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Penguins vs. Devils Game Preview

Thursday, 03.24.2011 / 11:45 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
Pittsburgh Penguins
Overall:
43-23-8-94
Home: 22-13-2-46
Road: 21-10-6-48

WHEN: March 25, 2011 - 7:00 pm   |   WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH:
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
New Jersey Devils
Overall:
34-35-4-72
Home: 18-15-3-39
Road:
16-20-1-76

  Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New Jersey Devils 
 
      
Ilya Kovalchuk
LW  -  #17
  27 Goals
  25 Assists
  52 Points
• Has tied the NHL’s single-season mark with four overtime goals and is second (tied) with nine game-winning goals.

• Has been shouldering quite a workload for the Devils, as he ranks first among league forwards with an average of 22:27 minutes per contest.

• Kovalchuk – who thrives against Pittsburgh with 20 goals and 37 points in 34 career games against the Penguins – notched points in a career-high 12-straight games from Feb. 1-25, earning seven goals and seven assists over that span.
 
Nick Palmieri
RW  -  #32
  7 Goals
  5 Assists
  12 Points
• Has tallied 12 points (5G-7A) in 34 games since making his season debut on Jan. 1 versus Carolina after being recalled from Providence of the AHL.

• Is playing on the right wing of the top line alongside left wing Ilya Kovalchuk and center Travis Zajac.

• Is in his second professional season after tallying 36 points (25G-11A) in 69 contests with Lowell in 2009-10 after four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League.
 
Mark Fayne
D  -  #34
  4 goals
  9 assists
  13 points
• Is first (tied) on the team and first among Devils defensemen with a plus-7 rating.

• Began the season with Lowell of the American Hockey League before being recalled on Nov. 22 and has played in 48 games since, including 29 of the team’s last 30.

• Is in his first-ever professional season after a four-year career at Providence College of Hockey East from 2006-10, where he tallied 49 points (16G-33A) over 139 career games.
After beginning the season with a 9-29-2 record – including a 2-16 skid from Dec. 2 to Jan. 8 that had them in last place in the Eastern Conference and 27 points from a playoff spot at one point – the New Jersey Devils have staged one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NHL history over this second half of the season.

They have gone 24-7-2 since Jan. 9, including an incredible 20-2-2 run from Jan. 9 to March 6. The Devils especially thrived in February, as they posted an 11-1-1 record for 23 points during that month, which marked the club’s most points in a month since Jan. 2003 and tied their fourth-best point-producing month in team history.

But as the Devils enter their final nine games of the regular season, their hopes of making the playoffs for a 13th-straight season are fading fast despite their incredible second-half push. They have lost three of their last four games and sit in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, a hefty nine points out of the eighth and final playoff berth. 

But despite that, what’s perhaps most impressive about this Devils squad is that they have been winning without consistent production from their top forwards aside from Ilya Kovalchuk (who has 27 goals), as they’re averaging an NHL-low 2.08 goals-per game. They have just six players with goal totals in the double digits.

Their second-half success has come as a result of a total team effort and disciplined defensive play. Seventeen of New Jersey’s last 24 games have been decided by one goal, including 12 of their last 17 victories. After goaltender Johan Hedberg carried the Devils while Martin Brodeur recovered from a knee injury, going 7-1-1 with a 1.43 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games during the month of February, Brodeur has started the last 12 games for New Jersey. He’s earned an 8-4 record over that span.
  • Pittsburgh played its 20th overtime game of the season at Philadelphia on March 24. Chris Kunitz’s game-deciding goal in the fourth round of the shootout that gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 victory improved the Penguins’ overtime/shootout record to 12-8 this season. Overall, Pittsburgh is 7-3 this year in shootouts, which ranks fourth in the league. The Penguins have required 60-plus minutes of work in nine of their past 16 games, going 5-4 in those nine games.
  • Pittsburgh has gone 11-1-5 in one-goal games since Sidney Crosby missed his first game on Jan. 6. In the 11 one-goal games the team has played over the past 21 games without Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, they are 6-1-4.
  • Chris Kunitz extended his point streak to five games by recording the primary assist on Tyler Kennedy’s power-play goal versus the Flyers on Thursday, equaling his career high. Kunitz now has nine points (4G-5A) over that span. He has 22 goals on the season, tied with James Neal for second-most on the team behind Sidney Crosby (32). With eight games remaining, Kunitz needs three goals to equal his career high of 25 set in 2006-07 with Anaheim.
  • A big reason why the Penguins have gone 37-20 and won five of six playoff rounds under head coach Dan Bylsma the previous two postseasons is the momentum the team has generated over the final month of the season. During Bylsma’s two-plus seasons behind the bench the Penguins have posted a robust 31-10-8 mark in March/April, including a 17-5-2 home record.
  • The Penguins recalled goaltender Brad Thiessen from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Thursday to back up Marc-Andre Fleury, as it was announced that day that Brent Johnson is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Thiessen currently leads the AHL with 32 wins and a 1.88 goals-against average. His seven shutouts are tied for the league lead, and they established a single-season franchise record.

