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The Columbus Blue Jackets have a long way to go in order to climb out of the early hole they've dug for themselves, though journeyman goaltender Curtis Sanford has helped spark a recent surge.
Columbus seeks its first three-game winning streak since February as it goes for its first-ever road victory over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.
The Blue Jackets (5-13-2) have the NHL's worst record, though their first back-to-back wins of the season and a 3-1-1 mark in their last five have created some optimism. Jeff Carter scored twice, Rick Nash ended a seven-game goal drought and Vinny Prospal added three assists in a 4-1 win over Calgary on Monday, which followed a 4-3 overtime victory over Nashville on Saturday.
"We had talked about chemistry and getting the whole team together and having everybody out there on the same page," coach Scott Arniel said. "It's starting to evolve into that."
Sanford won both games and is 2-0-1 with a 1.46 goals-against average in four appearances - three starts - in place of the struggling Steve Mason. Sanford spent the past two seasons in the American Hockey League and hadn't made an NHL start since Jan. 10, 2009, prior to this season.
Sanford has had success despite recently recovering from a groin injury.
"He came in there after getting an injury and working his way back and got a chance to play," Carter said. "He's done everything we've asked of him. It's been good to see."
A victory in New Jersey would be even better for Columbus, which hasn't won three in a row since Feb. 18-25.
The Blue Jackets are 0-3-0 with one tie on the road against the Devils all-time, and New Jersey likely will be excited to be back home after closing out a 3-2-0 road trip with a disheartening loss.
The Devils (10-8-1) blew a 3-0 first-period advantage and fell 4-3 to Florida on Monday. Goals from Ilya Kovalchuk, Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus staked New Jersey to the lead, but Martin Brodeur couldn't hold it and allowed four goals on 26 shots over the final two periods.
"It's disappointing. We stopped playing after the 3-0 lead," coach Peter DeBoer said. "A good lesson learned. We probably got what we deserved at the end."
DeBoer refused to blame the long trip for Devils' sluggish second and third periods.
"I don't know if fatigue's a factor. I don't want to use that as a crutch," he said. "We just have to find a way to close out games. It's early - you hate to lose the points."
A date with Columbus may help get New Jersey back on track.
The Devils have won four straight meetings, with Brodeur going 3-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and two shutouts during that stretch. He needed to make only 13 saves in the most recent matchup as David Clarkson scored twice in a 3-0 victory March 20.
Kovalchuk has three goals and eight assists in nine career games versus Columbus, while Nash is scoreless in his last three against New Jersey.
|Nov 23 '11||CBJ 1 at NJD 2 - SO||I. Kovalchuk|