Devils-Wild Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 01, 2011
Even when they're down, the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild feel like they can come out on top. The New Jersey Devils would just prefer to avoid those situations altogether. The Wild look to extend their franchise-best start Friday night when they host a Devils team hoping for improvements in all phases of the game. Trailing Edmonton 2-0 in the second period Wednesday, Devin Setoguchi and Kyle Brodziak each found the back of the net to help Minnesota (15-7-3) rally for a 3-2 shootout victory to again move atop the conference. The Wild have won nine times this season after giving up the first goal. "It's a testament to the guys how everyone stuck together," said Brodziak, whose first career shootout goal was the difference. "We didn't break and it paid off.'' The Northwest Division leaders are also cashing in on the power play, converting 5 of 25 over the last six games after failing in 63 of 72 opportunities to open the season. While the Wild have rebounded nicely by winning two straight following back-to-back 5-2 defeats, the Devils (12-10-1) are heading in the opposite direction. Since an 8-3-0 surge, New Jersey has been outscored 9-3 while losing its last two. Four of the goals allowed in those contests have come in the opening 20 minutes after the Devils trailed 3-0 through one period of Wednesday's 6-1 loss to Colorado. "The first period we looked like we were still in New Jersey. We didn't come to play,'' coach Peter DeBoer said after the opener of the club's four-game trip. "We're not a good enough team that we can take any time off, never mind 20 minutes.'' New Jersey is 4-7-0 when its opponent scores first. That's not surprising considering the Devils are among the league's lowest scoring teams at 2.3 goals per game. They have netted two or fewer in a season-high four consecutive contests, and their lone score Wednesday came from Ilya Kovalchuk, who was a season-worst minus-4. The Devils will likely face Niklas Backstrom as they try to get their offense in gear. The Wild goaltender is 5-1-0 with a 1.91 goals-against average in his last six starts. Backstrom, however, is 0-2-1 with a 3.86 GAA in three starts in this matchup after getting beat four times in the Devils' last visit, a 5-3 New Jersey victory on Jan. 2, 2010. The Devils have leaned heavily on their league-best penalty kill (94.4 percent) and their goaltending, but Martin Brodeur has allowed 14 goals in his last four starts. He's 7-1-0 with two ties and a 2.23 GAA versus Minnesota, but this may be a good chance for DeBoer to give Johan Hedberg a start. Brodeur's backup is 4-1-0 with a 1.95 GAA in his last five starts against the Wild after turning aside 16 shots in a 2-1 home loss on Jan. 4 that ended New Jersey's four-game winning streak in this matchup. Minnesota could make it two in a row with continued production from center Mikko Koivu, who has three goals and seven assists during a season-high seven-game point streak. The Wild captain had a goal and an assist the last time the Devils were in town. Minnesota forwards Cal Clutterbuck and Darroll Powe are questionable after suffering leg injuries Wednesday.
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