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Penguins vs. Devils Game Preview

Thursday, 03.03.2011 / 9:00 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Penguins vs. Devils Game Preview
Pittsburgh Penguins
Overall:
37-21-7-81
Home: 20-11-2-42
Road: 17-10-5-39

WHEN: March 4, 2011 - 7:00 pm   |   WHERE: Prudential Center
WATCH:
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
New Jersey Devils
Overall:
28-31-4-60
Home: 15-13-3-33
Road:
13-18-1-27

  Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils 
 
      
Brian Rolston
LW  -  #12
  11 Goals
  12 Assists
  23 Points
• The veteran winger has scored four of his 11 goals in his last eight games.

• After spending the first six seasons of his NHL career with New Jersey, he spent the next nine seasons with Colorado, Boston and Minnesota before signing a four-year contract with the Devils on July 1, 2008.

• Rolston, who appeared in his 500th game in a Devils sweater on Nov. 24, won a Stanley Cup with New Jersey in 1995.
 
Travis Zajac
C  -  #19
  9 Goals
  27 Assists
  36 Points
• The Devils’ ironman ranks second on New Jersey’s all-time consecutive games-played list with 382-straight appearances since Oct. 6, 2006, trailing Ken Danyeko by six games.

• The 25-year-old center, who leads the team with 1,000 faceoffs taken and a 55.7-percent success rate off the draw, tallied personal-bests last season with 25 goals, 42 assists and 67 points.

• Spent two seasons at the University of North Dakota from 2004-06 after being drafted in the first round (20th overall) by New Jersey in 2004.
 
Anton Volchenkov
D  -  #28
  0 goals
  6 assists
  6 points
• In his first season with the Devils after spending the previous seven with Ottawa, the team that drafted him in the first round (21st overall) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

• Missed 12 games from Oct. 11 to Nov. 3 with a stiff neck suffered on Oct. 9 in the Devils’ second game of the season.

• Leads all Devils blueliners with 110 hits and ranks second (tied) with 89 blocked shots.
When the Penguins and the Devils last faced off on Jan. 20, New Jersey entered the game having won three of their last four games after going on a 2-17 skid from Dec. 2 to Jan. 8 that had them in last place in the Eastern Conference. The Devils have since extended their winning ways to become one of the National Hockey League’s hottest teams and its most remarkable turnaround, as they’re 18-2-2 in their last 22 contests – earning 38 of 44 possible points and enjoying an eight-game winning streak that spanned from Feb. 6-22.

They began the 2010-11 campaign with just 20 players on their roster due to salary cap limitations, and early injuries to Brian Rolston, Anton Volchenkov and last season’s leading scorer Zach Parise – who’s netted 31, 32, 45 and 38 goals over his past four seasons – had them playing with a franchise-low 15 healthy skaters at one point. They also traded captain Jamie Langenbrunner to Dallas on Jan. 9 and sent veteran center Jason Arnott to Washington in exchange for David Steckel on Monday.

But they’ve managed to exorcise the demons that had them start the season with a 9-29-2 record, as they’ve climbed to 12th place and sit nine points out of a playoff spot and have been led by head coach Jacques Lemaire, who took over on Dec. 23. What’s perhaps most impressive about this Devils squad is that they have been winning without consistent production from their top forwards, as they’re averaging an NHL-low 2.10 goals-per game.

Aside from Ilya Kovalchuk – who has points in 15 of the last 17 games – Travis Zajac has no goals in the last 10 games, Patrik Elias has one in the last 15, Vladimir Zharkov has none in his last 18, Mattias Tedenby has none in the last nine and Rod Pelley has none in the last 18. They have just four players with goal totals in the double digits.

Their victories have instead come as a result of a total team effort and tight defensive play, as they’ve allowed just 12 goals in their past 10 games. Goaltender Johan Hedberg carried the Devils while Martin Brodeur recovered from a knee injury sustained on Feb. 6, winning seven-straight starts after Brodeur went on injured reserve. Hedberg went 7-1-1 with a 1.43 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games during the month of February.
  • Pittsburgh has won two of the previous three meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Penguins ended a six-game losing streak to the Devils on Oct. 11 as Paul Martin scored a goal and an assist in his return to the Prudential Center. Marc-Andre Fleury denied 27 of 28 shots to preserve a 2-1 victory Dec. 6 at CONSOL Energy Center. Martin Brodeur stopped 23 shots to record a 2-0 shutout victory for the Devils Jan. 20 at the Prudential Center.
  • Pittsburgh enters Friday’s game with a 1-1-1 record thus far on its season-long five-game road stretch. The Penguins began the trip with a 4-1 loss at Carolina Feb. 25. They have followed that up by defeating Toronto, 6-5 in overtime, on Feb. 26, and then suffering a 3-2 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs on March 2. Pittsburgh concludes its trip Saturday with a 7 p.m. faceoff at Boston.
  • Friday marks the front end of the Penguins’ 14th set of back-to-back games. To date the Penguins own a 16-7-3 overall record in back-to-backs, with an 8-4-1 record the first night and an 8-3-2 mark the second night. The Penguins have three sets of back-to-backs remaining this season after this weekend.
  • Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson has been nearly unbeatable against New Jersey the past two seasons. In five appearances against the Devils, Johnson has stopped 98 of 102 shots for a gaudy .961 save percentage while posting a 1-2 record.
  • Since Feb. 1, seven of the team’s past 15 contests have been decided in overtime or a shootout, with the Penguins going 4-3 in those games. Each of the team’s last two games and five of the previous seven have stretched beyond 60 minutes. For the season, Pittsburgh is 9-7 when the game stretches beyond regulation, with its nine victories ranking sixth (tied) in the league.
  • Thus far this season the Penguins have already lost 242 man-games to injury, including a combined 85 to the team’s top-three centers, Jordan Staal (39 games missed), Sidney Crosby (24) and Evgeni Malkin (22). Pittsburgh has surpassed last season's total of 158 man-games lost to injury.

