When the Penguins travel to Newark, N.J. on Monday afternoon for a 4 p.m. matinee tilt with the division rival New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, it will be a homecoming game for defenseman Paul Martin
Monday’s contest marks Martin’s first visit back to New Jersey since leaving the Garden State over the summer to sign a five-year contract with the Penguins. Martin is looking forward to returning to the place where he called home his first six National Hockey League seasons.
“It will be good to just get in there and just play a game,” Martin said. “There will definitely be some emotion and weird feelings after being there for so long. I really had a good experience there. They gave me my first real opportunity.”
Martin made the most of that opportunity, emerging from the shadows of Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski to develop into one of the top two-way blueliners in the game. In 400 career games with the Devils, Martin produced 164 points (26G-138A) and a plus-55 rating.
“They really helped mold me into the player that I am now, but I am excited to be here in Pittsburgh now,” Martin said. “I am looking forward to getting our first win. This is just a part of the business.”
Penguins-Devils games are always high-energy affairs thanks to the two teams’ longstanding intra-divisional rivalry, but Monday’s game should have a little extra spice added to it with both squads looking to pick up their first win of the season.
Martin, who leads the Penguins with two assists through two games, expects that fact to bring out the best in both teams.
“It should make for a good game,” Martin said. “Last year, the Devils did well against the Penguins. We are trying to turn that around this season into our favor. Neither team having a win under their belts to this point is definitely going to make both teams play the game with a little more desperation. It should make for a good one.”
Pittsburgh will be looking to end a six-game losing streak to the Devils after New Jersey swept the season series for the first time last season. RELATED ARTICLE: Pens Switch Line Combos
“It’s just one of those things I think,” said Martin of New Jersey’s success against the Penguins. “Last year when I was with the Devils, Philadelphia had our number. It’s just one of those things where, after a couple of games, it does get into your head and you get away from what makes you successful.”
Speaking of successful, Martin feels as if the Penguins have done very well at times through the first two games executing the way head coach Dan Bylsma wants them to, but he feels as if it has been the little details that have prevented the Penguins from getting the desired results.
“Through our first two games, we have done a really good job, we have just come up short,” Martin said. “There are a couple of things that we have to sharpen up on, but we have to play a simpler game and capitalize on some of those chances.”
New Jersey has also struggled a bit coming out of the gate, allowing a combined 11 goals while dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to Dallas and a 7-2 setback at Washington.
Against the Capitals, Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur was pulled after 40 minutes in favor of former Penguin Johan Hedberg after surrendering five goals on 20 shots. For the season, Brodeur is 0-1-1 with a 5.29 goals-against average and an .813 save percentage.
Martin expects a sharper Brodeur on Monday afternoon.
“He is a competitor,” Martin said. “That happens to him every once in a while because he plays a lot of games for them. They were playing a good team (in Washington). He usually bounces back pretty well. I’m sure he’ll be on his game and hopefully we’ll be on ours.”