A 7-1 loss to Atlanta earlier this month was part of the Devils' latest disastrous skid, which could hit seven games for the first time in nearly 25 years Friday against the Thrashers at the Prudential Center.
New Jersey (9-25-2) is going through one of the darkest seasons in franchise history, but it's been particularly dreadful over the past month. The Devils are 1-11-0 in December and have totaled 17 goals -- just three more than Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby has alone.
They've been especially impotent during their current slide, which hit six with a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday. New Jersey has been held to a goal apiece during each of those defeats.
The Devils, though, were optimistic after outshooting the Rangers 44-26 -- their highest total of the season.
"I think there's been games where we score one goal, but probably don't deserve to score more," center Travis Zajac told the team's official website. "Tonight I felt the other way. We scored one, but we definitely deserved to get more than one goal tonight."
Better effort or not, New Jersey still has 19 fewer goals than any other NHL team. A loss Friday would give the Devils their first seven-game losing streak since an eight-game slide from Dec. 19, 1985-Jan. 6, 1986.
They'll certainly have to play a lot better than they did Dec. 18 at Atlanta if they hope to end their skid. The Thrashers (20-14-6) only had 22 shots at Philips Arena that night, but they found the back of the net with nearly a third of those. Atlanta chased Martin Brodeur early in the second period on its way to a 7-1 rout.
Thrashers winger Eric Boulton, who came into the game with 22 goals in parts of 10 NHL seasons, had his first career hat trick.
Atlanta won 6-3 at Toronto two nights later to improve to 12-2-2 since Nov. 19, but then went on an 0-3-1 skid heading into Thursday's game against visiting Boston. Tobias Enstrom helped the Thrashers snap out of their funk, scoring twice on the power play before Tim Stapleton and Brian Little converted in a shootout to seal a 3-2 victory.
Ondrej Pavelec made 42 saves after going 0-2-1 with a 4.31 goals-against average in his previous three starts.
"We have been struggling a little bit lately and it feels so good to be back on track," Enstrom said. "With Ondrej in the net, he gives us a chance to win every night."
New Jersey is expected to give Johan Hedberg the start Friday against the team for which he played the past four seasons. Hedberg hasn't started since Dec. 6, twice relieving Brodeur in that stretch -- including the loss to the Thrashers, when he gave up three goals on just seven shots.
"Every game for me is exciting," said Hedberg, who's 3-4-0 with a 1.96 GAA in his last seven starts. "As far as playing Atlanta, it's a little bit special. It won't change anything in my approach.
"I think I got most of the jitterbugs out with the last game we were down there and I can just go out and try to enjoy it."
The Devils hope another former Thrasher will be fired up to face his old club. Ilya Kovalchuk scored New Jersey's lone goal in Atlanta, but he's been held to one assist in his last four games.
Kovalchuk's minus-26 rating is the NHL's worst.
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