Devils-Coyotes Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 26, 2011
Johan Hedberg and the New Jersey Devils didn't let one brief, ugly stretch completely throw them off track. Visiting Phoenix could keep them going in the right direction. Hedberg looks to continue his solid play in place of Martin Brodeur as the Devils meet a Coyotes team playing poorly at home in front of sparse crowds. New Jersey (4-2-1) is halfway through a four-game road trip which ends Saturday in Dallas. The trek didn't start well, with Hedberg allowing three goals in a 6:07 span of the third period in a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Devils defense was a lot stingier Tuesday as Hedberg made 31 saves in a 3-0 victory over Los Angeles, which had won four straight. "As a team, I thought that was probably our best game," captain Zach Parise said. "We played smart. I think we really fixed the things that were going wrong for us." One of those things was being whistled for penalties. New Jersey's opponents had 11 power plays in the previous two games, but the Kings only had one. "I think we really kept our team close together, played smart, and didn't take any unnecessary penalties," said Hedberg, 4-1-1 with a 1.86 goals-against average. With Keith Kinkaid being the Devils' other active goalie - he's never appeared in the NHL - Hedberg is expected to remain the starter through the road trip because Brodeur is unlikely to return until next week due to an injured shoulder. Hedberg hasn't played in Phoenix since 2006 but has won three of his last four starts there, and a big crowd cheering against him Thursday is unlikely. Since winning their sold-out home opener, the Coyotes (3-3-2) have seen their attendance dwindle in three consecutive home games - all losses. Fewer than 7,500 fans witnessed each of the last two, a disappointing lack of support for a team coming off a second straight playoff appearance. Phoenix has been held to four goals during its three-game skid at home, including a 3-2 shootout loss to Dallas on Tuesday. It was the second time in 15 days the Coyotes gave up the tying goal late in regulation in a shootout defeat to the Stars. Plus, the latest loss came two nights after Phoenix nearly blew a two-goal lead in a 5-4 win over Anaheim. "I'm sure we'll figure it out," forward Shane Doan said of hanging on to leads. "We'll be better at it. It's just disappointing." Doan notched his 300th goal Tuesday, but he's scored once in 20 career games against the Devils. While Doan leads Phoenix with four goals, Patrik Elias has the same team-high total for New Jersey after scoring in a third straight game Tuesday. Elias assisted on one of two goals by Dainius Zubrus, who had been pointless. Linemate Petr Sykora had two assists but remains in search of his first NHL goal since Oct. 30, 2009, after spending last season overseas. He'll probably be going for it against Mike Smith, a bright spot for the Coyotes with a 1.64 GAA in his last three home starts. Backup Jason LaBarbera allowed five goals in his lone start in Phoenix this season and has a 9.85 GAA in two appearances against New Jersey.
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