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Pittsburgh vs. New Jersey Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (9-1-0-18) vs. New Jersey Devils (5-3-0-10)

Where: Mellon Arena
When:
Saturday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 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, DirecTV 659 and Verizon Fios 576.
*View FSN's Broadcast Schedule here()

Season Series:
Division rivals Pittsburgh and New Jersey meet at Mellon Arena for the first of six battles in 2009-10. The Penguins captured the season series from the Devils last year, 3-1-2, winning two of the three contests on home ice. Evgeni Malkin (5G-3A) and Sidney Crosby (2G-6A) tied for the scoring lead in the series with eight points each.

 
PENGUINS PROJECTED LINES RELATED CONTENT
Forwards
Kunitz-Crosby-Guerin
Dupuis-Malkin-Fedotenko
Cooke-Staal-Kennedy
Rupp-Adams-Godard

Defense
Orpik-Goligoski
Eaton-Letang
McKee-Skoula

Netminder
Fleury


Last Meeting: NJD 1, PIT 6
4/1/2009
Game Highlights
AP Recap 
 
KEY TO VICTORY
Don’t Fall into the Trap: It’s no secret Jacques Lemaire coached teams will play a neutral-zone trap, meant as a compliment considering the amount of success those teams have had. They will try to suck the speed and creativity out of their opposition. The Penguins have to stay patient with their system and continue to attack the Devils no matter how frustrating it becomes. The Penguins losing focus is key to the Devils’ strategy.

Rattle Brodeur:
Martin Brodeur has won 562 career hockey games, more than any netminder in league history. He is one, if not the greatest goaltender of his generation. However, the Penguins have had his number numerous times over the years. Versus Pittsburgh in his career Brodeur has lost 24 times, most against any one opponent, with a 2.75 goals-against average that is his second-highest against any one team. The Penguins lit Brodeur for six goals in their most recent meeting on April 1.   
 
LOWDOWN ON THE DEVILS
Long-regarded for their stifling neutral-zone trap, the Devils offense opened up the past two years under former head coach Brent Sutter. New Jersey had five players score 60 or more points as their 244 goals scored as a team in ’08-09 were the most by a Devils squad since the 2000-01 team scored 295. Over the past 20 years New Jersey has been one of the National Hockey League’s top franchises, capturing three Stanley Cups, making four Cup Final appearances and appearing in the postseason 17 of the last 18 seasons.

When Sutter elected to step down during the summer, New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello tapped into the club’s past to bring Jacques Lemaire back as head coach. Lemaire previously coached New Jersey from 1993-98, leading the Devils to a Stanley Cup championship in 1995, defeating the Penguins in round two along the way. In 15 seasons with the Devils, Minnesota Wild and Montreal Candaniens prior the start of this season, Lemaire posted a coaching record of 540-414-177.
 
NEW FACES
A familiar surname returned to the Devils over the summer as a Niedermayer was brought back into the fold, although this time it was Rob, not older brother Scott, who patrolled the Devils blue line from 1991-2004. Rob Niedermayer brings a wealth of veteran savvy and a 2007 Stanley Cup ring to the Meadowlands. He is one of the league’s top shutdown, checking-line performers whose game will fit in well with the brand of hockey employed by Lemaire. Niedermayer is off to a hot start with six points (2G-4A) through the first eight games.

A couple intriguing rookies cracked the Devils lineup at the outset of the season in Nicklas Bergfors and Matt Halischuk. A first-round selection in 2005, Bergfors spent a majority of the past two seasons with the Devils’ American Hockey League affiliate in Lowell, improving his numbers from 12 goals and 27 points in ’07-08 to 22 goals and 51 points last season. Bergfors, who has three points (1G-2A), has spent time recently with Halischuk and Travis Zajac on the Devils’ second line. He scored his first goal of the season in Thursday night’s win over the Rangers.

Halischuk, 21, has gone scoreless while dressing for five games in the early part of the season. He recorded 14 goals and 29 points in 47 games for Lowell last season. Halischuk registered an assist in his NHL debut last year.
 
FORWARDS
Unable to receive much in the form of goal scoring beyond his top line, Lemaire recently broke up the Z-Z-Pop line of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner. Zajac moved to center the second line between Matt Halischuk and Patrik Bergfors as Rob Niedermayer joined Parise and Langenbrunner. Zajac is off to a fast start in ’08-09, second on the team  in both goals (4) and points (8) through the first eight games. The young pivot blossomed next to Parise in ’08-09, hitting careers highs in goals (20), assists (42) and points (62). Langenbrunner, the Devils’ captain, will be appearing in his 900th NHL game against the Penguins. Always a responsible defensive player, he adjusted well playing with the two young talents last season, joining them in establishing career highs across the board (29-40-60).

