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Pittsburgh vs. New Jersey Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (13-6-3-29) vs. New Jersey Devils (12-7-2-26)

Where: Mellon Arena
When: Saturday, November 29, 7:38 p.m.
Radio: WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV: FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428 and DirecTV 659.
*View FSN's HD Broadcast Schedule here
Season Series: Pittsburgh trails 0-0-1. Pittsburgh is 0-0-1 at home against the Devils this season with a 2-1 overtime loss on Oct. 11.



  Pens vs. Devils 10/11/08
Break the Trap: Pittsburgh has struggled mightily against trapping style teams like Minnesota and Vancouver. The Devils have utilized the trap for nearly two decades and are considered the masters of the strategy. The Penguins will have to make crisp breakout passes to break the trap. Pittsburgh has had little success at breaking the trap but it can't allow the Devils to frustrate them.

Transition: Pittsburgh’s transition game could be key in Saturday night's game. If the Penguins can't break the trap, their best best chance to create scoring opportunities will come in transition. Pittsburgh can use its own defensive-pressure system to create turnovers. Quick transition passes will create odd-man rush chances before New Jersey can get in its trap positions.
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. New Jersey is currently fourth in the Atlantic Division, but only three points behind second-place Pittsburgh.

New Jersey suffered a huge blow when the franchise, Martin Brodeur, was lost following elbow surgery at the start of November. The Devils were 6-2-2 before losing Brodeur. The team struggled off the bat without their future Hall of Fame goaltender, losing five of the first six games. Since then, however, New Jersey has been unstoppable. The Devils are riding a five-game winning streak into Mellon Arena. 
The Devils added two retread players, who were previously with the organization. Brian Rolston (1994-00) returns following stops in Colorado, Boston and Minnesota. Bobby Holik (1992-02) played for the Rangers and Thrashers in the previous five season. The Devils also re-signed defenseman Bryce Salvador, whom the team acquired late last season.
The Devils are known more for their defensive prowess than their offense but the team is averaging 2.90 goals a game, ranking 12th in the NHL as of Thursday night – a major improvement over last season’s 27th finish. Left winger Zach Parise leads the team in scoring with 25 points (13+12) through 21 games. Patrick Elias is right behind him with 20 points (8G-12A) in 21 contests. Brian Gionta has 18 points on seven goals and 11 assists on the season. The 5-foot-7 forward has a goal in his past five games.

General Manager Lou Lamoriello brought back to former Devils Bobby Holik and Brian Rolston to help bolster the scoring. Rolston registered 30 goals in each of the last three years in Minnesota but has been limited to only four games with a high ankle sprain. A broken right pinkie finger has kept Holik out of the lineup for all but five games.

Shutdown forward John Madden may not play with an ankle injury. The team's top three current line combinations are: Parise-Travis Zajac-Jamie Langenbrunner; Elias-Dainius Zubrus-Gionta; Jay Pandolfo-Mike Rupp-David Clarkson.
Colin White returns for his seventh season with New Jersey. He leads all Devils defensemen with a plus-9 rating. Veteran Bryce Salvador, a late season acquisition last year, returns after signing with the team in the offseason. Paul Martin and John Oduya provide some offensive punch from the blue line. Oduya leads the defensive corps with 11 points (G-10A) while Martin is second with seven points. Last year, Martin finished with 32 points (5+27) while Oduya recorded a team-high plus-27 rating. Andy Greene registered six points (G-5A) in six games so far this season, including a three-assist game. Mike Mottau returns to the lineup following a two-game suspension for elbowing the Islanders Frans Nielsen.
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 44-27-6 record with a 2.17 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. He will miss another two-to-three months with left elbow surgery. However, by the end of the season Brodeur may own every goaltending record in the books, including wins, games played and shutouts.

With Brodeur down, the Devils have turned to Kevin Weekes and Scott Clemmensen. Clemmensen has been carrying the load lately and has won four-straight games. He’s been a career backup, including four seasons behind Brodeur, and is getting his first opportunity to be THE man. Clemmensen has good size at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds and takes up a lot of space. Weekes has seen 13 seasons of NHL action and has experience as a starting goaltender at the highest level.
Parise netted the game-winning goal in overtime in the previous meeting with the Penguins. He's becoming a top-tier forward in the league and leads the team in goals (13), assists (12), points (25) and plus-minus rating (12) through 21 games this year. Parise is a small, shifty forward that finds open space and has great anticipation. He's notched seven points (G-7A) in the past five games. Parise also collected at least one point in seven of his past nine games. 
"I think for the last eight, nine games, we've been playing good hockey."
- Brian Gionta told the New Jersey Star Ledger
4-0-2: Pittsburgh’s record against Atlantic Division opponents this season.

Author: Sam Kasan

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