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The Devils haven't qualified for the playoffs in four seasons
  1. NHL

NHL: Weekend preview

The New Jersey Devils have won four of their past five games and face an intriguing weekend on home ice.

On Saturday the Devils host the reigning Stanley Cup Champions Colorado Avalanche (4-2-1) before facing off against Metropolitan Division rivals Columbus Blue Jackets (3-5-0) on Sunday.

The Devils haven't qualified for the playoffs in four seasons and have only made appearance since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.

In that time, they have rebuilt through high draft picks including being able to select centre pair Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes first overall.

Hischier, 23, has since been named Captain and has seven points (three goals, four assists) in six games. Hughes, 21, has five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games.

Jesper Bratt (three goals, nine assists), who was a surprisingly low-down pick, sixth round and 162nd overall in 2016, joint leads the league for points and two-time Stanley Cup Champion Ondrej Palat, 31, has fit in among the youngsters perfectly scoring three goals in six games.

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With their top end players performing well and the benefit of home ice, the weekend gives the Devils chance to weigh themselves up against the very best in Colorado and continue their upward trend toward ending their playoff drought (+150 to do so) against the struggling Blue Jackets.

Extending ironman streak

Forward Phil Kessel is expected to extend his record ironman streak to 991 and 992 games over the weekend as the Vegas Golden Knights look to continue their hot start to the season with games against Anaheim Ducks (Friday) and Winnipeg Jets (Monday) on home ice.

The 35-year-old Kessel broke Keith Yandle's ironman record when the Golden Knights defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-2 on Tuesday. To celebrate the incredible feat. Kessel scored his 400th NHL goal in the historic game.

The two-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins (2016 and 2017), signed a one-year deal with the Golden Knights in the off-season and has scored three points (one goal, two assists) in eight games, helping Vegas get off to a 6-2-0 start.

A season after missing the playoffs for the first time in their five-year history, Vegas sit top of the Pacific Division and with improved health and confidence are -450 to get back into the post-season and +1400 to go on and win the Stanley Cup.

Blackhawks too proud to tank

To the surprise of everybody, including their General Manager Kyle Davidson, the Chicago Blackhawks have won four of their last five games and sit third in the Central Division (4-3-0).

The Blackhawks, +1500 to reach the playoffs, came into the season with zero expectation after declaring a full-on rebuild in the off-season.

Davidson stripped down the Blackhawks roster over the summer, trading away top scorer Alex DeBrincat amongst others to acquire draft picks and set themselves up for a chance to gain the number one pick in the 2023 draft by making themselves uncompetitive this season.

Their start under new coach Luke Richardson hasn't been what was expected, though, with the Blackhawks players so far defying the odds to reach the playoffs.

The weekend sees the Blackhawks travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres (4-3-0) before returning home to play the Minnesota Wild (3-3-1).

Both opponents have genuine playoff hopes, the Sabres +290 to qualify and Wild -340, and the meetings will be a good opportunity to access whether what's left of the Blackhawks players are actually too good, and proud to tank the season.

Goalies hope to stay hot

Dallas Stars' Jake Oettinger and Philadelphia Flyers' Carter Hart have been in sensational form at the start of the NHL season and the pair will hope to stay hot as the Stars host the New York Rangers on Saturday and the Flyers meet division rivals Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

The 23-year-old Oettinger leads the NHL (5+ games) with an incredible .960 save-percentage and 1.17 goals-against-average in six starts, closely followed by Hart, 24, who is .947 and 2.00 in five games. The pair have helped their team to the top of their division with Dallas (5-2-1) leading the Central and Philadelphia (5-2-0) the Metropolitan Division.

The Stars are -350 to reach the playoffs under new coach Peter DeBoer and the Flyers +450 under their new boss John Tortorella.

Oettinger will most likely come up against the current Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin, 26, who is looking to get his .916 save-percentage back towards the .935 that he posted last season and help the Rangers (sixth, 3-3-2) move up the Metro Division.

Hart is set to face Frederik Andersen, 33, who has a .913 save-percentage and helped Carolina to a 4-1-1 record and nine points, one behind the Flyers in the Metro Division.

Each goalie battle will be key as the in-form youngsters aim to outdo their more experienced seniors.

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