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Devils visit Hurricanes with an eye on postseason spot

The Devils hope they got their offense tuned up in their last trip to the ice. New Jersey next looks to secure a trip to the postseason this evening at it takes on the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Devils had a string of 13 straight trips to the playoffs snapped last season, but are just one point or a Washington Capitals loss to the visiting Montreal Canadiens tonight away from returning to the second season.

New Jersey did its part to move closer to claiming a spot in the playoffs on Thursday, logging a 6-4 victory over Tampa Bay. The Devils got goals from six different skaters versus the Lightning as well as 16 saves by Martin Brodeur. It was their best offensive output since a 6-4 win at Philadelphia on Feb. 4.

"We had a nice explosion of offense there, it's been a while since we put up six," Devils forward Zach Parise said. "We felt good, we did a good job on the forecheck and we were able to finish."

Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexei Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson had a goal and an assist apiece, while Dainius Zubrus, Jacob Josefson and Marek Zidlicky also scored.

Though just about locked into the playoffs, positioning is still an issue. The sixth-place Devils are four back of the Flyers in the Eastern Conference and six up on the seventh-ranked Senators. Both Ottawa and Philadelphia have five games left in the season to New Jersey's four and meet today in Philly.

New Jersey had won five straight versus the Hurricanes before suffering a 4-2 loss in Carolina in the most recent meeting on Dec. 26. The Devils have still won nine of the past 12 encounters, but have lost six of their past eight as the guest in this series.

Carolina was officially eliminated from postseason contention with last night's 4-3 overtime setback to Winnipeg, one in which it blew a two-goal lead to lose for the third time in four games following a four-game winning streak.

Eric Staal netted the 250th goal of his career and the Hurricanes upped their point total to 78, but will sit out the postseason for the third straight year.

"We had a 3-1 lead against a team that wasn't playing well at the time and we let them get back in," said Staal. "We can't allow that to happen and obviously we have some things to work on as a team."

Brandon Sutter and Derek Joslin also scored and Cam Ward made 31 saves for the Hurricanes.

Carolina will alternate home and road games over its last four to end the season.