After spending last season in a race to the finish for first place in the Atlantic Division, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils can relate to battling each other in the standings.
What they're not used to, however, is fighting to get out of the cellar.
The Atlantic's two slowest starters meet for the fourth time this season Wednesday night in Pittsburgh with identical records of 8-10-2..
New Jersey has struggled at both ends of the ice this season, but everything fell into place for the Devils on Saturday in a 6-2 win at Philadelphia. After being denied his 500th victory on three occasions, Martin Brodeur picked up the milestone win by making 26 saves to join Patrick Roy as the only goaltenders to reach that mark.
"I don't see myself as that big of a deal," said Brodeur, who needs 51 victories to match Roy's all-time mark of 551.
The Devils hope that Brodeur will return to his normal self with the distraction of getting his 500th victory gone. He is only 6-10-1 and without a shutout after recording 12 last season. Additionally, his .894 save percentage and 2.70 goals-against average are well off his career marks of .913 and 2.21, respectively.
New Jersey's offense, which was supposed to be more wide open under first-year coach Brent Sutter following years of a neutral-zone trap system, has struggled. The Devils are scoring 0.23 fewer goals this season than last, and are among the worst in the league at scoring on the power play, converting just 12.5 percent of their chances.
But in the win at Philadelphia, six different Devils scored a goal, a feat New Jersey hadn't accomplished since Feb. 7, 2006.
While the Devils had lost three of four before beating the Flyers, Pittsburgh has lost seven of nine entering this game. The Penguins stopped a four-game losing streak with a win over the New York Islanders on Thursday, but squandered a 2-0 lead against the New York Rangers in a 4-3 overtime loss Saturday.
"We had our chances. It's just taking advantage of our chances," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who had a goal and assist to extend his consecutive point streak to 19 games. "I hit a post and we had a couple of 2-on-1s (and didn't score)."
One of the Penguins' strengths had been the power play, where they had scored at least one goal in their first 14 games and have converted 21 percent overall. But they went 0-for-7 with the man advantage against Philadelphia on Nov. 7, and have gone 4-for-30 their last six games with the man advantage.
"We had a two-goal lead early and weren't able to build on it," Crosby said. "(Rangers goalie Henrik) Lundqvist held them in the game. We get that third goal, we bury them."
Marc-Andre Fleury (3.47 GAA) made 22 saves in the loss, and Dany Sabourin may get the start for this game. Sabourin had 20 saves in a 5-0 shutout Nov. 5 and has split two starts versus the Devils this season.
Brodeur is 1-1 against the Penguins this season, and 31-20-1 with four ties against them lifetime.