Slumping Devils hope return home helps vs. Predators

Two teams that have had similar home and road splits this season meet Tuesday night when the New Jersey Devils host the Nashville Predators at the Prudential Center.

The Devils are happy to be back home, where they own an impressive 8-1-2 record. They just concluded a winless four-game road trip (0-3-1) on Sunday with a 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Rangers, dropping their road mark to an unsightly 4-11-5.

"(Sunday) was a step forward for us because recently we've lacked a good compete level for a full 60 (minutes) on the road, but (Sunday) night we had that," said Devils rookie forward Miles Wood, who scored a goal and led the team with six shots on goal against the Rangers.

"It's certainly exciting to be heading back home, where we've played better this year; and if we compete like we did (Sunday), we'll be just fine."

The Devils will have played 19 of their 29 games on the road in November and December, a difficult schedule which has already worn this team down. New Jersey heads into play Tuesday winless in their last six games overall (0-5-1) and just 3-9-4 since Nov. 17.

However, as Wood pointed out, the Devils played a solid game against the Rangers, despite surrendering a pair of third-period leads. They were tenacious on the puck all night, scored their first power-play goal in five games, outshot an opponent for the time in 16 contests and received a throwback performance from goaltender Cory Schneider.

That this performance followed on the heels of another well-played contest, albeit a 3-1 loss in Ottawa on Saturday, is not lost on the Devils' players or coaches either.

"There's lot of encouraging things going on here recently," New Jersey head coach John Hynes said. "We are a team that is trying to build itself into being competitive and relevant. Let's give credit to the players, the way they've worked the last few games, gathered themselves and are now working in the right direction. We're going to come out of this in the right way."

Like New Jersey, the Predators have been very good at home while struggling on the road this season. Nashville, which did open its brief two-game East Coast road swing Monday with a 2-1 shootout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, is just 4-9-2 away from Bridgestone Arena -- as opposed to 10-3-3 on home ice.

Also, like the Devils, Nashville's overall game has been compromised since late November. The Predators have not won consecutive games since Nov. 25 and their overall record since then is just 4-5-2.

Despite being one of the league's top defensive teams in the month of November, the Predators have since allowed three goals or more in nine of their last 11 contests.

"We have to find ways to win and get rolling and move up in the standings," Predators captain Mike Fisher said to the team's official web site. "We know we can be better. We have to be better."

The Predators were certainly better Monday night as goaltender Pekka Rinne made 31 saves though regulation and overtime before stopping all three shots he faced in the shootout. Ryan Ellis scored the decisive goal for Nashville.

The struggling Filip Forsberg tied the game, 1-1, midway through the third period with his fourth goal of the season for the Predators. In a sign that his scoring touch may be returning, Forsberg, who netted 33 goals a year ago, scored for the second time in his last four games.

"It's a huge win for us," Rinne said to reporters after the win. "We've been struggling on the road and any points, any wins we get right now, is big."

Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban missed his second straight game Monday due to an upper body injury. He will not play in Tuesday's contest against the Devils.

This will be the second and final meeting between the Predators and Devils this season. On Dec. 3 in Nashville, the Devils erased a 4-1 deficit with three third-period goals and capped their rally on Michael Cammalleri's game-winning score at 4:42 of overtime for a stunning 5-4 victory.
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