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Pittsburgh vs. New Jersey Preview

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (12-6-0-24) vs. New Jersey Devils (12-4-0-24)

Where: Mellon Arena
When:
Thursday, Nov. 12 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: The Penguins and Devils meet for the second time at Mellon Arena this season, as the first three games of the season series will take place in Pittsburgh before concluding with three contests at the Prudential Center. New Jersey won the first matchup, 4-1, on Oct. 24 behind a goal and an assist from Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Nicklas Bergfors. Alex Goligoski tallied the lone Pittsburgh score in the third period.

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

Defense
Orpik-Engelland
Skoula-Eaton
Goligoski-McKee

Netminder
Fleury


Last Meeting: 10/24/09
NJD (4) - PIT (1)
Game Highlights
AP Recap 
 
KEY TO VICTORY
Feed Off the Home Crowd: Looking to get back on track offensively and fighting through a rash of injuries, the Penguins will be greeted with a warm reception from the home faithful. That could be the spur of adrenaline the team needs to find their legs following a long road trip.

First Goal: To say that scoring the opening goal has been paramount to the Penguins winning would be an understatement. Pittsburgh scored the first goal in eight of their first 12 contests, posting a record of 10-2. They haven’t notched the opening tally in six games since, going 2-4. Besides the lead it would provide, such a start would help keep the crowd into the game. 
 
LOWDOWN ON THE DEVILS
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. 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.

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. Although currently injured, Niedermayer began the season hot for New Jersey, recording seven points (2G-5A) through 13 games.

A couple intriguing rookies cracked the Devils’ lineup at the outset of the season in Niclas 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 used a two-point (1G-1A) effort against Pittsburgh on Oct. 24 to become a top offensive threat along the wing with nine points (4G-5A) in 15 games.

Halischuk, 21, has gone scoreless while dressing for 10 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
The development of home-grown talents Zach Parise and Travis Zajac (See Player Spotlight below) has given New Jersey two dynamic young talents to spearhead the offensive attack. Sneaking under the national radar breaking into the league the same year as Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin in 2005-06, 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.

Langenbrunner, the Devils’ captain, has always been regarded as a responsible defensive player, but he adjusted well playing with the two young talents last season, joining them in establishing career highs across the board (29-40-60). Langenbrunner’s nine assists rank second behind Parise while his 11 points are fourth-best. Franchise scoring leader Patrik Elias recently returned to the lineup after missing the beginning of the season following groin surgery.

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 four goals and seven points through 15 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 ranks third on the team with 12 points (4G-8A) 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 last season. 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 rating.

Oduya, re-signed to a lucrative contract in the offseason, has yet to record a point this season and is minus-5, 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 has taken charge along the back end due to injuries to Oduya and Martin, pacing all Devils defenders with six points (2G-4A) in 12 games. Greene has seen his average ice time increase from 18:25 in the first meeting with the Penguins two weeks ago to 21:35.

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. Through 13 starts in ’09-10, Brodeur has a mark of 9-4 with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.

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 is 2-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .964 save percentage in two appearances.
 
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: TRAVIS ZAJAC
Travis Zajac is off to a fast start in ’09-10, ranking second on the team in both goals (6) and points (13) through the first 15 games. The former first-round pick (20th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft) broke into the league in 2006, posting 42 points (17G-25A) as a 21-year-old rookie. Last season, Zajac set career highs in goals (20), assists (42) and points (62) while playing alongside Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner. Zajac has great size at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, and a strong presence around the net. The Winnipeg native is as dangerous shooting the puck as he is at setting up his teammates.
 
INJURY UPDATE
The Devils have been without the services of four regulars since last meeting the Penguins on Oct. 24, including two injuries suffered in that contest.
- Defenseman Paul Martin, New Jersey’s best overall defender, broke his left forearm against the Penguins and is out until at least mid-November.
- Forward Jay Pandolfo dislocated a shoulder in that same game and will be sidelined four-to-six weeks.
- Johnny Oduya, another minutes-eater on the blue line, has missed four-straight games heading into Wednesday night’s game against Anaheim with an undisclosed lower-body injury.
- Center Rob Niedermayer suffered an injury to his upper body against Washington Nov. 4, but could return against the Penguins.
 
"THEY SAID IT"
"This is our team. They believe they can come back. It's all tight games that we're getting, but they never let down and they always feel they have a chance to come back."

— Devils coach Jacques Lemaire following the 3-2 win Saturday at Ottawa.

 
POINT OF INTEREST
8-0: New Jersey’s road record in 2009-10, making them the league’s lone undefeated team away from home, trailing only the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres for most consecutive road victories at the outset of the season.
 

Author: Jason Seidling

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