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Pittsburgh vs. New Jersey Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (15-8-4-34) at New Jersey Devils (14-8-2-30)

Where: Prudential Center
When: Wednesday, December 10, 7:08 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: The Penguins are 1-0-1 against the New Jersey Devils this season. Pittsburgh lost to New Jersey in overtime in its home opener Oct. 11. The Penguins evened the score with a 4-1 win Nov. 29 thanks to Sidney Crosby’s first hat trick of the season.



  Penguins vs. Devils 11/29
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 and not allow the Devils to frustrate them. Pittsburgh was successful in the previous matchup.

Power Play: Pittsburgh’s power play has struggled lately. The Penguins went 1 for 8 with the man-advantage against Buffalo Dec. 8, including 1 for 3 on five-on-three opportunities. With the Devils suffocating scheme, scoring opportunities will be limited and the Penguins need to capitalize on their power-play opportunities. 
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 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 have lost only once in their past eight game. That loss was to Pittsburgh.
The Devils added two retread players who were previously with the organization. Rolston (1994-00) returns following stops in Colorado, Boston and Minnesota. Holik (1992-02) played for the Rangers and Thrashers in the previous five season. Both haven’t seen much action this season, injuries limiting them to six games each.
The Devils are known more for their defensive prowess than their offense. The team is averaging 2.79 goals a game, ranking 15th in the NHL as of Tuesday night – a major improvement over last season’s 27th finish. Left winger Zach Parise leads the team in scoring with 28 points (15+13) through 24 games. Patrick Elias is right behind him with 24 points (10G-14A) in 24 contests. Brian Gionta has 20 points on seven goals and 13 assists on the season.

General Manager Lou Lamoriello brought back two former Devils, Holik and Rolston, to help bolster the team's scoring. Rolston registered 30 goals in each of the last three years in Minnesota but has been limited to only six games with a high ankle sprain. A broken right pinkie finger has kept Holik out of the lineup for all but six games.
Colin White returns for his seventh season with New Jersey. He leads all Devils defensemen with a plus-11 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 (1G-10A) while Martin is second with eight points. Last year, Martin finished with 32 points (5+27) while Oduya recorded a team-high plus-27 rating. Andy Greene registered six points (1G-5A) in six games so far this season, including a three-assist game.
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 will miss another two-three months following the left elbow surgery. However, by the end of the season Brodeur may still 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 six of his last seven games (loss at Pittsburgh). 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.
White is a monster on skates at 6-foot-4 and 220-pounds. He’s one of the strongest players in the National Hockey League and has matured into the Devils’ top blue liner. White uses his strength and physical power to intimidate players. He enjoys contact and is cut in the Scott Stevens mold. White is one of New Jersey’s leaders in the locker room and will likely be designated the duty of shutting down the Penguins prolific scorers.
“They’re a five-man unit out there anyway. They always pride themselves on team defense whether (John Madden) was there or wasn’t there. That’s just the way they play. I think it’s much tougher to play a unit of five than one guy shadowing you. That’s my opinion.”
- Sidney Crosby on the Devils’ decision not to shadow him with John Madden
5-0-1: The Penguins record in their last six games against New Jersey.

Author: Sam Kasan

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