 

      
Offensive Zone Faceoffs: In New Jersey’s last loss, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Tampa Bay on Feb. 25, the Lightning scored both of their goals immediately after winning offensive zone faceoffs, twice beating Devils goalie Johan Hedberg with with quick, high releases off the draw. The Penguins scored a goal against Toronto on Wednesday in a similar fashion, and they will need to continue that trend against the Devils on Friday.

Put Them on Their Heels:
The Devils are playing with plenty of confidence, and they have every right to, as they’re putting together an unbelievable stretch of hockey right now. The best solution for cooling down such a red-hot team is to come out with the mentality that ‘The best defense is a good offense.’ The Penguins can do that with a hard forecheck, by winning the physical battles and winning all of the foot races to the puck. Pittsburgh is the hardest-hitting team in the NHL (tied) with a league-leading 970 road hits, and they’ll need to bring that physical edge on Friday.
F Arron Asham, concussion (IR)

F Mike Comrie, hip (IR)

F Sidney Crosby, concussion (IR)
F Nick Johnson, concussion (IR)

F Chris Kunitz, lower body (day-to-day)

F Evgeni Malkin, torn ACL and torn MCL (will miss remainder of season)

D Brooks Orpik, hand (4 weeks)

F Eric Tangradi, concussion (IR)
D Matt Corrente, shoulder (indefinitely)
LW Zach Parise, knee (indefinitely)
D Matt Taormina, ankle (indefinitely)
D Bryce Salvador, concussion (indefinitely)
 
 
 
 
G
Crosby (32) Kovalchuk (22)
A
Letang (38) Elias (32)
PTS
Crosby (66) Elias (46)
PIM
Rupp (111) Clarkson (107)
+/-
Crosby (+20) Grabner (+6)
PP
Crosby (10) Elias (7)
SH
Cooke (3)
Zajac/Tallinder (1)
W/L
Fleury (28-16-5)
Hedberg (13-11-2)
GAA
Johnson (2.26) Hedberg (2.34)
SVP
Fleury/Johnson (.917) Hedberg (.913)

Matt Niskanen - Niskanen scored a goal and added an assist in Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto, which marked just his fourth game with the Penguins since being acquired from Dallas on Feb. 21. Niskanen’s goal broke a 56-game scoreless drought for the 24-year-old defenseman, and his two-point effort was his first since his two-assist outing on Nov. 5, 2010 with the Stars.
 
Ilya Kovalchuk - New Jersey’s phenomenal run over this past month has been due in large part to the play of Kovalchuk. After he saw his career-high 12-game point streak snapped on Sunday against Florida, he got right back on the scoreboard on Wednesday against Tampa Bay, scoring the game-winning goal to power his team to a 2-1 victory. The goal, his team-leading eighth game-winner of the season (and fifth in the past 11 games), gives him 22 tallies on the season after scoring just four times through his first 24 games. Kovalchuk, who leads all NHL forwards with an average of 22:14 minutes per game, has 17 points (8G-9A) in his last 15 games.
 
 
 
 

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WHEN: March 4, 2011 - 7:00 pm
WHERE: Prudential Center
WATCH: FSN
LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM



SCOUTING REPORT

When the Penguins and the Devils last faced off on Jan. 20, New Jersey entered the game having won three of their last four games after going on a 2-17 skid from Dec. 2 to Jan. 8 that had them in last place in the Eastern Conference. The Devils have since extended their winning ways to become one of the National Hockey League's hottest teams and its most remarkable turnaround, as they're 18-2-2 in their last 22 contests – earning 38 of 44 possible points and enjoying an eight-game winning streak that spanned from Feb. 6-22.

They began the 2010-11 campaign with just 20 players on their roster due to salary cap limitations, and early injuries to Brian Rolston, Anton Volchenkov and last season's leading scorer Zach Parise – who's netted 31, 32, 45 and 38 goals over his past four seasons – had them playing with a franchise-low 15 healthy skaters at one point. They also traded captain Jamie Langenbrunner to Dallas on Jan. 9 and sent veteran center Jason Arnott to Washington in exchange for David Steckel on Monday.

