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Red-hot Pens set to host Devils

by Brian Hunter /
DEVILS (8-16-2) at PENGUINS (18-8-2)


Last 10: New Jersey 4-6-0; Pittsburgh 9-0-1.

Season series: Second of six meetings between these Atlantic Division rivals. Brent Johnson made 30 saves and Paul Martin had an empty-net goal and an assist against his old team in a 3-1 Pittsburgh win in New Jersey on Oct. 11.

Big story: The Devils won all six games between these teams last season and shut out the Penguins twice at the old Mellon Arena, but 2010-11 has brought about much different fortunes. Pittsburgh has won nine in a row and is tied for first in the Atlantic with Philadelphia, while New Jersey is next-to-last in both the division and overall NHL standings.
Team Scope:

Devils: Following a week in which New Jersey won three of four and crept a little closer to the playoff picture, the Devils were smoked 5-1 by the Canadiens on Thursday and lost a tough 5-3 game to the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. Martin Brodeur is practicing with the team again and will travel to Pittsburgh, but it's expected that the earliest he will play will be on Friday in Ottawa.

"The elbow feels great. No issues. No twinges," Brodeur told the Newark Star-Ledger on Sunday. "I wanted to make sure I was 100 percent. Today was the first day with a stick."

Penguins: The outcome was never in doubt Saturday night in Columbus, as Pittsburgh rolled to a 4-0 lead after one period on the strength of three power-play goals, two by Martin (his first goals since that empty-netter in New Jersey). Sidney Crosby also scored twice, extending his points streak to 15 games, and the Penguins left Nationwide Arena with a 7-2 victory.

"The power play getting the goals like that in the first period put us in a good spot," coach Dan Bylsma said. "Our special teams were special in the first."

Who's hot: The Devils' woeful power play showed signs of life by connecting for a pair of goals against the Flyers. ... Crosby has 17 goals and 14 assists on his current points streak, which is the third-longest of his career. Kris Letang has 1 goal and 6 assists during a four-game points streak. Marc-Andre Fleury is 10-0-1 in his last 11 starts, allowing two goals or fewer nine times.

Injury report: Brodeur (elbow) isn't the only New Jersey player nearing a return -- defenseman Mark Fraser and forward Jacob Josefson are recovering nicely from hand injuries, while defenseman Anssi Salmela is skating again as he rehabs from knee surgery. Defensemen Matt Taormina (ankle) and Bryce Salvador (concussion) and forward Zach Parise (knee) are also out of the lineup.

Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin was a late scratch Saturday with a knee injury and is day-to-day. Forward Mike Comrie has missed the last several games with a lower-body injury. Forward Jordan Staal (hand) has yet to play this season.

Stat pack: The Devils were 1-for-43 on the power play on the road this season before Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias both scored on man advantages Saturday. ... Crosby, whose career-high 51 goals tied him with Steven Stamkos of the Lightning for the NHL lead last season, currently leads the League with 23 goals.

Puck drop: It's possible Brodeur could dress as Johan Hedberg's backup on Monday night, although New Jersey coach John MacLean seemed skeptical and the team is also bringing along current backup Mike McKenna on the trip.

"I don't want to say yes or no. There's a chance," MacLean told the Star-Ledger. "We're bringing them all because we have a full team to skate in the morning. McKenna's coming, too. Marty's going to skate with us in the morning. He skated with us today.

"It's good he's back out on the ice taking shots. That's a positive sign. And we'll go from there."
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