Pittsburgh Penguins (40-22-5-85) vs. New Jersey Devils (39-23-3-81)
09-10 Season Series: Penguins trail 0-4 09-10 Away vs. New Jersey: Penguins trail 0-1 All-Time vs. New Jersey: Penguins trail 82-90-22 All-Time Away vs. New Jersey: Penguins trail 36-46-15 Overtime: Penguins trail 4-7-11 Shootout: Penguins trail 0-1
It appears that defending Atlantic Division champion New Jersey will battle the Penguins to the bitter end for this season’s title. New Jersey appeared to have a vice grip on the top spot in the days leading up to the Olympic break, but a 4-7-1 stretch by the Devils has allowed the Penguins (5-0-4) to jump out to a four-point lead. New Jersey has a favorable schedule down the stretch with 10 of their last 17 games occurring at Prudential Center. The Devils are led by head coach Jacques Lemaire, who is in his second tour of duty with the franchise.
Ilya Kovalchuk – New Jersey acquired the biggest fish at the annual trading deadline when they sent Penguins killer Niclas Bergfors and defenseman Johnny Oduya in a package to Atlanta in exchange for Kovalchuk. General manager Lou Lamoriello believes adding a sniper such as Kovalchuk will give the Devils just enough offense to make a deep run through the Eastern Conference. The 26-year-old Russian has one of the best shots in the game and can score from anywhere inside the offensive zone. He has 34 goals on the season, his seventh-straight 30-plus goal campaign. Since arriving in New Jersey he has three goals and eight points in 10 games. Kovalchuk has been playing left wing on a unit with Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner.
Martin Skoula – Skoula began the season with the Penguins, notching eight points (3G-5A) in 33 games. He was traded to Toronto on March 2 with Luca Caputi in exchange for Alexei Ponikarovsky. Skoula was then dealt to New Jersey the next day for a draft pick, reuniting him with head coach Jacques Lemaire. The two spent the previous three-plus seasons together in Minnesota. Skoula has a minus-2 rating in two games with the Devils.
David Clarkson – One of the biggest compliments you can pay Clarkson is he is a guy you hate to play against, but would love to have on your team. The 25-year-old winger was on pace for a career year offensively before a pair of injuries caused him to miss 36 of 38 games. When he has been healthy, Clarkson has been his usual aggressive self and has picked up seven goals and 17 points in 29 games. Last season he set career highs with 17 goals and 32 points.
Patrik Elias – New Jersey’s all-time leading scorer has adapted well to a late-career move to center. Elias ranks sixth on the team with 32 points (11G-21A) despite missing 23 games due to a groin injury and a concussion. In addition to being a potent goal scorer, Elias is also very responsible defensively, never finishing a full season with a negative plus/minus.
Jamie Langenbrunner – Langenbrunner, the Devils captain, is having a second straight career year despite being 34-years-old. He leads the team with 40 assists (ties a career high) and ranks fourth with 56 points. Langenbrunner also served as the team captain for Team USA at the 2010 Olympics. Several of his teammates came out after the Games and credited his outstanding leadership as one of the reasons the Americans took home a surprise silver medal. Langenbrunner picked up his 600th career NHL point against the Rangers on Wednesday night.
Brian Rolston – Rolston, who is in his second tour of duty with the Devils, is the perfect example of the type of forward New Jersey likes to build around. He is fast, responsible defensively and can add his share of offense. He is excelling under the guidance of head coach Jacques Lemaire with 18 goals and 32 points in 64 games. Rolston was a three-time 30-goal scorer when he played for Lemaire with the Minnesota Wild from 2005-08.
Travis Zajac – Zach Parise’s status as one of the top goal scorers in the NHL is due in large part to the chemistry he has formed with the 24-year-old Zajac. The two are perfect complements on a line with Zajac serving as the setup man. Zajac has picked up six points (1G-5A) in the four games against the Penguins this season, including a pair of multiple-point efforts in the first two contests.
