The slumping New Jersey Devils will aim for their first victory in two weeks when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs in Saturday's clash at the Prudential Center.
The Devils are mired in a five-game losing streak (0-2-3) and haven't won since recording a home victory against Florida on March 23. New Jersey was able to gain a point in each of its next three games before suffering regulation setbacks in its two most recent outings.
The rough patch has coincided with an injury to star forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who suffered a shoulder injury in New Jersey's last win on March 23 and will miss a sixth straight game on Saturday.
Without Kovalchuk, New Jersey has fallen to ninth place in the East, but the club is only one point behind the Rangers and Islanders for a playoff spot. Both New York teams are in action on Saturday, as the Isles host Tampa Bay and the Rangers visit Carolina.
The Devils hope veteran winger Steve Sullivan can help the club get back on track. The 38-year-old Sullivan, who broke into the NHL with New Jersey during the 1995-96 season, was acquired from Phoenix for a seventh-round draft pick at Wednesday's trade deadline and he is expected to play on Saturday.
Sullivan has five goals and 12 points in 33 games with the Coyotes this season and has recorded 742 points (288 goals, 454 assists) over 1,002 NHL games.
"I really didn't see it coming," Sullivan said of the trade. "But it's a great opportunity. I'm glad to be going back to where it all began."
The Devils are coming off Thursday's 1-0 regulation loss in Boston. Jaromir Jagr scored the lone goal of the contest in his Boston debut, while Tuukka Rask stopped all 40 shots sent his way by New Jersey.
Martin Brodeur stopped 25-of-26 shots in the setback.
"Effort is there," New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer remarked. "We played a good game, just didn't get rewarded for it."
The Devils are playing three of their next four games on home ice, where they are 10-6-2 this season.
Toronto, meanwhile, will try to get back in the win column on Saturday after having a three-game win streak halted Thursday by the visiting Philadelphia Flyers.
The Maple Leafs lost a 5-3 decision to the Flyers and James van Riemsdyk, John-Michael Liles and Nikolai Kulemin all scored in the losing effort. James Reimer gave up four goals on 30 shots for Toronto.
"I felt like I was hanging in there and making some big saves, but they got a couple in," said Reimer. "It was a weird game out there tonight and things just don't go your way sometimes."
In addition to losing the game, the Maple Leafs also saw forward Joffrey Lupul leave the contest with an upper body injury after he was sandwiched by Philadelphia's Adam Hall and Jay Rosehill. Lupul, who has 14 points in 10 games during an injury-plagued season, did not travel with the team to New Jersey and his status is day-to-day.
Toronto has 44 points and is tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference with Ottawa. The Leafs are trying to end a stretch of seven straight seasons without making the playoffs. It's the longest postseason drought in franchise history.
The Leafs are 2-0 against New Jersey this season and have won six of 10 overall in this series. Toronto also has claimed three of the last four meetings in the Garden State.