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After good start to lockout-shortened season, Devils fighting to make the playoffs again

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    New Jersey Devils head coach Peter DeBoer, center, talks to his players during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders Monday, April 1, 2013, in Newark, N.J. The Islanders won 3-1. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) (The Associated Press)

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    New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (30) and Stephen Gionta (11) defend as New York Islanders' Casey Cizikas (53) tries to score a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 1, 2013, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) (The Associated Press)

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    New York Islanders center Josh Bailey (12) scores a goal past New Jersey Devils' goalie Martin Brodeur (30) and Marek Zidlicky, of Czech Republic (2) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 1, 2013, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) (The Associated Press)

After opening the season with points in 11 of 12 games and the best record in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils appeared ready to coast into the playoffs.

With 12 games to play in the lockout-shortened, 48-game season, the defending Eastern Conference champions are barely hanging on to their postseason ticket. They have slipped to seventh in the conference after a four-game losing streak and lead the rival Rangers and Islanders by a mere two points.

Even more concerning is that star forward Ilya Kovalchuk is going to miss a few more weeks after hurting his shoulder March 23.

But the Devils remained confident Tuesday. They rallied to make the playoffs last season, and they believe they can do it again.