 

      
Be Patient: The Devils are outstanding at playing the waiting game in their trap-style defense, where they wait for their opponents to try to force plays and turn over the puck. That’s when the Devils pounce and quickly head on the counterattack. The Penguins will need to bring that same measure of patience into Friday’s game and manage the puck well in order to establish a forecheck in the Devils defensive zone, as it’s tough to play from behind against a team like that.

Outbattle Them:
As the number of regular-season games remaining has dwindled into single digits, the Devils are watching their playoff hopes slowly fade. As if they hadn’t already been playing with exceptional intensity and competitiveness, the Devils will be turning it up even more, as every game from here on out is literally a must-win for them. The Penguins will need to bring a battle level to CONSOL Energy Center that’s through the roof in order to outplay a desperate New Jersey squad.
F Mike Comrie, hip (IR)

F Sidney Crosby, concussion (IR)
G Brent Johnson, upper body (day-to-day)
F Nick Johnson, concussion (IR)
F Mark Letestu, upper body (day-to-day)

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

D Brooks Orpik, hand (IR)
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 (27)
A
Letang (40) Elias (37)
PTS
Crosby (66) Elias (52)
PIM
Cooke (129) Clarkson (109)
+/-
Crosby (+20) Fayne/Palmieri (+7)
PP
Crosby (10) Kovalchuk (8)
SH
Dupuis/Cooke (3)
Three tied with (1)
W/L
Fleury (32-18-5)
Hedberg (13-11-2)
GAA
Johnson (2.19) Hedberg (2.34)
SVP
Johnson (.920) Hedberg (.913)

James Neal - Neal put forth an incredible effort on Thursday against Philadelphia after tallying the game-deciding shootout score in a 5-4 win over Detroit on Monday. Although Neal didn’t get on the scoresheet against the Flyers, he was an absolute force all over the ice. He put forth some impressive displays of stickhandling wizardry and displayed his immense skating talent, powering into the Flyers defensive zone on numerous occasions with his 6-foot-2, 208-pound frame. Neal even hit the crossbar on a re-direct attempt early in the third period and finished with 19:12 minutes of ice time, the second-most among Penguins forwards. 
 
Jacob Josefsen - Josefsen has recorded two goals and four assists in his last six games. The rookie center scored his first-career NHL goal and added an assist for his first-career multiple-point effort on March 12 versus New York Islanders. He then tallied the game-winning goal on March 15 versus Atlanta and added a power-play assist on March 17 versus Ottawa. After being held pointless on March 18 versus Washington, Josefsen has notched an assist in each of his last two contests. Josefsen has played in 13 of 16 games since being recalled from Lowell on Feb. 16, and the Devils’ first-round choice (20th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft has played in a total of 18 games with New Jersey in his first professional season.
 
 
 
 

Fan Guide vs. New Jersey
Notebook: Closing the Gap

Aftermath: Penguins 2, Flyers 1 (SO)
Penguins Recall Goaltender Brad Thiessen
Penguins Support Local Teams In State High School Hockey Finals Saturday 
Kunitz Has Elevated His Game in Absence of Crosby
Penguins Report: Game Day at Philadelphia 
'Itz Staal Good

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WHEN: March 25, 2011 - 7:00 pm
WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH: FSN
LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM



SCOUTING REPORT

After beginning the season with a 9-29-2 record – including a 2-16 skid from Dec. 2 to Jan. 8 that had them in last place in the Eastern Conference and 27 points from a playoff spot at one point – the New Jersey Devils have staged one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NHL history over this second half of the season.

They have gone 24-7-2 since Jan. 9, including an incredible 20-2-2 run from Jan. 9 to March 6. The Devils especially thrived in February, as they posted an 11-1-1 record for 23 points during that month, which marked the club's most points in a month since Jan. 2003 and tied their fourth-best point-producing month in team history.

