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Devils-Penguins Preview @NHLdotcom
Devils-Penguins Preview

GAME: New Jersey Devils (16-16-5) at Pittsburgh Penguins (8-19-8).

TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in almost every game they play. Winning those close games, however, is a problem they have yet to solve.

The Penguins, losers of six straight, try to give coach Michel Therrien his first victory when they host the New Jersey Devils.

Since Therrien replaced Ed Olczyk as coach on Dec. 14, the Penguins have played four one-goal games and lost each - two in overtime.

Pittsburgh is 4-13 in one-goal games this season.

"It has been four games in a row we could have won," Therrien said. "We are facing a lot of adversity and are having a hard time finding the formula right now to win close games. It is not that we are not in the game; every single game we are there. We have to keep focus because it is tough - really tough."

Pittsburgh rallied to force overtime against visiting Toronto on Tuesday, but Tomas Kaberle scores 2:26 into the extra period to lift the Maple Leafs to a 3-2 victory.

Sergi Gonchar had a pair of assists for the Penguins, who were limited to one goal third-period goal despite five power plays in the final 20 minutes.

Pittsburgh has just one win in its last 13 games, a 4-3 victory Dec. 10 over the Colorado Avalanche. Rookie sensation Sidney Crosby continues to contribute despite his team's struggles, totaling five goals and five assists in that span.

Penguins captain Mario Lemieux remains out of the lineup because of an irregular heartbeat. Lemieux could resume skating next week and could be playing again in about two weeks, barring a setback.

"He's been good," assistant general manager Eddie Johnston said. "It doesn't look like the (off-ice) workouts have been bothering him, so that's a great sign."

New Jersey ended a three-game losing streak Wednesday with a 7-2 rout of the visiting Washington Capitals.

Brian Gionta and Brian Rafalski each scored twice and Scott Gomez, another U.S. Olympian, added three assists as New Jersey recorded best offensive output 8-2 victory Nov. 25 over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"It's nice to see some results come from working hard," said Devils interim coach Lou Lamoriello, now 2-3 since taking over behind the bench after Larry Robinson's resignation earlier this month. "We got some bounces and the puck went in."

Most encouraging for the Devils was their punchless power play finally showed some life. They were 3-for-10 Wednesday after going 4-for-100 in their previous 14 games.

"With what's gone on here the last couple of weeks, we've got to enjoy this," Gomez said. "You've got to feel good about yourself."

The Devils have won 14 of 19 games against Pittsburgh over the last four seasons.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 28): Devils - 37 points, 3rd place, 14 PB, Atlantic Division. Penguins - 24 points, 5th place, 27 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Gionta, 21 goals and 37 points; Gomez, 19 assists; Colin White, 43 PIM. Penguins - Crosby, 16 goals, 21 assists and 37 points; Brooks Orpik, 61 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 28): Devils - Power play: 14.8 percent (35 for 236), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83 percent (156 for 188), tied for 11th. Penguins - Power play: 15.6 percent (35 for 225), tied for 20th. Penalty killing: 79 percent (188 for 238), 29th.

GOALTENDERS: Devils - Martin Brodeur (14-13-3, 0 SO, 2.84 GAA); Scott Clemmensen (2-3-2, 3.54). Penguins - Marc-Andre Fleury (2-7-3, 3.20); Jocelyn Thibault (1-9-2, 4.41).

SEASON SERIES: Devils, 2-0-1.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 1; Penguins, 4-3, OT. At East Rutherford, N.J., Sergei Gonchar scored 61 seconds into overtime, lifting the Penguins to their second win of the season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devils - 6-10-2 on the road; Penguins - 4-9-5 at home.

Associated Press
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