New Jersey Devils: 6 Most Important Games Remaining on the Devils' Schedule

Peter MillsContributor IIIMarch 11, 2013

New Jersey Devils: 6 Most Important Games Remaining on the Devils' Schedule

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    With Sunday night's win, the New Jersey Devils retained the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and seemed to begin to emerge from the mediocre play the team has put forth recently.

    After a start to the season that had the team at the top of the conference, a devastating slump has seen the Devils drop seven of eight games, including six straight.

    The Devils kicked off the second half of their season with a 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night, but a strong effort against the Winnipeg Jets means that the Devils have something positive to build off of.

    Still though, 22 games remain the season, and if the Devils want a chance at defending their Eastern Conference title from last season, they'll need to start picking up their play immediately.

New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers: March 13

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    The New Jersey Devils' next game will be the start of a home and home against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers have not been playing particularly well lately—they're 5-5-0 in their last ten and lost three straight before defeating the Sabres Sunday night.

    The Flyers are currently fourth in the Atlantic division, while the Devils are second. They only sit four points behind though, and it would not take much for them to become serious competitors for a playoff spot.

    Meanwhile, the Devils have got to show that they've emerged from their slump and can win back-to-back games. They need to put forward a strong performance and give themselves a possibility of sweeping the two games.

    Should they lose, they then have to travel into Philadelphia in an attempt to split the series and keep themselves in the top eight.

New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers: March 19

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    The Devils and New York Rangers have faced off just once so far this season. Considering how closely the teams stand—the Rangers were briefly ahead of the Devils Sunday afternoon before the Devils' victory—their remaining games should all prove important.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins appear to be the alpha dogs of the Atlantic division right now, but the two-spot is being hotly contested. If the Devils could give themselves an extra two points against the Rangers, it could go a long way for their playoff hopes.

New Jersey Devils vs. New York Islanders: April 1

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    The New York Islanders have long been mired in mediocrity, but John Tavares is showing just how much a first-overall pick can help a team.

    Tavares is off to the best start of his career, with 16 goals and 13 assists through 26 games, and his play is a large reason why the Islanders are still contending in 10th place in the East with 25 points.

    The Isles and Devils have already played four times this year, and the Devils have gotten the edge so far: They are 2-1-1 but have been outscored 11-10. A win against the Islanders to start April would be a great boost for the Devils against a bubble team and might even be enough to put a nail in the coffin of the Islanders' hopes.

New Jersey Devils vs. Ottawa Senators: April 12

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    The Ottawa Senators currently sit at sixth in the Eastern Conference with 30 points. The Sens have managed to stay competitive despite injuries to many of their key players, including Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza.

    The Devils and Senators have only faced off once this season, and it ended in a shootout win for Ottawa. Separated by just one point, it's quite likely these teams will be battling for position by mid-April.

    The Devils actually play Ottawa once more before this game, but it's the last game of the season series we're focused on. The Devils should have the edge in this game, as the Senators have a game the night before against the Philadelphia Flyers. With an extra night's rest, it would be the perfect opportunity for the Devils to snag two must-have points.

New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maple Leafs: April 15

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the middle of a very strong campaign, with 31 points in their first 26 games. That record is good enough for fifth in the East.

    In their lone matchup against the Maple Leafs so far, the Devils were beat 4-2. This will be their second game against Toronto in April, but most players will tell you that Toronto's Air Canada Centre is a potentially intimidating environment.

    This is another game that should be important for the Devils in terms of playoff positioning. With both teams in the bottom half of the playoff picture, they'll both be scrambling to nab every win they can. Heads-up games will be especially crucial.

New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers: April 21

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    The Devils' last four games of the season consist of this meeting at Madison Square Garden. The team will then play at home against the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins before returning to the Garden to finish the season.

    The Devils can't lose both games to the Rangers: Besides the fact that it would be embarrassing for the Devils as a franchise, it would also be dropping four points to a team that they may very well be battling for a playoff spot with.

    The first game is more important merely because it takes some of the pressure off of the season finale. A win means they have a chance to win the season series (or even sweep it if they win slide 2), while a loss means a lot more pressure on a game that already features special circumstances. No team wants to end the season with a loss, but it's that much harder if the loss is the second in a week to the biggest rival.

    A win against the Rangers on April 21 means that the Devils have braved the Rangers home building and come out on top. The emotional impact will be as important as the two points over a competing team and gives a great start for what promises to be an incredibly difficult stretch to end the season.