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Pittsburgh vs. Devils Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (41-27-8-90) vs. New Jersey Devils (47-25-4-98)

Where: Mellon Arena
Wednesday, April 1, 7:30 p.m.
WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428, DirecTV 659 and Verizon Fios 576.
*View FSN's HD Broadcast Schedule here
Season Series: 
The Penguins are 2-1-2 against the New Jersey Devils this season, with a 1-0-1 mark at Mellon Arena. Pittsburgh lost to New Jersey in overtime, 2-1, in its home opener Oct. 11. The Penguins got even with a 4-1 win Nov. 29 thanks to Sidney Crosby’s first career hat trick in Pittsburgh.



  Pens vs. Devils 1/30

Power Play: The Penguins have worked on their power play in the past two practice sessions, including a spirited effort Tuesday afternoon. While the Devils are a strong defensive team, New Jersey's penalty killing ranks 20th in the league at an 80.3 percent rate. Pittsburgh's power play could be crucial in their final regular-season showdown with the Devils.

The Devils have lost five straight games (0-4-1). But they are still one of the best teams in the league and would love to "break out" against the Penguins. New Jersey is hungry and determined to prove they are still a force in the NHL. The Penguins need to remain focused on playing their system and attack New Jersey relentlessly.
Head coach Brent Sutter is in his second season leading the Devils. Sutter steered the club to a 46-29-7 record last year, finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference with 99 points and earning a playoff berth. The Devils appear on the verge of claiming the Atlantic Division title and a high postseason slot.

New Jersey suffered a huge blow this year when the franchise, Martin Brodeur, was lost following surgery at the start of November. The Devils were 6-2-2 before losing Brodeur. The team struggled off the bat without their Hall of Fame goaltender, losing five of the first six games. After that, however, New Jersey righted the ship with a 17-8-1 mark. The Devils followed that with eight straight victories and a 23-6-0 run, boosted by Brodeur’s return after missing 50 games, to catapult to the top of the Atlantic Division. However, New Jersey is in the midst of its worst slump of the season, losing its past five contests (0-4-1) and would love to end that streak against Pittsburgh.
The Devils added three retread players who were previously with Brian Rolston, Bobby Holik and Brendan Shanahan. Rolston (1994-00) returned following stops in Colorado, Boston and Minnesota. Holik (1992-02) played for the Rangers and Thrashers in the previous five seasons.

Shanahan, who started his career in New Jersey, returned to the Garden State in January. New Jersey made two other minor moves since the team last played Pittsburgh: trading Sheldon Brookbank to Anaheim for David McIntyre and sending Anssi Salmela to Atlanta for Niclas Havelid and Myles Stoesz.
The Devils are known more for their defensive prowess than their offense. The team is averaging 2.93 goals a game, ranking 12th in the NHL - a major improvement over last season’s 27th finish. The Devils’ top six scorers are the six forwards on the top two lines.

Left winger Zach Parise leads the team in points (89), goals (42) and assists (47), shattering his previous career highs: 32 goals, 33 assists and 65 points. He’s currently skating with gifted center Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner. Langenbrunner ranks third on the team in scoring with 64 points (25G-39A). Zajac is fourth on the team with 60 points and is second in the NHL with a plus-35 rating (Boston, David Krejci, +36). His 20 goals, 40 assists and 60 points are all new career highs.

The second line consists of Patrick Elias, Brian Gionta and Dainius Zubrus. Elias is behind Parise on the team with 78 points (31G-47A). The 5-foot-7 Gionta has compiled 57 points on the year with 18 goals and 39 assists. Zubrus has chipped in 38 points. John Madden (23 points), Brian Rolston (28) and Bobby Holik (8) are the Devils’ third line. Mike Rupp centers the fourth line between Shanahan and David Clarkson.
Colin White returns for his seventh season with New Jersey. He’s a physical player that enjoys contact. White is also responsible in his own zone, as evidenced by his plus-22 rating. Veteran Bryce Salvador, a late-season acquisition last year, has been a solid presence on the blue line.

Paul Martin and John Oduya provide some offensive punch from the blue line. Martin leads the defensive corps with 30 points (5G-25A) while Oduya is second at 28 points (7G-21A). Both players boast a plus-22 rating.

Mike Mottau is a stay-at-home defenseman that leads the unit with a plus-25 mark. Havelid looks rejuvenated since being acquired by New Jersey. He’s chipped in three assists in 12 games with the Devils.
The Devils have arguably the best goalie in NHL history in Martin Brodeur. Following his injury, New Jersey now has arguably the best backup in the game today in Scott Clemmensen. (More on Brodeur below)

While Brodeur was down, the Devils have turned to Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes. Clemmensen stepped up in Brodeur’s absence. He earned the bulk of the starts by posting a 25-13-1 record with a 2.39 goals against average and .917 save percentage. Unfortunately for Clemmensen, Brodeur’s return left him the odd-man out. Clemmensen was sent to the minors in February.

Weekes has seen 13 seasons of NHL action and has experience as a starting goaltender at the highest level.
Even at the age of 36, Brodeur is still the NHL’s premiere goaltender. Last season he won his fourth Vezina Trophy in five years after posting a 44-27-6 record with a 2.17 goals against average and .920 save percentage. He’s played in at least 67 games a season for the past 12 seasons. So it was odd to see the Devils without their leader for nearly four months after his bicep injury.

Despite the lengthy rehab, Brodeur returned to his normal form, winning nine of his first 10 games back in the lineup. He surpassed Patrick Roy (551) for the most wins by a goaltender in NHL history and his 101 shutouts trail only Terry Sawchuk by two (103). Before his career is over, Brodeur will own every major goaltending record.
“He’s a guy that competes. He doesn’t give up on pucks. A lot of guys these days are so technical and positional. He’s positional but he relies a lot on his reflexes and reading the play. That’s probably the biggest thing in my mind that stands out. He reads the play, he reads passes. He really studies the game so he knows where the pucks going a lot of the time and is able to make saves because of that.”
- Sidney Crosby on Martin Brodeur
Devils' Slumping Offense?

David Clarkson hasn’t scored in 12 games, earning just one point over that span. John Madden has no points in nine games, no assists in 19. Dainius Zubrus has no goals in nine games, one in 14. Brendan Shanahan has one goal in 14. Brian Rolston hasn’t scored in eight games, Travis Zajac in seven and John Madden in nine (one goal in 24). Bobby Holik hasn’t scored in 22 games and has one point over that stretch. Michael Rupp hasn’t scored in 42 games.

Source: Yahoo! Sports

Author: Sam Kasan

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