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The Montreal Canadiens haven't faced New Jersey yet this season, but they know all too well how difficult Martin Brodeur and the Devils can be to beat.
An emerging rookie scorer could make the task even tougher.
Niclas Bergfors seeks to continue his breakthrough hot streak Wednesday night, as his surging Devils aim to continue their mastery of the Canadiens.
New Jersey (22-8-1) dominated last season's series with Montreal (15-16-3), outscoring the Canadiens 14-5 while winning all four games. Left wing Zach Parise was especially stellar, totaling three goals and four assists and recording at least one point in each of the four meetings.
Brodeur missed the first three wins due to left elbow surgery that limited him to 31 games in 2008-09, but returned in time to resume his remarkable success against the Canadiens, making 22 saves in the Devils' 3-1 victory at Montreal on March 14.
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The future Hall of Fame goaltender has looked every bit the part in his career versus the Canadiens, going 35-15-5 with a 1.79 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. The 1.79 GAA is his best against any opponent, and the lowest of any goaltender with at least eight starts against Montreal since Brodeur's career began in 1991-92.
This time around, Brodeur may have some extra offensive punch in front of him. Bergfors, a 2005 first-round draft pick who maintains rookie status because he only appeared in nine games prior to this season, scored twice in Saturday's 4-1 home victory over Philadelphia to bring his season goal total to 11 - second among rookies to the New York Islanders' highly-touted John Tavares.
"He gets himself involved and he isn't shy about controlling the puck and making plays," Brodeur said of Bergfors. "I think sometimes as a young player, it's overwhelming to make plays and make mistakes. I think (coach) Jacques (Lemaire) is doing a good job with him, teaching him how to take chances at the right time. He's got a sneaky shot."
He may not sneak up on opponents much longer after scoring five goals in his last seven games, but Bergfors is now brimming with confidence.
"When the goals start to come, it's a great feeling," Bergfors said Saturday after helping the Devils to their eighth win in 10 games. "You get more comfortable out there. We're winning a lot of games, so right now it's a very good feeling. I'm trying to shoot at the right time and use space more. It's a little bit of luck, too."
Patrik Elias also scored twice for New Jersey against the Flyers, while Brian Rolston and Travis Zajac had two assists apiece. Brodeur stopped 22 shots.
In addition to trying to avoid a fifth straight loss to the Devils, Montreal is also seeking to avert its third losing streak this season of at least four games. The Canadiens have dropped their last three contests by one goal apiece, including a 4-3 home defeat to Buffalo on Monday.
Andrei Kostitsyn had two goals and an assist and Michael Cammalleri a goal with an assist to help Montreal rally from a pair of one-goal deficits in the third period, but the Sabres went ahead to stay on Clarke MacArthur's power-play score with 5:19 remaining.
"We had just scored the tying goal. We had some momentum going," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "I think it's unfortunate because I thought we played a strong game against one of the better teams in the league."
Montreal fell to 9-14-3 against teams with records of .500 or better, compared with a 6-2-0 mark against losing clubs.
Streak is on! contest
Bulldogs report – Dec. 16, 2009
Quiet on the set! Annnd ACTION!
My Playlist: Hal Gill