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Devils in Calgary tonight, key stretch lies ahead

Jan 10, 2012, 2:33 PM EDT

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Ilya Kovalchuk Getty Images

Did you know? New Jersey is one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

Since starting the season 12-12-1, the Devils have gone 11-4-1, a stretch that’s seen them climb the standings to sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Tonight in Calgary, they kick off a three-game Canadian swing against the Flames. Tomorrow they’re in Edmonton; Saturday it’s a visit to Winnipeg.

Then, after returning home, they play six straight at the Prudential Center against the Jets, Bruins, Flyers, Sabres, Rangers and Habs.

The back-to-back versus Winnipeg looms especially large, with both sides fighting for the final playoff spots in the East.

Despite the 17 teams below them in the standings, the Devils have just 15 regulation/overtime wins, tied for the 23rd most in the league. An 8-1 record in the shootout is what’s pushed them into a postseason position.

Consider: Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Patrik Elias are a combined 16-for-23 in the shootout. That trio’s been so good that only three other Devils have been forced to make a shootout attempt (Adam Henrique twice, David Clarkson and Petr Sykora once each.)

It begs the question, are the Devils a playoff-caliber team or just one that’s taken advantage of a contrived way to decide games in the regular season?

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