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Finishin' Strong

Brian Deakyne, staff writer

This picture has been played in the minds of Devils fans, players and coaches for too many years: breaking down late in the season.

In what has seemingly been the constant over the past four seasons is Jersey's Team unable to close out the season. Although they may have hung division banners the in three of the last four seasons, the normally unnoticed task of finishing the season strong has proved to be the true achillies heal for New Jersey.

This season, that task lurking in the near future looks to be even more important.

The defending Stanley Cup champions, Pittsburgh Penguins, have currently overtaken the Atlantic division by four points (although the Devils have two games in hand) and are aiming at hanging a divisional banner at Melon Arena.

Still, New Jersey does seem to have a slight advantage over those defending champs, defeating them in all five match-ups this season.

The numbers are there for the Devils, who are still considered one of the most dangerous teams in the National Hockey League.

Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, the two top point-acqurirers for New Jersey sit near the top of the league rankings, as well.

As for Martin Brodeur, well, there's no explanation needed for the man who is still atop nearly every goaltender statistic.

The Devils need to approach each other remaining sixteen games as if they are all against the Penguins.

If only, oh, if only that were the case.

Besides, what good is not being one of the top three playoff seeds, which are held by division winners?

New Jersey sure isn't too common with that role, and shouldn't be this year.


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