Posted January 09, 2012 on AP on Fox
After missing the playoffs last season for only the second time in 21 years, the New Jersey Devils are playing like they want no part of an early vacation in 2012. The Devils look to continue their rise up the standings Tuesday night when they face the Calgary Flames on the second stop of a four-game trip. New Jersey has been a postseason mainstay, qualifying in all but one season since 1989 before finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference in 2010-11 to end a streak of 13 straight years in the playoffs. Returning to the postseason figured to be a challenge for the Devils under new coach Peter DeBoer with the team relying on a very young defense and Martin Brodeur, who turns 40 on May 6. New Jersey, however, has gotten solid production from veteran forwards Patrik Elias, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, while Adam Henrique ranks second among NHL rookies with 32 points. Brodeur's overall 2.91 goals-against average is far from stellar, but he is 6-2-1 with a 2.50 GAA in his last nine starts. He made a season-high 41 saves and Henrique scored his third short-handed goal of the season in Saturday's 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh as the Devils improved to 5-1-1 in their last seven road games. Dainus Zubrus and Kovalchuk also scored for New Jersey, which has won 11 of 16 overall to climb from 12th in the East to sixth. "We need to continue on the way we're going now," Brodeur said. "There will be some bumps, we hit one against Boston (losing 6-1 on Wednesday), we but came back with two big wins." Saturday's win marked the halfway point of the season for New Jersey (23-16-2), which has more than doubled the 22 points it had with a 10-29-2 record at the midpoint a season ago. Perhaps the biggest key to the Devils' success has been the league's best penalty kill, which has allowed only 13 goals in 147 chances (91.2 percent). Their nine short-handed goals lead the NHL. "(Short-handed goals) have been a weapon for us all year, thankfully," DeBoer said. "Our penalty killing has been great and we've found a way to score short-handed goals. It's been a big part of our success this year." After closing a seven-game trip with a 9-0 loss to Boston on Thursday, the injury-riddled Flames (19-19-5) returned home Saturday and ended a five-game skid with a 3-1 win over Minnesota. Jarome Iginla became the 42nd player in NHL history to reach the 500-goal mark and the 15th to do it with one team. "I've been very blessed in hockey to have some great moments and memories that will stick with me," he said. "Been part of different games and scoring some different goals, but that's one that I'll definitely remember." Iginla has scored six goals during the Flames' current six-game home winning streak, their longest since a seven-game run Dec. 23, 2008-Jan. 13, 2009. They're 8-0-1 at home since losing to Ottawa on Nov. 15. Calgary has eight players sidelined with injuries and will be without left wing Rene Bourque - third on the team with 13 goals - as he serves the third game of a five-game suspension for elbowing Washington's Nicklas Backstrom in the head. The Devils have won three of four against the Flames, taking the most recent meeting 2-1 in a shootout at home Nov. 24, 2010.
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