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The New Jersey Devils and the Tampa Bay Lightning entered March looking to make a statement heading into the playoffs. It hasn't been the one either team hoped to be making.
The Devils and Lightning look to get back on track and start building some momentum as the postseason approaches when they meet at the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday.
New Jersey (43-22-8) finished February with 86 points and an 11-point lead over second-place Pittsburgh at the top of the Atlantic Division. That lead over the Penguins is down to just two points after the Devils have gone 3-4-2 this month.
Tampa Bay's situation is even worse.
The Lightning (40-30-4) entered March with a two-point lead over Atlanta in the Southeast Division, but after going 4-5-0 this month, they now trail the first-place Thrashers by four points. Tampa Bay is sixth overall in the Eastern Conference and is at risk of missing the playoffs altogether, only four points ahead of three teams - Montreal, Carolina and Toronto - which are tied for eighth place.
The Devils and Lightning each have gained just eight points in March, tied for third-fewest in the East.
Tampa Bay rebounded from its most lopsided loss of the season - 7-1 to lowly Washington on Sunday - with a 4-3 overtime victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
Filip Kuba scored 55 seconds into overtime to help the Lightning snap a three-game losing streak.
"This is huge for us, especially coming home off the road trip and the game we had in Washington," Kuba told the team's official Web site. "It was a huge game. Every game is big for us now."
Tampa Bay hopes to take advantage of playing six of its final eight games at home. The Lightning have split their only two home games this month, but are 7-2-1 at the St. Pete Times Forum since the start of February.
Goaltender Johan Holmqvist is 13-4-1 with a 2.37 goals-against average at home, and has been in net for each game versus the Devils this season. He's led Tampa Bay to a 2-1-0 record against them while posting a 1.30 GAA.
Holmqvist stopped 21 shots for the win on Tuesday after going 0-2-0 with a 5.82 GAA in his previous three starts.
Vincent Lecavalier tallied his league-leading 49th goal of the season on Tuesday, and has eight goals and five assists in his last nine games. Lecavalier has one goal and three assists against New Jersey this season.
The Devils lost to Toronto 2-1 on Tuesday to drop their second straight game.
They have just six goals in their last four contests, and their power play has been dreadful lately.
New Jersey is 3-for-33 with the man advantage this month after failing to convert one opportunity for a season-high fifth straight game Tuesday. The Devils have not gone six consecutive games without a power-play goal since a nine-game drought from Feb. 21-March 11, 2003.
Travis Zajac scored the lone goal for the Devils on Tuesday, and has scored four of his 16 goals in his last six games.
Martin Brodeur made 23 saves against Toronto, and is 3-4-2 with a 3.13 GAA this month after going 9-3-0 with a 2.22 GAA and three shutouts in February.
Brodeur has started each game against the Lightning this season, posting a 1.96 GAA, but has only one win.
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