Dainius Zubrus – Zubrus is one of those guys you feel has been around forever, and that’s probably because he has been, but he is just 31-years-old. Although his offensive numbers have gone down a bit over the past three seasons, Zubrus can be a factor in the offensive zone thanks to his 6-foot-5 frame. He was a bit of a Penguins killer at times earlier in his career and has 23 points (6G-17A) in 43 career games against Pittsburgh.
Patrik Elias Jamie Langenbrunner
Brian Rolston Travis Zajac
Andy Greene – Paul Martin’s slow recovery from a broken forearm has enabled Greene to develop into an all-around contributor. Greene leads the Devils in ice time at 24:20 per contest and also paces the team’s defensemen in goals (5), assists (23), points (28) and plus-minus rating (plus-9). He is a fabulous skater who has done a great job serving as the quarterback of the Devils’ power play.
Mike Mottau – If I had to pick a player whose game I thought Mottau’s mirrored I would probably say former Penguin Rob Scuderi. Mottau plays a fundamentally-sound defensive game that only gets him noticed by the most hardcore hockey fans. The 6-foot defenseman has spent three years with the Devils after spending the prior five bouncing around the American Hockey League. Mottau is the classic example of a late-bloomer.
Colin White – The long-time Devil has spent an entire decade patrolling the back line in New Jersey. White’s tough and rugged style is perfect for the defensive system the Devils like to play. He uses his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame to his advantage in front of the net and in the corners. White is not much of an offensive threat, but he is capable of moving the puck out of his own end.
Andy Greene Colin White
Martin Brodeur – At this point, is there any records left for Brodeur to break? Arguably the greatest goaltender of all time, Brodeur is having another excellent season for the Devils despite a struggling a bit for Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics. He leads all netminders with 62 games played and seven shutouts, while ranking second with 36 wins. However, the workload might be beginning to catch up to Brodeur a bit, as he has lost three of his past five decisions heading into Friday. Brodeur surpassed Terry Sawchuk for the all-time shutout mark with 103 when he stopped 35 Penguins’ shots at Mellon Arena on Dec. 21.
Yann Danis – On those rare occasions when the Devils elect to give Brodeur a night off, Danis has been excellent in reserve. In nine games he has posted a 3-1 record, 1.85 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. Danis spent last season with the New York Islanders, where he went 10-17-3 with two shutouts in 31 games.
Martin Brodeur Yann Danis
Zach Parise - Parise won the hearts of many Americans with his performance at the 2010 Olympics with Team USA. He led the team with eight points (4G-4A) in six games, including both goals in a 2-0 victory over Switzerland in the quarterfinals. However, his most shining moment came when he slid a loose puck past Roberto Luongo with 24.4 seconds remaining in regulation to send the Gold Medal Game into overtime. All those heroics hopefully made hockey fans aware of what a great player Parise has become. He leads the Devils with 67 points (31G-36A). With 31 goals he is now a four-time 30-goal scorer.
"It's got to be a combination of a lot of different things. Guys wanted to play well. It's not hard to get up for the Rangers, but there were times in the past when we didn't get up for them. It's been a rocky road lately, and we needed an emotional win.” - Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur talking to Yahoo! Sports following the Devils’ 6-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday.
“We can look at it as a great opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get points against a team that we’re battling with. At the same team, we can get a couple of wins back after they stole a few in our building. It’s a great opportunity for us to bounce back.”- Sidney Crosby on playing the Devils.
"I was watching him a lot. The way he conducted himself. Pretty impressive young kid, although he's not young anymore. … Just to see his game-day focus and how organized he is. His eyes are a little like Scotty (Stevens) was. He looks through people on game days. He’s not the best for no reason.” - Martin Brodeur speaking to the Newark-Star Ledger about Penguins center Sidney Crosby.
4-2-2 The Penguins have posted a solid 4-2-2 record in New Jersey over their past eight visits there
5 New Jersey is tied with the Penguins and Detroit Red Wings for most shorthanded goals scored at home this season