Pittsburgh Penguins (41-23-5-87) vs. New Jersey Devils (41-24-3-85)
09-10 Season Series: Penguins trail 0-5 09-10 Away vs. New Jersey: Penguins trail 0-2 All-Time vs. New Jersey: Penguins trail 82-91-22 All-Time Away vs. New Jersey: Penguins trail 36-47-15 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 allowed the Penguins to leapfrog them. New Jersey has a 4-3 record since returning from the break. 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 36 goals on the season, his seventh-straight 30-plus goal campaign. Since arriving in New Jersey he has five goals and 12 points in 12 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 one assist and an even rating in five games with the Devils. He and his wife, Pavlina, also welcomed a baby son last Saturday.
Patrik Elias – New Jersey’s all-time leading scorer has adapted well to a late-career move to center. Elias ranks fifth on the team with 34 points (12G-22A) 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 March 10.
Zach Parise – Parise burst into superstar status with his performance for Team USA at the 2010 Olympic Games. He led the Americans with four goals in six games, including the game-tying goal against the Canadians in the Gold Medal Game. Parise picked up his 32nd goal of the season against Boston on Monday, the third straight season he has reached that mark. One of the game’s best all-around talents, Parise leads the Devils with a plus-21 rating.
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 67 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 seven points (1G-6A) in the five 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 24 points (6G-18A) in 44 career games against Pittsburgh, including an assist on Ilya Kovalchuk’s goal last Friday.
Patrik Elias Jamie Langenbrunner
Zach Parise Travis Zajac
Andy Greene – Paul Martin’s slow recovery from a broken forearm has enabled Greene, who scored the game-winning goal against the Penguins last Friday, to develop into an all-around contributor. Greene leads the Devils in ice time at 24:14 per contest and also paces the team’s defensemen in goals (6), assists (24), points (30) and plus-minus rating (plus-10). 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. One of three Devils to play in all 68 games this season, White paces the team with 125 hits. 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 struggling a bit for Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics. He leads all netminders with 64 games played and seven shutouts, while ranking second with 38 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. One of the best puckhandlers in the game, Brodeur made a gorgeous 75-foot pass onto the blade of David Clarkson to set him up for a goal on Monday.
Yann Danis – On those rare occasions when the Devils elect to give Brodeur a night off, Danis has been excellent in reserve. In 10 games he has posted a 3-2 record, 2.20 goals-against average and .920 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
David Clarkson - The 25-year-old winger appears to be over a rash of injuries which caused him to miss 36 of 38 games prior to the Olympic break. His goal and an assist performance against Boston on Monday was his first tally since Nov. 16 at Philadelphia. Before the injuries he was on pace for a career year offensively as his hands have really began to match his abrasive nature the past two seasons. When he has been healthy, Clarkson picked up eight goals and 19 points in 32 games. Last season he set career highs with 17 goals and 32 points.
"I'm definitely anxious and excited to get back in the lineup, but right now I have to take it day by day and hopefully I'll be in there soon." - Devils defenseman Paul Martin speaking to the Devils official team website on his expected return to the lineup on Saturday after missing 60 games and counting with a fractured left forearm suffered against the Penguins on Oct. 24.
"You need to score goals to be successful. This game’s quick, there’s a lot of bounces everywhere and if you’re not sharp offensively, it’s going to get tough. You need to get the goals when you can, and right now at home, we’re doing well. We have to keep it up." - Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur speaking to the Devils official team website about the team’s recent offensive prowess at Prudential Center.
"I think it’s a fantastic thing to bring it back, but I’m not a believer in having a third jersey. A one-time thing is great. … I think some organizations have made a mistake with third jerseys and the (financial) return is not as great as people think. If it was done once a year I wouldn’t be against it, but not as a third jersey." - Devils president Lou Lamiorello talking to the Newark-Star Ledger on the green “throwback” jerseys the Devils will wear against the Penguins on Wednesday.
34 Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur picked up his 34th career assist when he set up David Clarkson’s tally against the Bruins on Monday night
17-8 New Jersey has outscored their opponents 17-8 during their current four-game home winning streak at Prudential Center