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What To Watch For: Pens vs. Devils

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins


PENGUINS (21-14-4) vs. DEVILS (22-16-2)

WHEN: Jan. 7, 2012 - 7:00 pm  |  WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center

WATCH: ROOT SPORTS  |  LISTEN: Penguins 24/7 Radio, 105.9 FM





The Penguins host the Devils on Saturday for an huge game between the two division rivals as the teams each have 46 points – with Pittsburgh ranking sixth in the Eastern Conference while New Jersey ranks seventh. It’s the second meeting in a week between the two teams for the two teams.

Patrik Elias played his 1,000th game Friday. (Getty Images)
The Devils entered their Friday game against Florida on a two-game winless stretch – one of those being a 6-1 trouncing to Boston on home ice on Wednesday. But New Jersey – who had won nine of 12 games prior to that stretch – responded well. They produced a 5-2 victory over the Panthers to draw even with Pittsburgh in the standings.

It was certainly a special night for center Patrik Elias, who played his 1,000th NHL game in a Devils sweater – becoming just the third player in franchise history after Ken Danyeko and Martin Brodeur to accomplish the feat. And the Devils’ all-time leader in goals, assists and points rose to the occasion, scoring a goal and two assists in the victory. The 35-year-old leads the Devils with 37 points (14G-23A).

Overall, the Devils’ best players were just that on Friday, as Ilya Kovalchuk also put forth a dominant effort after being held pointless in the two-game winless skid. He scored twice against the Panthers to up his season total to 14. Captain Zach Parise also joined the fun on Friday, scoring a goal and an assist to give him five points in his last five outings.

But while those three players are putting up offense for the Devils, balanced scoring has been their strength (for the most part) this season. For example, third-line forward David Clarkson leads New Jersey with 15 goals, two short of his career high, while December’s rookie of the month Adam Henrique – who centers Parise and Kovalchuk on the top line – has 30 points (11G-19A) in 37 games.

Since Johan Hedberg got the start on Friday, the Pens will likely see Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur back between the pipes. Brodeur is 3-1-1 in his last five starts and played excellent against Pittsburgh in the Devils’ 3-1 win over the Penguins on New Year’s Eve, so solving him will be a tough task on Saturday.







DEVILS – ILYA KOVALCHUK:
The Russian winger has been a handful for Pittsburgh this season, scoring four points (1G-3A) in the two meetings between the teams. And the Penguins will most certainly see a lot of him on Saturday, as he leads all NHL forwards with 24:42 minutes of ice time per game (and is the only forward among the NHL’s top 58 skaters in that category). Pittsburgh will need to be especially mindful of the talented sniper on the man-advantage, as he averages over five minutes per game on the power play.
 
PENGUINS – PASCAL DUPUIS:
After sustaining an injury in the Penguins’ 3-1 setback to the Devils on Dec. 31 that saw him miss the last two periods of play, Pascal Dupuis returned to the lineup on Friday – and made his presence known. The 32-year-old winger used his speed and tenacity to swarm the Rangers net and wasn’t shy about using his shot, firing six pucks to the net and getting five more attempts blocked. The Penguins could use a big game from Dupuis, who will move to center in the absence of Jordan Staal on Saturday, as they’re 10-1 this season when he scores a goal.




The Penguins had a lot of good news on the injury front entering their game against New York on Friday, as four players that were questionable to play were in the lineup.

Forwards Dupuis (lower body), Steve Sullivan (illness) and Richard Park (foot) and defensemen Paul Martin (lower body) and Zbynek Michalek (undisclosed) were all in the lineup for Pittsburgh in the game.

However, a scary moment occurred with under five minutes to play in the game. Center Jordan Staal was skating in the offensive zone when he had a knee-on-knee collision with New York’s Mike Rupp. The Penguins forward stayed on the ice in obvious pain. He was eventually able to get to his feet and was helped by teammates to the bench and down the runway.

Head coach Dan Bylsma had no update following Saturday's morning skate on Staal’s condition, except that he will not play against the Devils.

“You saw (Staal) leave the game with an apparent knee injury,” Bylsma said. “At this point in time it’s too early to tell the significance of the injury. Maybe in the next few days we’ll have an update on what the timetable will be for that.”

In addition, forward Arron Asham has not practiced with the team since sustainining an upper-body injury Dec. 31 vs. New Jersey and is listed as day-to-day.

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Forwards Travis Zajac and Anton Volchenkov did not make the trip to Pittsburgh with the team. After missing all of training camp, the preseason and the Devils' first 30 regular-season games after Achilles tendon surgery, Zajac played eight games before sitting out the last two with sorenes in the area.

Volchenkov has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury and was placed on injured reserve to make room for forward Nick Palmieri, who was called up Saturday morning.

PENGUINS:
F Arron Asham, upper body
C Sidney Crosby, undisclosed
F Dustin Jeffrey, knee
D Kris Letang, broken nose and concussion

DEVILS:
F Travis Zajac, Achilles tendon soreness
D Anton Volchenkov, lower body
D Andy Greene, non-displaced toe fracture.
F Jacob Josefson, broken right clavicle

Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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