New Jersey brought Brian Rolston back for a second tour of duty last season but the speedy winger suffered his lowest-scoring season since 1999-2000, finding the back of the net only 15 times while battling through injury. He is off to a better start this year with two goals and four points through eight games. Emerging big man David Clarkson continues to prove his game is more than just toughness, progressing from nine goals as a rookie to 17 last year. He is tied for third on the team with six points (2G-4A) in ’09-10.
 
DEFENSEMEN
Throughout their almost two-decade streak of defensive dominance, the Devils have featured a great core of defensemen. Although this group lacks the star-power names previous editions had in Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski, to name a few, there is plenty of quality in this group. Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya, each 28, blossomed under Sutter. One of the league’s top two-way defensemen, Martin is regularly overshadowed when measured up against the league’s elite. Capable of supplying offense to the attack, as he led all Devils defensemen with 33 points (5G-28A), Martin is especially dependable clearing his own zone, finishing last season plus-21.

Oduya, re-signed to a lucrative contract in the offseason, has yet to record a point this season and is minus-3, but last season established careers highs with seven goals and 29 points. He is a great skater and solid point-man on the power play. Slightly-undersized Andy Greene missed significant action with a broken wrist in ’08-09, but is also capable of contributing to the offensive attack. He is off to a good start this year, registering two assists in five games.

Colin White and Bryce Salvador are two heavy hitters who match up well against big, physical forwards. Each is solid on the penalty kill and capable of moving the puck up ice, although neither offers an offensive presence. Former Hobey Baker award winner Mike Motteau has transformed from career AHLer to legitimate NHL-caliber defenseman the past two seasons. He led all Devils blueliners with a plus-24 rating last year.
 
GOALTENDING
Brodeur is possibly the most complete goaltender to ever strap on the pads in NHL history. Since becoming New Jersey’s No. 1 man during the second half of his rookie season in 1993-94, Brodeur has re-written almost ever major statistical category, with Terry Sawchuk’s 103 shutouts next up on his to-do list (Brodeur has 102). The nine-time all-star played only 31 games in ’08-09 after suffering an elbow injury against Atlanta on Nov. 1, 2008. 

Prior to missing a majority of last season, Brodeur had played 70 or more games 10-straight seasons, never winning less than 38 games during that period. Among the best stickhandlers to ever play the position, Brodeur is one of nine netminders to be credited with a goal, as he and the retired Ron Hextall are the only ones to score twice.

With Scott Clemmensen, who filled in admirably during Brodeur’s absence, gone to the Florida Panthers, Yann Danis is the new backup. Danis spent ’08-09 with the New York Islanders, posting a 10-17-3 record with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He made two appearances against Pittsburgh last season, losing his only decision.
 
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: ZACH PARISE
Sneaking under the national radar breaking into the league the same year as Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin in 2005-06, Zach Parise broke out in a big way in ’08-09. He led the Devils and set career highs across the board in goals (45), assists (49) and points (94) while being named a second-team all-star. Parise’s goal total last season accounted for 18.9 percent of the total number scored by New Jersey, second-highest percentage behind Ovechkin’s 20.9 percent with Washington.

A 2009 all-star selection, Parise is the son of former NHLer J.P. Parise. Through his first four seasons the sharp-shooting Parise has played in 334 of a possible 336 games, improving his goal, assist and point totals each year. Currently playing on a line with Rob Niedermayer and Jamie Langenbrunner, Parise is on his way to challenging last season’s highs with five goals and five assists through New Jersey’s first eight contests.
 
INJURY UPDATE
New Jersey continues to play without franchise scoring leader Patrik Elias, who is on injured reserve after undergoing surgery to remove scar tissue from his groin area. Elias had 31 goals and 78 points in ’08-09. Defenseman Mark Fraser will make his ’08-09 debut against the Penguins after missing the first eight games due to a head injury suffered during a preseason battle with Daniel Carcillo of the Philadelphia Flyers. He will take the place of Mike Mottau, sidelined with a hip injury.
 
"THEY SAID IT"
"He's been playing really well. To have a top six defenseman out of your lineup is always an adjustment for everybody. It's happened before. We'll deal with it." 

- Martin Brodeur addressing the loss of injured defensemen Mike Mottau to the Newark-Star Ledger.

 
POINT OF INTEREST
8: Division titles won by New Jersey the past 12 seasons, second most to the nine won by the Detroit Red Wings. 
 

Author: Jason Seidling

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