A sputtering power play led to the New Jersey Devils' third loss in a month in their last contest, but a meeting with the struggling Atlanta Thrashers on Monday night could be just what they need to rebound.
The Devils (26-9-1) rank near the top of the league with a power-play unit that converts 21.5 percent of its chances. They had been even better during a 9-1-0 run, going 9 for 36, but failed to score on any of four attempts in Saturday's 4-1 loss at Washington.
"You look at how the game went. I feel that our puck control wasn't as it used to be," coach Jacques Lemaire told the team's official Web site. "Special teams, we had so many power plays and I think they got more chances than we did on our power play.
"For me, it determined the whole game. We get a goal on the power play at the start, it's a different game, then we start to believe we're fine."
That loss dropped the Devils out of the overall NHL lead, and they'll host Pittsburgh on Wednesday in a meeting of the top two teams in the Atlantic Division.
First, New Jersey faces Atlanta (18-15-4), which has dropped four in a row and has allowed opponents to go 8 for 15 on the power play over the last five games. The Thrashers haven't dropped five straight since Nov. 26-Dec. 3, 2008.
They lost 4-3 at Tampa Bay on Saturday after opening this season-high six-game road trip with a 6-4 loss at Boston on Wednesday.
"If we're going to play the same way like that, we're going to be out of that (playoff) picture," captain Ilya Kovalchuk said. "We need to wake up and play as a team. It can't be one guy or two guys or three guys."
Kovalchuk, who had a goal and assist against the Lightning, has continued his outstanding play despite Atlanta's 3-7-1 stretch. Named last week to represent Russia at the upcoming Olympics, Kovalchuk has six goals and eight assists on a nine-game points streak.
He ranks among the league leaders with 22 goals and has a team-high 41 points, but has managed just a goal and two assists in his last six meetings with New Jersey.
Kovalchuk needs two points to reach 600 for his career.
The Devils beat the Thrashers 5-4 at Atlanta on Dec. 19, but will need a better performance from Martin Brodeur. The four-time Vezina Trophy winner was pulled after giving up three goals on six shots in the opening period before Yann Danis made 19 saves the rest of the way.
Brodeur, who will likely be back in net after making 36 saves Saturday, wasn't much better in the previous matchup with Atlanta, stopping 15 shots in a 4-2 loss at Prudential Center on Oct. 16.
Danis, though, has won all three games in his career against the Thrashers while posting a 1.88 goals-against average with one shutout. However, he hasn't started since getting chased after surrendering three goals on nine shots in the first period of a 5-3 win at Dallas on Nov. 21.