Reigning NHL MVP Sidney Crosby seems to have emerged from his early season funk. Three-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Martin Brodeur still is trying to find his way out.
For the first time in 2007-08, Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins (2-2-0) face off against Brodeur and the Devils (2-3-0) on Wednesday night as New Jersey's season-opening nine-game road trip continues at Mellon Arena.
Crosby had 120 points last season to become the youngest scoring champion in NHL history at the age of 19, but he struggled against the Devils. He tallied two goals and four assists during the season series as the Penguins went 3-4-1. Facing other Atlantic Division teams, Crosby averaged four goals and 10 assists in eight games each against Philadelphia, the New York Islanders and New York Rangers.
Crosby scored his first two goals of the season on Saturday in Pittsburgh's 6-4 road win over Toronto. He entered the contest with two assists and nine shots on goal in three games.
"It's not something I was too worried about. If I wasn't getting chances I'd be a little worried but I thought it was just a matter of time," said Crosby, whose second goal came on the power play with 5:22 to play and gave the Penguins a 5-4 lead.
Evgeni Malkin, last season's Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year, has gotten off to a quick start with at least one point in all four games. He leads Pittsburgh with four assists and five points.
Last season, Malkin had four goals and five assists against New Jersey, his second-most points against one club behind the 13 he had versus Toronto.
Brodeur is the NHL's all-time winningest goaltender with 495, but needed Patrik Elias' power-play goal with 27 seconds to play on Monday night to get his first win of the season as New Jersey escaped with a 6-5 victory over winless Atlanta.
"That was as close as it gets," said Brodeur, who made only 12 saves.
Brodeur does have a respectable 2.68 goals-against average in his three losses this season, but his .879 save percentage is among the league's worst.
In 2006-07, Brodeur was 5-3-0 with a 2.24 GAA against Pittsburgh, including two of his career-best 12 shutouts.
Elias' decisive goal was his second of the game and capped a three-point night for the center, who had only one assist in his first four games. He had a point in each of New Jersey's first seven games versus Pittsburgh last season, finishing with two goals and eight assists.
New Jersey's Zach Parise had two assists against the Thrashers for his second multipoint game, and the third-year center leads the Devils with five assists and six points. In 16 career games versus the Penguins, though, Parise has only three goals and four assists.
The Devils play at Philadelphia and against the Islanders and Rangers before taking the ice for their first game at the new Prudential Center on Oct. 27 versus Ottawa.
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik has been cleared to play versus New Jersey after sustaining a concussion in the win over Toronto. But fellow blueliner Darryl Sydor and forward Georges Laraque were held out of practice Monday with groin injuries. Sydor expects to play Wednesday, while Laraque is day to day.