn't practice Friday. The Devils have dropped two of three, yet still enter on a six-game point streak with three wins, an overtime loss and two shootout defeats.
Shootout has eight letters, but it's become the equivalent of a four-letter word around the Devils, who are 0-8 in them this season and have lost an NHL-record 12 in a row after a 2-1 defeat Thursday to the Colorado Avalanche. Coach Peter DeBoer has taken to using three forwards and one defenseman late in overtimes in an attempt to score and avoid the penalty-shot tiebreaker. Reid Boucher is the only Devil to score in 25 attempts this season.
"You can sorta poo-poo the shootout and say, 'Ah, it's just a shootout,' but when you're not getting wins from it and you're leaving points on the table, then it matters," Schneider said in the Newark Star-Ledger.
Who's hot: Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has two goals and two assists during a four-game point streak... Schneider and Brodeur have combined to give up just seven non-shootout goals in the past six games for the Devils.
Injury report: New Jersey forward Damien Brunner (knee) hasn't played since Dec. 20 but is getting closer to a return. Defenseman Peter Harrold (foot) is also sidelined.
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