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Even though the New Jersey Devils are playing without their future Hall of Fame goaltender, there are few teams hotter than coach Brent Sutter's club.
One of them is the Boston Bruins.
The Eastern Conference-leading Bruins will try to win a sixth straight game for the first time this season on Tuesday, when they continue a five-game road trip in New Jersey.
The Devils' run of 11 straight postseason appearances seemed to be in jeopardy in early November, when four-time Vezina Trophy winner Martin Brodeur had elbow surgery that should keep him out at least through January.
But after a rocky start without Brodeur, New Jersey is 12-2-1 in its last 15 games, thanks in large part to Scott Clemmensen. The former Boston College netminder had won just eight NHL games entering this season, but he's 11-3-1 with a 2.30 goals-against average.
"Every time I take the ice, I feel like I have to prove that I can handle anything thrown my way," Clemmensen said. "I just have to be consistent. I think I'm showing that I belong."
He did that again on Sunday, stopping 27 shots and helping to slow a scorching Philadelphia offense in the Devils' 3-2 shootout win.
That was the third straight victory for New Jersey (19-9-3), which has allowed 80 goals this season - tied for the second-fewest in the East behind Boston.
The Devils have scored a combined 13 goals during the win streak, led by the red-hot Patrik Elias. His second-period goal against the Flyers came after a four-point night versus Ottawa, and he's riding a 10-game point streak during which he has eight goals and nine assists.
Boston's Phil Kessel has an even more impressive run going, with at least a point in 18 straight contests, compiling 14 goals and 14 assists.
Kessel's emergence has helped spark an explosive Bruins offense, which has scored 29 goals during the team's five-game winning streak. Since the beginning of November, Boston (24-5-4) has averaged 4.2 goals and converted 31.6 percent of its power plays, going 19-2-1.
Blake Wheeler scored twice, David Krejci had three assists and Kessel added a pair as the Bruins opened their five-game trek with a 6-3 win at St. Louis on Sunday. Krejci has totaled three points in three of his last four games.
"It's better when the team wins," Krejci said. "I was just happy to get the two points. I hope we can get two points in New Jersey (Tuesday) and get a nice Christmas break."
Boston will have three days off after Tuesday's game, but first the Bruins - off to their best start since the 1929-30 season - will try to win their sixth straight game. That was their longest win streak from 2007-08 and they have yet to do it this season, with two previous five-game streaks and a four-game run all being snapped.
Bruins coach Claude Julien wouldn't say which of his goalies would play Tuesday. Starter Tim Thomas was pulled after allowing five goals in two periods of an 8-5 win over Toronto on Thursday, and Manny Fernandez has picked up two wins since, moving to 11-2-1 this season.
Julien's Bruins went 1-1-2 against New Jersey last season, with a shootout loss and an overtime loss on the road.
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