Whether or not the New Jersey Devils' recent struggles are a direct result of veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur's absence, coach Peter DeBoer is becoming concerned.
Resolving the issues against the Winnipeg Jets may help get his team back on the right track.
New Jersey looks to prevent an eighth defeat in its last nine games Sunday night by avoiding a third loss in the last two weeks to visiting Winnipeg.
The 40-year-old Brodeur, who backstopped the Devils to an appearance in last season's Stanley Cup finals, hasn't played since Feb. 21 while nursing a sore back.
New Jersey (11-9-5) went 0-6-1 in its first seven games without Brodeur before beating Buffalo 3-2 in a shootout Thursday, but it faltered again Saturday in a 6-3 loss at Carolina.
DeBoer isn't sugarcoating his team's recent problems.
"We've got to get wins. I'm not going to kid you and tell you I'm not worried," he said.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice, including the team's league-leading seventh short-handed goal, but the Devils went an 11th straight game without scoring more than three goals.
"It concerns me that we're not scoring," said DeBoer, whose team started 8-1-3. "You look at the shots and the chances and there's not a huge discrepancy from three weeks ago when we were winning games. It's finding that fine line that we seemed to have lost."
With Brodeur out - and there's no update on when he'll be able to return - Johan Hedberg has gone 1-6-1 while allowing at least three goals six times. He's been pulled twice, including Saturday after giving up five goals on 18 shots.
Rookie Jeff Frazee made three saves in his first NHL appearance over the final 20 minutes, and there's a chance he gets his first career start Sunday as the Devils conclude a back-to-back.
"You've got to forget it and move on," Hedberg said.
No mater who is in net, New Jersey needs an improved performance from its previous two meetings with Winnipeg. Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd scored in the Jets' 4-2 road win Feb. 24, then Ladd had two goals and an assist in a 3-1 victory at home Feb. 28.
Winnipeg (12-11-1) has won seven of 10 as Dustin Byfuglien scored in overtime for a 3-2 victory over Florida on Friday. Ladd scored his team-high 13th goal and added his 11th assist for the Jets, who conclude a four-game road trip Sunday.
"It doesn't matter how you win, you can always build off it," Byfuglien said. "You can look at the things you did wrong and build off that, too. What's most important is that we got our two points."
The Jets' last seven opponents are 0 for 21 on the power play, with New Jersey going 0 for 5 over the two meetings. Coach Claude Noel credits his goaltenders for that success.
"The penalty killing has been our bread and butter," Noel said. "You look at (Thursday's 2-1 win over Tampa Bay) with (Al) Montoya and you look (Friday) with (Ondrej) Pavelec, what can you say? If you get that kind of goaltending, it affords you to make some mistakes. Our penalty killing has come up big, but our goaltender has been huge as well."
Pavelec, who is 3-1-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average in his last four starts versus the Devils, likely will be in net Sunday.
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