But as the Devils enter their final nine games of the regular season, their hopes of making the playoffs for a 13th-straight season are fading fast despite their incredible second-half push. They have lost three of their last four games and sit in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, a hefty nine points out of the eighth and final playoff berth.

But despite that, what's perhaps most impressive about this Devils squad is that they have been winning without consistent production from their top forwards aside from Ilya Kovalchuk (who has 27 goals), as they're averaging an NHL-low 2.08 goals-per game. They have just six players with goal totals in the double digits.

Their second-half success has come as a result of a total team effort and disciplined defensive play. Seventeen of New Jersey's last 24 games have been decided by one goal, including 12 of their last 17 victories. After goaltender Johan Hedberg carried the Devils while Martin Brodeur recovered from a knee injury, going 7-1-1 with a 1.43 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and two shutouts in 10 games during the month of February, Brodeur has started the last 12 games for New Jersey. He's earned an 8-4 record over that span.


INTERESTING STATS

* Pittsburgh played its 20th overtime game of the season at Philadelphia on March 24. Chris Kunitz's game-deciding goal in the fourth round of the shootout that gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 victory improved the Penguins' overtime/shootout record to 12-8 this season. Overall, Pittsburgh is 7-3 this year in shootouts, which ranks fourth in the league. The Penguins have required 60-plus minutes of work in nine of their past 16 games, going 5-4 in those nine games.

* Pittsburgh has gone 11-1-5 in one-goal games since Sidney Crosby missed his first game on Jan. 6. In the 11 one-goal games the team has played over the past 21 games without Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, they are 6-1-4.

* Chris Kunitz extended his point streak to five games by recording the primary assist on Tyler Kennedy's power-play goal versus the Flyers on Thursday, equaling his career high. Kunitz now has nine points (4G-5A) over that span. He has 22 goals on the season, tied with James Neal for second-most on the team behind Sidney Crosby (32). With eight games remaining, Kunitz needs three goals to equal his career high of 25 set in 2006-07 with Anaheim.

* A big reason why the Penguins have gone 37-20 and won five of six playoff rounds under head coach Dan Bylsma the previous two postseasons is the momentum the team has generated over the final month of the season. During Bylsma's two-plus seasons behind the bench the Penguins have posted a robust 31-10-8 mark in March/April, including a 17-5-2 home record.

* The Penguins recalled goaltender Brad Thiessen from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Thursday to back up Marc-Andre Fleury, as it was announced that day that Brent Johnson is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Thiessen currently leads the AHL with 32 wins and a 1.88 goals-against average. His seven shutouts are tied for the league lead, and they established a single-season franchise record.


KEYS TO THE GAME

Be Patient: The Devils are outstanding at playing the waiting game in their trap-style defense, where they wait for their opponents to try to force plays and turn over the puck. That's when the Devils pounce and quickly head on the counterattack. The Penguins will need to bring that same measure of patience into Friday's game and manage the puck well in order to establish a forecheck in the Devils defensive zone, as it's tough to play from behind against a team like that.

Outbattle Them: As the number of regular-season games remaining has dwindled into single digits, the Devils are watching their playoff hopes slowly fade. As if they hadn't already been playing with exceptional intensity and competitiveness, the Devils will be turning it up even more, as every game from here on out is literally a must-win for them. The Penguins will need to bring a battle level to CONSOL Energy Center that's through the roof in order to outplay a desperate New Jersey squad.


WHO'S HOT

James Neal - Neal put forth an incredible effort on Thursday against Philadelphia after tallying the game-deciding shootout score in a 5-4 win over Detroit on Monday. Although Neal didn't get on the scoresheet against the Flyers, he was an absolute force all over the ice. He put forth some impressive displays of stickhandling wizardry and displayed his immense skating talent, powering into the Flyers defensive zone on numerous occasions with his 6-foot-2, 208-pound frame. Neal even hit the crossbar on a re-direct attempt early in the third period and finished with 19:12 minutes of ice time, the second-most among Penguins forwards.

Jacob Josefsen - Josefsen has recorded two goals and four assists in his last six games. The rookie center scored his first-career NHL goal and added an assist for his first-career multiple-point effort on March 12 versus New York Islanders. He then tallied the game-winning goal on March 15 versus Atlanta and added a power-play assist on March 17 versus Ottawa. After being held pointless on March 18 versus Washington, Josefsen has notched an assist in each of his last two contests. Josefsen has played in 13 of 16 games since being recalled from Lowell on Feb. 16, and the Devils' first-round choice (20th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft has played in a total of 18 games with New Jersey in his first professional season.


Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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