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Devils Alley: New Jersey Continues Road Trip Tonight in Boston

BruinsThe Devils will play their second of five straight road games tonight as they face the Bruins at TD Garden in Boston.

New Jersey is coming off an entertaining 3-2 shootout victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Goalie Johan Hedberg made 17 saves in a defensive battle and David Clarkson netted the game winning goal in the final round of sudden death.

Boston defeated the Buffalo Sabres 6-2 on Saturday behind Tyler Seguin's two goal night. The game was the center of controversy after Bruins forward Milan Lucic knocked out Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who suffered a concussion. Lucic was not suspended for the incident and is expected to play tonight against the Devils.

Head coach Pete DeBoer told the media today that Ilya Kovalchuk will be a game time decision, although there has been much confusion on the status of his injury. Originally Kovalchuk was ruled out for tonight's game, but after talking to DeBoer he will now be present during pre-game warmups and the decision will go down to how he performs on the ice.

“I didn’t skate for 10 days, so I had a real skate yesterday and it feels good and today it feels even better,” Kovalchuk told the Bergen Record.  I feel good and we’ll see how it reacts in a couple of hours. But I’m pretty sure I’m taking warm-up and we’ll make a decision then.”

Kovalchuk has not played since November 4th when he suffered a lower body injury against the Philadelphia Flyers. He is still second on the team in points scored with nine, but the Devils are 3-1 without him in the lineup.

Despite the record, New Jersey has missed Kovalchuk in a number of key positions. Zach Parise has struggled since Kovalchuk suffered his injury, posting a -3 rating and just two points in the four games without him. The team has relied on the second and third lines to get the offense going, but New Jersey will need their top line to perform against the league's elite teams.

The powerplay has, if possible, gotten worse with Kovalchuk out as well. The Devils are now 0-17 with a man advantage since Kovalchuk went down with injury, and the unit has given up two short handed goals in four games. New Jersey is now last in the NHL on the powerplay with a 10 percent success rate.

The good news for Devils fans is that Kovalchuk not only skated today but practiced with both powerplay units. He ran the point for both the Larsson-Parise-Elias-Clarkson team and the Fayne-Henrique-Zubrus-Sykora team. Elias and Larsson had been running the point during Kovalchuk's rehab, but Elias was taken off after allowing two short handed goals.

The pairings for tonight's game are as follows (late scratches still not announced):

Zharkov-Mills /Pelley-Janssen

Fans asked Bergen Record columnist Tom Gulitti who the healthy scratch would be if Kovalchuk played tonight, but he explained that the team did not announce it yet. The Elias and Carter lines have played extremely well as of late, so it would be hard to imagine DeBoer breaking them up if Kovalchuk comes back.

The likely scratch would be either Zharkov or Janssen with Palmieri moving down to the fourth line. DeBoer moved Palmieri to the top line in an attempt to spark some offense out of him, but he has not answered the call since being moved. I don't think the Devils would make a drastic change by scratching Palmieri, but then again this team can be full of surprises.

Johan Hedberg will get his second consecutive start tonight over Martin Brodeur. Hedberg is 4-8 with a 2.94 career GAA against the Bruins, but won his last meeting against Boston last year by a score of 3-2.

The thing to watch for tonight will be the defense, as Boston is currently ranked third in the NHL in scoring with 3.4 goals per game. The Bruins have scored six goals in three straight games and at least five goals in each of their last five games (5-0). New Jersey is currently 17th in the NHL with 2.67 goals allowed per game and have given up on average about two or three goals per game in the past week.

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