Devils, Pens battle for first place
Monday, 12.21.2009 / 7:30 PM
Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer
DEVILS (25-8-1) at PENGUINS (25-10-1)
: New Jersey 8-2-0; Pittsburgh 8-1-1.
: The Devils have won the first two meetings this season, both in Pittsburgh, both by 4-1 scores.
: The standings don't lie -- it's a battle of the two best teams in the NHL. They are tied for the League lead in points (51) and wins (25), but New Jersey has played two less games than its Atlantic Division rivals.
: Things are going so well of late for the Devils that even when Martin Brodeur is pulled from a game due to ineffectiveness, they are still finding a way to win.
That was the case in Atlanta on Saturday night, when Brodeur allowed 3 goals on 6 first-period shots before giving way to backup goaltender Yann Danis. The Devils found a way to rally from a 3-1 deficit to pick up a 5-4 road victory against a tough team. New Jersey has won four straight and eight of nine.
"We changed goalies to make a difference," said Devils coach Jacques Lemaire, whose team won for the 11th time in 13 games after Davis made 19 saves backing up Brodeur. "I thought it was a good opportunity to put Danis in and rest him (Brodeur)."
: And rested Brodeur will be when he faces the high-flying Penguins, who are just as hot as the Devils. Pittsburgh has won five in a row and eight of 10, and the Pens have been doing it all season with one of the League's best offenses. The Penguins' 106 goals rank second in the NHL behind the Washington Capitals.
And even when the offense isn't clicking, as it was on Saturday in a 2-1 shootout victory against Buffalo, Marc-Andre Fleury
has been there lately to bail his teammates out.
"He's tough to beat in practice, and it shows in the games," Sidney Crosby
said of Fleury, who is 10-1-1 since Nov. 21. "He doesn't like the puck going in, period. He makes it tough on teams, and tonight he bailed us out a number of times."
: Forget Brodeur. Forget Zach Parise or Travis Zajac or Brian Rolston. The Devils' hottest player of late is Dean McAmmond, who has only 3 goals and 3 assists in 15 games this season, but has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 4 games.
Obviously Fleury's 10-1-1 record in the past month stands out for the Penguins. And not surprisingly, Crosby (5 points in 3 games) and Evgeni Malkin
(5 points in 4 games) have been pulling their weight as well.
: Key Devils who won't be suiting up include center Dainus Zubrus (leg), defenseman Paul Martin
(forearm) and right wing David Clarkson (knee). The Penguins, who were quite injury-riddled earlier in the season, are relatively healthy entering tonight's showdown.
: New Jersey is 26-9-1 in Pittsburgh since March 4, 1997. ... Devils center Patrik Elias has four goals and four assists during his seven-game point streak. ... Parise, who leads New Jersey with 22 assists and 37 points, has not scored a goal in 10 games. ... While New Jersey owns an NHL-best 12-2-1 road record, Pittsburgh has outscored its opponents 38-20 while going 7-1-1 at home since a Nov. 12 loss to the Devils.
: " I’m trying not to think about that at all, the record. Where we are and all this. It’s nice when you look at it, but the thing is, you have to win your next game. And that’s the only thing that counts to me.’’ -- Devils coach Jacques Lemaire, New Jersey having the most points in the NHL