PENGUINS (4-3-0) vs. DEVILS (3-0-3)
WHEN: February 2, 2013 - 7:00 p.m. | WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
New Jersey came within two wins of winning the Stanley Cup last year and New Jersey must be considered a serious contender to once again battle for a championship.
However, this current Devils team is missing a key piece from last season’s Eastern conference championship. New Jersey lost captain Zach Parise via free agency to Minnesota, and lost his 30-plus goal seasons as well.
The Devils opened the season with three straight wins, but have lost their last three contests (two in OT and one in a shootout).
The Devils offense has been powered by forward David Clarkson (more on him below). Last season’s leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk returned to the Devils after playing the past few months in the Kontinental Hockey League. He has five points (3G-2A) in six games, but is deadly against Pittsburgh. Kovalchuk has 48 points (24G-24A) in 42 contests.
Patrik Elias, 36, returns for his 17th NHL season – all with New Jersey. The Czech Republic native can still play, recording 26 goals and 78 points in 2011-12, good for second in scoring on the team. Center Adam Henrique returned to the lineup Thursday night after missing the early part of the season following thumb surgery. He had a breakout year in 2011-12 with 51 points.
The Devils have a strong corps of defensemen with Marek Zidlicky, Anton volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder and 19-year-old Adam Larsson all returning from last season. One of last postseason’s biggest surprising was Bryce Salvador, who scored four goals and 14 points in the postseason after recording zero goals in 82 regular-season games. The new team captain re-signed with the club for three more season.
As with the past 20 years, the strength of the Devils lies in their goaltenders. What else can be said about the team’s Hall of Fame, record holding netminder? The ageless 40-year-old is looking to add on to his record 659 wins and 120 shutouts.
DEVILS: DAVID CLARKSON
To say that David Clarkson is on a hot streak would be an insult to heat. The Devils forward leads the club with eight points (4G-4A) in six games. After recording 30 goals in 2011-12, he's opened the season with a six-game scoring streak, notching at least one point in every game played thus far. His biggest performance came in a three-point effort (1G-2A) at Montreal Jan. 27. He's been a handful for opposing teams and the Penguins will want to be aware of his presence on the ice at all times.
PENGUINS: PASCAL DUPUIS
Pascal Dupuis has points in each of his past two games. But his play can't be measured only on the stat sheet. Dupuis still has that nasty speed despite being 33 years old. His burst up the ice and battle level helped create a late Penguins' goal against New York Thursday night. At the end of a penalty kill, Dupuis cleared the puck, raced to retrieve it and then set the tee for Simon Despres to score. He's been getting a lot of chances and is due for a big game.
- The Penguins and New Jersey Devils meet for the first time this year at CONSOL Energy Center.
- It's the first of three games between these two teams over the next nine days. Next weekend, Feb. 9-10, the two teams will play a home-and-home series beginning at the Prudential Center on Saturday.
- Following next Sunday’s meeting, the Penguins and Devils won’t play again until they conclude the season series in the Penguins’ next-to-last game of the season on April 25 at the Prudential Center.
- These two teams split the season series last year, 3-3, with the Penguins winning two of the three games here in Pittsburgh.
- Pittsburgh’s power play had great success against the Devils last year, converting on 6-of-22 man-advantage situations for a 27.3% success rate. Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz both had two power-play tallies.
- The Penguins have gone 5-1 in their last six home games against the Devils, outscoring New Jersey by a 16-9 margin.
- Since going 0-6 against the Devils during the 2009-10 season, the Penguins have posted a 7-4-1 mark against New Jersey.
D Matt Niskanen, lower body
D Mark Fayne, upper body
Author: Sam Kasan and Brooks Bratten