But they've managed to exorcise the demons that had them start the season with a 9-29-2 record, as they've climbed to 12th place and sit nine points out of a playoff spot and have been led by head coach Jacques Lemaire, who took over on Dec. 23. What's perhaps most impressive about this Devils squad is that they have been winning without consistent production from their top forwards, as they're averaging an NHL-low 2.10 goals-per game.

Aside from Ilya Kovalchuk – who has points in 15 of the last 17 games – Travis Zajac has no goals in the last 10 games, Patrik Elias has one in the last 15, Vladimir Zharkov has none in his last 18, Mattias Tedenby has none in the last nine and Rod Pelley has none in the last 18. They have just four players with goal totals in the double digits.

Their victories have instead come as a result of a total team effort and tight defensive play, as they've allowed just 12 goals in their past 10 games. Goaltender Johan Hedberg carried the Devils while Martin Brodeur recovered from a knee injury sustained on Feb. 6, winning seven-straight starts after Brodeur went on injured reserve. Hedberg went 7-1-1 with a 1.43 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games during the month of February.


INTERESTING STATS

* Pittsburgh has won two of the previous three meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Penguins ended a six-game losing streak to the Devils on Oct. 11 as Paul Martin scored a goal and an assist in his return to the Prudential Center. Marc-Andre Fleury denied 27 of 28 shots to preserve a 2-1 victory Dec. 6 at CONSOL Energy Center. Martin Brodeur stopped 23 shots to record a 2-0 shutout victory for the Devils Jan. 20 at the Prudential Center.

* Pittsburgh enters Friday's game with a 1-1-1 record thus far on its season-long five-game road stretch. The Penguins began the trip with a 4-1 loss at Carolina Feb. 25. They have followed that up by defeating Toronto, 6-5 in overtime, on Feb. 26, and then suffering a 3-2 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs on March 2. Pittsburgh concludes its trip Saturday with a 7 p.m. faceoff at Boston.

* Friday marks the front end of the Penguins' 14th set of back-to-back games. To date the Penguins own a 16-7-3 overall record in back-to-backs, with an 8-4-1 record the first night and an 8-3-2 mark the second night. The Penguins have three sets of back-to-backs remaining this season after this weekend.

* Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson has been nearly unbeatable against New Jersey the past two seasons. In five appearances against the Devils, Johnson has stopped 98 of 102 shots for a gaudy .961 save percentage while posting a 1-2 record.

* Since Feb. 1, seven of the team's past 15 contests have been decided in overtime or a shootout, with the Penguins going 4-3 in those games. Each of the team's last two games and five of the previous seven have stretched beyond 60 minutes. For the season, Pittsburgh is 9-7 when the game stretches beyond regulation, with its nine victories ranking sixth (tied) in the league.

* Thus far this season the Penguins have already lost 242 man-games to injury, including a combined 85 to the team's top-three centers, Jordan Staal (39 games missed), Sidney Crosby (24) and Evgeni Malkin (22). Pittsburgh has surpassed last season's total of 158 man-games lost to injury.


KEYS TO THE GAME

Offensive Zone Faceoffs: In New Jersey's last loss, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Tampa Bay on Feb. 25, the Lightning scored both of their goals immediately after winning offensive zone faceoffs, twice beating Devils goalie Martin Brodeur with quick, high releases off the draw. The Penguins scored a goal against Toronto on Wednesday in a similar fashion, and they will need to continue that trend against the Devils on Friday.

Put Them on Their Heels: The Devils are playing with plenty of confidence, and they have every right to, as they're putting together an unbelievable stretch of hockey right now. The best solution for cooling down such a red-hot team is to come out with the mentality that ‘The best defense is a good offense.' The Penguins can do that with a hard forecheck, by winning the physical battles and winning all of the foot races to the puck. Pittsburgh is the hardest-hitting team in the NHL (tied) with a league-leading 970 road hits, and they'll need to bring that physical edge on Friday.


WHO'S HOT

Matt Niskanen - Niskanen scored a goal and added an assist in Wednesday's 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto, which marked just his fourth game with the Penguins since being acquired from Dallas on Feb. 21. Niskanen's goal broke a 56-game scoreless drought for the 24-year-old defenseman, and his two-point effort was his first since his two-assist outing on Nov. 5, 2010 with the Stars.

Ilya Kovalchuk - New Jersey's phenomenal run over this past month has been due in large part to the play of Kovalchuk. After he saw his career-high 12-game point streak snapped on Sunday against Florida, he got right back on the scoreboard on Wednesday against Tampa Bay, scoring the game-winning goal to power his team to a 2-1 victory. The goal, his team-leading eighth game-winner of the season (and fifth in the past 11 games), gives him 22 tallies on the season after scoring just four times through his first 24 games. Kovalchuk, who leads all NHL forwards with an average of 22:14 minutes per game, has 17 points (8G-9A) in his last 15 games.


Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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