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John Kreiser | columnist
Jan 12, 2007, 12:00 PM EST

Every NHL coach wants his players to stay out of the penalty box. No team follows directions as well as the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils are on the way to their fifth-straight season of leading the NHL in fewest power plays allowed. They enter the weekend having allowed their opponents a league-low 153 power-play chances, 23 fewer than runner-up Tampa Bay, which has played 45 games. The Devils have had a league-high 12 games in which they've allowed their opponents two power plays or fewer.

At their current pace, the Devils would finish with 292 power plays against, which would make them the first team to have less than 300 since play resumed after the lockout. The Devils allowed a league-low 348 power plays last season, 42 less than runner-up Tampa Bay. They were also tops with 266 in 2003-04, 264 in 2002-03 and 265 in 2001-02. The last team to allow fewer power plays than the Devils was Philadelphia, which surrendered 314 in 2000-01, six fewer than New Jersey.

But there's one big difference between this season's team and last: This club not only stays out of the box, it can kill penalties on the rare occasion when the opposition gets a power play. The Devils entered the weekend tied with Montreal for second in penalty-killing (87.6 percent). But because the Devils have allowed so few power plays, their penalty-killing prowess means they've allowed a league-low 19 power-play goals, nine fewer than any other team — and have allowed more than one power-play goal in a game just twice, the fewest times in the NHL. Last season, they allowed 63 power-play goals because they killed only 81.9 percent of the opposition's power plays.

But lest their opponents think the Devils are getting a break from the officials, New Jersey is also among the teams with the fewest power plays every season. The Devils enter the weekend having had 209 power plays, 24th in the NHL. That's actually an improvement: They were 27th in power-play opportunities in each of the last two seasons and last in each of the two seasons before that.

Florida Follies -- Florida is a lovely place to visit — unless you're a Pittsburgh Penguin. The NHL's two Sunshine State teams, the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, have continued their domination of the Pens' this season. Tampa Bay has won 11-straight games against Pittsburgh, including home-and-home 3-2 victories this week. Five of those victories have come at the St. Pete Times Forum, where the Lightning has outscored Pittsburgh 22-4. Pittsburgh hasn't beaten Tampa Bay since a 3-2 road victory on Jan. 17, 2003. Florida has won 14 of its last 15 meetings with the Pens, including 3-2 and 5-2 victories this season. The only loss in that span was a 5-1 home defeat last April 7.

Hung Over -- The next time the Toronto Maple Leafs start rolling toward a blowout, maybe they should think about saving some goals for their next game. The Leafs' 4-3 home loss to Buffalo on Jan. 6 dropped Toronto to 0-4 in games following victories with at least a four-goal margin. The loss to Buffalo came two nights after a 10-2 victory over Boston two nights earlier, while a 9-2 victory over the Rangers on Dec. 16 was followed by a 7-3 loss to Florida three nights later. The Leafs are the only team this century to score 10 goals and nine goals in separate games in the same season — no one has done it since Toronto in 1998-99.

Oh, Canada -- Few players enjoy the kind of success that Dallas goaltender Marty Turco does against Canadian teams. Turco came on in relief against Edmonton on Jan. 4, and got credit for the Stars' 6-5 shootout victory. He's now 11-4 against Edmonton since 2002-03, when he became Dallas' starting goalie — and is 33-10-2 in 45 decisions against Canadian-based clubs during that time.

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