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Wild Begin Eastern Journey Against Terrible Devils

(Sports Network) – The lowly New Jersey Devils will aim for just their third win in 15 games when they host the Minnesota Wild tonight at the Prudential Center.

The Devils, who are dead last in the NHL with just 22 points on the year, have a 2-12-0 record over their last 14 games.

New Jersey is also 1-4-0 since firing rookie head coach John MacLean and replacing him with Jacques Lemaire on an interim basis. Lemaire, who guided the Devils to their first Stanley Cup title in 1995, is in his third stint with New Jersey and he also coached the Wild from 2000-09.

The Devils ended a six-game slide with a win over visiting Atlanta on New Year’s Eve, but New Jersey was right back in the loss column the following day after dropping a 6-3 road loss to Carolina. Tuomo Ruutu had a goal and three assists to lead the Hurricanes to Saturday’s win.

Rod Pelley, Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias each scored a goal for the Devils. Martin Brodeur started the game in net, but was pulled after eight minutes as he allowed three goals on seven shots. Johan Hedberg, who picked up Friday’s win over the Thrashers, finished the contest between the pipes and stopped 15- of-18 shots.

Hedberg is expected to get the start tonight in net over the struggling Brodeur, who received the quickest hook of his legendary career during Saturday’s loss.

Hedberg, who is 4-1-3 in his career against Minnesota, has primarily been used as a backup in his decade-long career, but with Brodeur currently in a slump, the veteran Swede is expected to see more action.

“I’m taking it one game at a time and find the joy in things,” Hedberg said. “For me, that’s a big part. I want this to be fun. It hasn’t been as much fun as I was hoping for. Have to turn it around and get better, work hard, and enjoy ourselves out there.”

The Devils are hoping to get a boost from the return of defensemen Mark Fraser and Colin White tonight. Fraser hasn’t played since fracturing his right hand in a fight with Buffalo’s Cody McCormick on Oct. 13, while White has sat out the last two with an illness.

Fraser will need to be activated from injured reserve before he gets penciled into tonight’s lineup.

New Jersey ended a four-game home skid its last time out, but is still just 6-11-2 as the host this season.

Minnesota, meanwhile, has won two of its last three games and the Wild are coming off a thrilling overtime win Sunday against Phoenix.

Cam Barker was the unlikely hero for Minnesota, scoring his first goal of the season just 46 seconds into overtime to push the Wild past the visiting Coyotes, 6-5. Barker’s one-timer from the point sailed past Coyotes goaltender Jason LaBarbera’s glove for his first goal since Feb. 14 of last season.

Andrew Brunette tallied two goals and an assist, while Brent Burns had two helpers and a goal in a game that featured six scores in the final period.

“It was a wild third period that’s for sure,” Brunette said. “It was back-and- forth and we were able to score a late goal and one in overtime. We did some good things in the last bit of the game, but we also lost some mojo in the beginning of the period.”

Pierre-Marc Bouchard recorded the game-tying goal and an assist in the win, and Jose Theodore made 39 saves. Theodore could get a second straight start tonight over Niklas Backstrom tonight. Backstrom has been bothered by a knee injury, but he was healthy enough to serve as the backup in Sunday’s game.

Wild forward Antti Miettinen is questionable for tonight after leaving Sunday’s game with a bruised leg. Defenseman Marco Scandella missed the last game with an illness and is also questionable for tonight.

Tonight marks the first stop on a three-game road trip for the Wild, who are 8-6-3 as the guest this season.

The Wild have struggled to beat New Jersey since coming into the league, winning just once in 10 all-time meetings between the clubs. The Devils posted a 5-3 victory in Minnesota in the only encounter last year.

Minnesota’s only victory against the Devils was on March 4, 2003 in St. Paul.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.