The New Jersey Devils have gotten a little healthier in time for the final stretch of the regular season, but continued lackluster play on the road could cost them a shot at another Atlantic Division title.
A matchup with the Eastern Conference's worst team would seem to be the opportunity to turn around those struggles, but the Toronto Maple Leafs aren't going quietly into the end of another disappointing season without a playoff appearance.
After moving into a tie for the division lead, New Jersey will try to earn only its third win away from home in two months Thursday night against a Toronto team searching for its fifth overall victory in six tries.
New Jersey (42-24-3) benefited quickly from Paul Martin's return in Wednesday's 5-2 home victory over Pittsburgh. After missing 59 games with a broken left arm, the defenseman scored the go-ahead goal -- his first since March 27 -- in the first period during the Devils' fourth win in five games.
"I don't score too many. Definitely big for me just to be back on the ice and with the guys," Martin said. "It's been a long time. The longest for me in hockey."
All of those recent victories, however, have come at the Prudential Center. On the road, the Devils are 2-11-1 since Jan. 13 and have dropped three straight to teams currently out of playoff contention -- Calgary, Edmonton and the New York Islanders.
They'll face another of those clubs in Toronto (24-34-12), but the Maple Leafs have hardly played like a last-place team over the past five games. They've scored at least four goals in four wins over that span with the line of Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin and Tyler Bozak combining for nine goals and 11 assists.
"We've gotten used to each other," said Kessel, who scored the first goal and his 26th of the season in a 4-1 win at Ottawa on Tuesday. "We're just going out there trying to make plays and trying to get wins."
Rookie Jonas Gustavsson has three straight victories with a 2.61 goals-against average over that stretch, down from 3.07 in his first 32 NHL games.
Coach Ron Wilson, though, might start Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who blanked the Devils in the only matchup this season at the Air Canada Centre on Feb. 2. It was Giguere's debut with the Maple Leafs after acquiring the one-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner from Anaheim on Jan. 31.
Giguere is also 4-1-0 with one tie and a 2.12 GAA all-time against New Jersey. Gustavsson has a 4.60 GAA in two games this season.
One thing that's certain for Wilson's team is the return of Fredrik Sjostrom, who will play his first game since suffering an upper-body injury March 6 in Ottawa. Sjostrom has two assists in seven games with the Maple Leafs after they got him in a trade from Calgary on Jan. 31.
Toronto is seeking its first four-game winning streak at home since Dec. 7-14. The Maple Leafs are 2-0-1 in their last three matchups there against the Devils, but have dropped two meetings this season in New Jersey.