The New Jersey Devils are in dire need of a spark and they will get one when future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur returns to the lineup for Thursday's game at the Carolina Hurricanes. The NHL's all-time winningest goaltender, Brodeur missed the last 13 contests with a pinched nerve in his back and will be in net for the first time since Feb. 21. New Jersey is winless in its last three (0-2-1) and has won only three times (3-8-2) in Brodeur's absence to tumble to ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Hurricanes are also sliding down the standings in the East, having lost four consecutive games (0-3-1) to fall out of first place in the Southeast Division - two points behind the Winnipeg Jets. Carolina is sitting in sixth place in the conference but could fall behind the Devils with a loss Thursday. Both teams are mired in scoring slumps, but the Hurricanes' offense has had its way against New Jersey in two meetings, winning both and producing a combined 10 goals.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG Plus-2 (New Jersey), Fox Sports Carolina, NHL Network
ABOUT THE DEVILS (13-11-6): New Jersey has scored only four goals in the last three games, one of the reasons coach Peter DeBoer cautioned that Brodeur's return is "not an instant cure." Brodeur took the loss in a 4-2 home loss to Carolina on Feb. 12, but Devils captain Bryce Salvador said his impact is immeasureable. "He's one of those players who can definitely control the game," Salvador said. "It's nice having him back. By no means is that a knock against (backup Johan Hedberg). Marty is a presence in the net."
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (15-12-2): Carolina has managed only five goals during its four-game slide, which came on the heels of a stretch in which it won six of seven - including a 6-3 win over New Jersey on March 9. Jiri Tlusty has only one assist in the past five games but he has torched the Devils, scoring twice in each of the last two meetings. Among the reasons for the recent offensive struggles has been Carolina's power play, which has converted on only 4-of-51 chances in the last 16 games.
1. Brodeur is 37-15-5-1 with a 2.05 goals-against average and nine shutouts against Carolina.
2. Hurricanes D Justin Faulk will miss two to four weeks after suffering a sprained knee ligament in Tuesday's loss to Florida.
3. Devils LW Alexei Ponikarovsky (lower body) will miss Thursday's matchup but C Andrei Loktionov (soreness) could return to the lineup.
PREDICTION: Hurricanes 3, Devils 2