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NJ Devils & Atlantic Division Weekly Snapshot: 3/14 - 3/20

The New Jersey Devils showed signs of turning the corner this week with wins over the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, after a very poor shutout loss to Edmonton.  Yet, they took a step back in their recovery with a loss to the New York Islanders and missed a chance to tie the Penguins in points.  Nevertheless, the Penguins get a chance to retain and increase their lead, as well as get some revenge on Wednesday when the two teams faceoff.  Elsewhere in the division, everyone else maintained their positions: the Philadelphia Flyers are still ahead of the playoff bubble, the Rangers still outside of eighth, and the Islanders on the outside looking in.

Atlantic Standings

Pittsburgh 68 40 23 5 85
New Jersey 67 40 24 3 83
Philadelphia 67 36 27 4 76
New York Rangers 68 30 29 9 69
New York Islanders 68 27 32 9 63

(updated 3.14.2010 at 9:01 AM EDT)

The win over Pittsburgh by the Devils last week may prove to be huge as they still have a game in hand over Pittsburgh (will become two after today's games) and only behind by two points.  Naturally, Wednesday's rematch between the two teams will determine who has the inside track heading into the final few weeks of the season.  Even with the loss to the Islanders last night, the Devils aren't out of it - but they absolutely need to build on last week's results to make something of it.

Potential Points Last Week Conf. Position
PIT 8 1-1-1 2nd
NJ 8 2-2-0 4th
PHI 8 3-1-0 6th
NYR 6 1-1-1 9th
NYI 8 1-1-1 14th

It's going to be a very busy week for most of the division.  Only the Rangers will play less than 4 games this week.  The Devils and Flyers will lose their game in hand over the Rangers and Islanders (and in the Flyers' case, the Penguins too); but at this point, it's not really a concern.  The goal for the Penguins and Devils now are to push ahead for the highest position possible. As for the Flyers, it's to keep ahead of the playoff bubble in the East and hope the Devils slip enough to catch them. Travis Hughes at Broad Street Hockey pointed out that it's possible; while a 7 point lead with no extra games isn't easy to make up, he's not wrong.  The team has certainly played well enough as of late.

As for the Rangers, the goal is simple: win in regulation.  They cannot be handing points away and they cannot settle for less than 2 given where they are. The eighth-place Boston Bruins are three points ahead with a game in hand on the Rangers - an uphill climb at this point of the season.  Especially with only three games this week. The Islanders have a lot of teams in front of them, so they don't just need to get hot but also have Florida, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Carolina, the Rangers, and Boston to start slipping to have a shot at making the post season. It's bleak for the Isles, really.

3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20
PIT @ TB     @ NJ @ BOS   vs. CAR
NJ   vs. BOS   vs. PIT @ TOR   vs. STL
PHI @ NYR   @ NSH   @ DAL   @ ATL
NYR vs. PHI   vs. MTL   vs. STL    
NYI vs. TOR   @ VAN     @ ANA @ LA


There are two intra-division games that are big in terms of positioning.  If you're worried about the Flyers, then you may have to do the unthinkable and hope the Rangers win in regulation to keep them back.  As for Wednesday's Pittsburgh-New Jersey game, well, I shouldn't have to tell you what result would be ideal.

On paper, it looks like Pittsburgh has the easier schedule; but if the last two months have taught Devils fans anything, that you can throw that paper in the trash when the game starts.   The Penguins are more than capable at dropping some of those games, considering all non-Devils opponents involved are fighting to make the postseason. All the same, to take the division and keep fifth place Ottawa and sixth place Philadelphia at bay, the Devils need to improve on last week's 2-2 week against some tough opponents.  We saw that they can rise to the occasion at home, so having three home games helps in that sense.  Whether or not they'll do it is up to them.