Don't count out the Devils yet 

March, 10, 2011

I'm looking forward to Thursday night's Western Conference showdown between the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks and the current No. 3 seed San Jose Sharks. After all, these two teams could face off in the conference final.

It sure looks like a good measuring-stick game for both clubs. The Canucks will be going into hostile territory (the Shark Tank can get pretty loud). It's always impressive to beat a good team on the road.

The Sharks, meanwhile, will be looking to continue their recent strong play. If San Jose can win, it'll be another feather in its cap. It would also be another chance for fans and those of us in the media to get an idea about the Sharks' hopes for a real spring fling.

For now, though, I'm ready to take my weekly dip into the mailbag. As always, thank you very much for your questions.

My New Jersey Devils have been so good in their last 25 games. But, after losing to the Ottawa Senators at the Rock, are their playoff hopes done? --Vinny Lee, Hoboken, N.J.

Well, that loss certainly didn't help matters. If they'd beaten the Senators, the Devils would have moved to within six points of the eighth spot in the East.

While I don't think the Devils can complete their amazing comeback, I'm not ready to rule them out of the playoff chase, either. Obviously, they need to get back to their winning ways on the road against the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night. And they'll have to follow that up with a victory over the pesky New York Islanders on Saturday in Newark.

With 16 games left on their schedule, they'll likely have to win 13 of them just to have a chance. That won't be easy. But whether or not they can earn a playoff spot, Jacques Lemaire and his troops have to be proud of the fantastic run they've been able to put together.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.