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Pittsburgh vs. New Jersey Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (24-21-4-52) at New Jersey Devils (31-15-3-65)
Where: Prudential Center
When: Friday, January 30, 7:00 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 2-1-1 against the New Jersey Devils this season, with a 1-1-0 mark at the Prudential Center. In their last meeting in New Jersey, Marc-Andre Fleury made 37 saves and shut out the Devils for a 1-0 Penguins' victory.



Pens vs. Devils 12/26
Break the Trap: Pittsburgh has struggled mightily against trapping-style teams like Minnesota, Vancouver and Tampa Bay. 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.

Protect the Crease: The Penguins did a nice job of clearing traffic in front of their net against the Rangers but have struggled at times this season with keeping the crease clear. New Jersey loves to crash the net and pick up ugly goals from close range. The Penguins need to improve on this facet of their game and it may be the difference in the game.
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 appeared to suffer a huge blow when the franchise, Martin Brodeur, was lost following bicep 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 went on a 16-4-1 run to jump in the Atlantic Division standing. The Devils are the hottest team in the NHL right now. New Jersey defeated the Boston Bruins, 4-3, in overtime Thursday night to win its seventh straight contest.
The Devils added three retread players who were previously with the organization: Brian Roston and Bobby Holik. 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 have been burdened with injuries, seeing 31 games of action each.

However, the recent buzz has surrounded the return of Brenden Shanahan. Shanahan started his career in New Jersey (1987-91). The recently turned 40-year old also played for St. Louis, Hartford, Detroit and the New York Rangers. The veteran forward has nearly 1,500 NHL games and over 1,300 points under his belt.
The Devils are known more for their defensive prowess than their offense but the team is averaging 3.04 goals a game, ranking eighth in the NHL - a major improvement over last season’s 27th-rank finish. To some observers, it appears New Jersey is playing a more aggressive style in the offensive zone than in years past. Whatever the club is doing, it's working.

Left winger Zach Parise leads the team in scoring with 57 points (29+28) through 49 games. He’s on pace to shatter his previous career highs in goals (32), assists (33) and points (65) - all set last season. Patrick Elias is behind Parise with 56 points (22G-34A) in 49 contests. Brian Gionta has 40 points on 11 goals and 29 assists on the season. Gifted center Travis Zajac is off to the best start of his career with 15 goals and 25 assists for 40 points. He’s really excelling between Jamie Langenbrunner (39 points) and Dainius Zubrus (28).

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 31 games with a high ankle sprain. A broken right pinkie finger has kept Holik out of the lineup for all but 31 games. Defensive forward John Madden isn’t shadowing opponent’s top scorers as he used to. He’s currently centering the third line with Rolston and David Clarkson. Mike Rupp, Holik and Shanahan make up possibly the best fourth line in the NHL.Shanahan has netted two goals in his first four games with New Jersey.
Colin White returns for his seventh season with New Jersey. 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 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. Veteran Bryce Salvador, a late season acquisition last year, returns after signing with the team in the offseason. He’s a punishing presence on the blue line.

Paul Martin and John Oduya provide some offensive punch on the New Jersey backend. Oduya leads the defensive corps with 20 points (4G-16A) while Martin is second with 15 points. Last year, Martin finished with 32 points (5+27) while Oduya recorded a team-high plus-27 rating.

Mike Mottau is a stay-at-home defenseman. Mottau leads the Devils defensive corps with a plus-19 rating and chipped in 10 points. Andy Greene registered six points (1G-5A) in his first six games this season, including a career high three-assist game, but has only one assist in his last 20 contests. Jay Leach has filled in admirably in three separate call ups from Lowell (AHL) and is proving that he’s an NHL-caliber defenseman.
With Brodeur down, the Devils have turned to Scott Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes. Clemmensen has stepped up in Brodeur’s absence. He’s earned the bulk of the starts by posting a 21-9-1 record with a 2.27 goals against average and .909 save percentage. 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. He started the season in the American Hockey League but has solidified his status as an NHL goaltender. 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 will miss another one-two 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.
New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner has been on fire lately. He's notched five points in his past two games. He tallied two goals Tuesday at Ottawa. Then he notched two-goals and an assist for a three-point game against the Boston Bruins Thursday, including the overtime winner. Langenbrunner has compiled five goals and seven assists for 12 points in the past nine games. He's totaled 12 goals and 27 assists for 39 points and a plus-16 rating this campaign.
"(Pittsburgh) gave New York a pretty good whipping. They seem to have righted their ship. Back-to-back games are always tough, but when you use four lines and six defensemen I don't think anyone is overspent.
- Jamie Langenbrunner told the New Jersey Star-Ledger
> Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike "Doc" Emrick will be honored prior to the game.

> Evgeni Malkin is one goal shy of his 100th career score.

Author: Sam Kasan

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