Devils fall 11 points back in playoff race

February, 26, 2011
2/26/11
12:58
AM ET
The New Jersey Devils' dream of making the playoffs is still alive.

But it got a little harder after Friday night's 2-1 road loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

With just one game remaining before Monday's NHL trade deadline and 21 games left in the season, the Devils are now 11 points back of the Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Devils, who had their eight-game winning streak snapped, are still an unbelievable 16-2-2 in their last 20 games. However, they'll still need a miracle to reach the postseason for the 14th consecutive time.

Both of the Lightning's goals came off face-off wins. Normally dominant inside the face-off dot, the Devils lost 35-of-58 draws.

Rookie defenseman Mark Fayne tallied his fourth goal of the season for the Devils in the third period, but they couldn't solve Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson again. Johan Hedberg made 28 saves in a losing cause for New Jersey (26-31-4).

The Devils will have practice on Saturday before facing the Florida Panthers in a must-win game on Sunday afternoon. It will be the final game of their four-game road trip.

At best, they can be nine points out with 20 games remaining.

While it may make many fans upset considering the run the Devils have been on, general manager Lou Lamoriello is going to have to decide quickly whether or not he's going to be a buyer or a seller at the deadline.

Veteran pivot Jason Arnott is the likely candidate on the team to be shopped with many clubs looking for help at center.

Obviously, every game since the second-half has been a must-win for the Devils. But maybe none more so than Sunday.

Mike Mazzeo

ESPN New York Writer

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