Things just got a lot simpler as far as determining the Devils' first-round playoff opponent with Philadephia's 3-2 win over the Islanders this afternoon.
The Flyers' win eliminates them as a possible first-round opponent for the Devils and narrows it down to Pittsburgh and Carolina.
With the Devils defeating Carolina, 3-2, in regulation this afternoon, it will come down to tonight's game between Pittsburgh and Montreal at Bell Centre.
If Pittsburgh gets at least one point in that game (win or overtime/shootout loss), Carolina will be the sixth seed and face the Devils in the first round of the playoffs. If Montreal wins in regulation, Pittsburgh will be the sixth seed and face the Devils in the first round.
Game 1 will be Wednesday or Thursday at Prudential Center.
Regardless, the Devils are feeling a lot better about themselves than they were 10 days ago when a 6-1 loss in Pittsburgh extended their losing streak to six games. Since then, they've won four out of five and feel like they've restored at least some of their confidence.
"I think the confidence is restored in a good way," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "I don't think the confidence is where it was in February, but that might be a good thing. Now, we are on that edge of understanding that we can't get that far away from it and I think that's real important going from here."
The Devils feel that at the very least their psyche has been stabilized. Being strong mentally and reacting the right way to adversity are especially important in the playoffs.
“These are long seasons and you’re going to have stretches of up and downs and the playoffs are the same way, up and down,” goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “We have to understand that you can’t be affected by what’s going on all the time because when you do it affects how you perform. In the playoffs, it’s important to be composed and I think we got out of the funk that we were in and we did a good job and we all did it together. It wasn’t one guy that took us out of the hole we were in. Everybody chipped in and now we’re looking forward.”
Head coach Brent Sutter was pleased with the appoach his team took today's game even though it had no effect on the Devils' playoff seeding.
"I thought we played a very good hockey game under tough circumstances as far as it was a situation where there was nothing that was in it for us as far as standing-wise," Sutter said. "But there was certainly a lot in it as far as pride and keeping our game at the level that we wanted to keep it at and continuing to grow off of what we've been doing here in the last 10 days or so. It was another step from the Ottawa game. I thought there was a lot of energy and we were on our toes and awareness was very good.
"And our goaltender played well, so it was a strong effort by everybody."