The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (39-23-3) vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins (40-22-5). This is the 5th time the two teams have met this season and the second meeting at the Prudential Center.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils played a game where they finished their checks, hustled to the puck and didn’t allow the fact that Rangers kept fighting back to tie the score affect them.
The Last Penguins Game: The started their 5 game road trip in Carolina that found the Penguins down a few goals but were able to battle back and force OT only to lose in OT on a quick goal from the corner by Brian Pothier.
The Last Devils-Penguins Game: The Devils have pretty much owned the Penguins this season. In the previos 4 games, the Devils have outscore Pittsburgh 14-2. The last game was a 2-0 victory with the Former Devil, Nik Bergfors providing the only goal that wasn’t shot into an empty net. Like most games vs the Penguins this season, the Pens offense was certainly sputtering against the Devils in this game.
Tonight’s Matchup: It’s one of those 4 point swingers. While the offense was certainly firing on all cylinders the other night, the defense had noticable lags. Pittsburgh is a much more potent team offensively than the Rangers and the Devils will need to concentrate and those defensive lags tonight. The Penguins are 4-0-1 since returning from the Olympic Break so to say that this is a hot team would pretty much be spot on.
Zach Parise has shown no Olympic hangover with three goals in four games and Rob Niedermayer played arguably his best game as a Devil against New York with a goal, an assist and a plus-3 rating in more than 18 minutes of ice time.
Jordan Staal seems to have the hot hand for the Penguins lately as he has scored a goal in three of the last four games and has six points over the span. He’s one goal away from a second straight 20-goal season.
Lets remember that Martin Skoula came to NJ from Pittsburgh via Toronto and probably wants to play a really good game tonight. He didn’t fit in very well with Pittsburgh and he’s been quoted saying that he wants to make Pittsburgh realize that trading him was a mistake. There’s no mistake that Lemaire seems to like this guy as he had 21:03 of ice time in Edmonton and 21:55 of ice time against the Rangers despite being on the 3rd pairing.
Devils could really use the a win tonight as the schedule gets pretty busy with a trip to Long Island tomorrow night and then back at home on Monday against the Bruins and Wednesday against the Penguins to close out the season series.
I am going to go with the same Forward lines that we saw against the Rangers although Pelley might get the healthy scratch tonight. As for the Defense, Lemaire wasn’t happy with Frasers mistakes against NY and if Salmela got the seat for his effort against the Oilers, than Fraser should get the seat for Wednesday night.
Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Dainius Zubrus
Ilya Kovalchuk – Patrik Elias – Jamie Langenbrunner
Brian Rolston – Rob Niedermayer – David Clarkson
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond – Dean McAmmond – Rod Pelley
Bryce Salvador – Andy Greene
Colin White – Mike Mottau
Anssi Salmela – Martin Skoula