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Devils, Penguins face off in New Year's Eve matinee

by Brian Hunter

PENGUINS (29-11-1) at DEVILS (16-16-8)


Last 10: Pittsburgh 9-1-0; New Jersey 5-3-2

Season series: This is the fourth and final game of the regular season between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils. The Penguins won the two games at Consol Energy Center, including the most recent matchup, 3-2 on Dec. 13. The Devils won the only previous game at Prudential Center, with Jaromir Jagr scoring twice against his former team.

Big story: Pittsburgh's latest surge has put it right in the center of the Presidents' Trophy discussion along with Western Conference powerhouses the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks. New Jersey's aspirations are a little more modest. A win Tuesday would put the Devils over .500 at the halfway point and help their positioning in the middle of the Metropolitan Division pack.

Team Scope:

Penguins: Injuries have done nothing to slow down the Pittsburgh machine, and the Penguins have even welcomed some key pieces back into the lineup of late. First it was defenseman Brooks Orpik and forward Tanner Glass on Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes, then defenseman Rob Scuderi played for the first time in over two months in a 5-3 road win Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I felt better as the game went on, certainly rusty," Scuderi said. "Condition-wise and skating is not a problem. It's reading the play, when to go to the right spot, where you're supposed to be. It takes time to come back."

The Penguins conclude a four-game road trip in New Jersey, where they've dropped three straight since a 5-2 victory on March 17, 2012.

Devils: Cory Schneider turned in one of his best starts of the season with a 30-save performance in a 2-1 road win Saturday against the New York Islanders. Schneider has been in net for both of New Jersey's losses to Pittsburgh, while Martin Brodeur earned the win against the Penguins on Nov. 16. Brodeur will start Tuesday.

Through 40 games, coach Peter DeBoer has split the action nearly evenly among the pair, with Brodeur getting 22 starts to 18 for Schneider. Brodeur is 11-8-3 to 5-8-5 for Schenider; however, Schneider sports a better goals-against average (2.13 to 2.31) and save percentage (.914 to .906).

"I have a lot of pride. I want to win games. You play the game to win," Schneider said in the Newark Star-Ledger. "You can say all the right things, but you have to produce and provide good enough goaltending to win games."

Who's hot: James Neal had a hat trick Sunday and a five-point night. He has four goals and four assists in the Penguins' past two games. Sidney Crosby has five multi-point efforts in his past eight games (six goals, eight assists). … Adam Henrique has goals in consecutive games for the Devils.

Injury report: Pittsburgh is without goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), defensemen Kris Letang (elbow) and Paul Martin (leg) and forwards Beau Bennett (wrist), Andrew Ebbett (ankle), Jayson Megna (lower body), Pascal Dupuis (knee) and Evgeni Malkin (lower body). … New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov (soreness) was back at practice Monday after missing the game Saturday. Forward Steve Bernier (upper body) left practice after crashing into the boards and is a game-time decision. Defensemen Adam Larsson (lower body) and Peter Harrold (foot) and forwards Ryan Carter (lower body) and Damien Brunner (knee) are on injured reserve.

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