Who: New Jersey Devils at Pittsburgh Penguins
When: 7:30 p.m. ET; NHL Live at 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA
Media: TV - NBC Sports Network; Radio - Bloomberg (1130AM)
Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)
- New Jersey’s four-game winning streak is the team’s longest since its five-game stretch to close-out the 2011-12 regular season.
- Stefan Matteau scored his first NHL goal Saturday. It came in his seventh game, the third-fastest among Devils who have made their NHL debut in the same year they were drafted, behind only Kirk Muller (2 games) and John MacLean (3). (Credit Elias Sports Bureau)
- Andy Greene has points in a career-high (tie, 11/4-11/12/09, 2g-4a-6pts) five straight games (2g-6a-8pts), while Adam Henrique have points in four straight (3g-1a-4pts). Henrique has scored a goal in three straight, tying his career-high.
- New Jersey went 5/6 on the penalty kill yesterday and is 24/25 over the past five games.
- New Jersey’s 10 power play chances Saturday were tied for the third most in team history & the most since 12/28/05 vs. Washington (3/10).
- New Jersey is 6/21 (28.6 %) on the power play over the past four games.
Forwards Defense Goalie
Matteau-Zajac-Kovalchuk Salvador-Fayne Hebderg
Inactives: Harrold, Tallinder
Scratched: Zubrus (upper body)
Get up: The Devils may have been a bit sluggish in the opening minutes of yesterday's first period, but they definitely woke up after Krys Barch's fight. They proceeded to dominate the Penguins for long stretches of the game and might have won by more than two goals if they found a few more rebounds on the power play. Well, you can bet the Penguins remember that and will be men on a mission from the drop of the puck tonight. If the Devils come out sluggish to start, they can't count on another Barch fight or a rallied crowd to pick them up. As much as the Devils needed yesterday to send a message, the Pens need to send a message right back tonight and a motivated Penguins team is a bear to deal with. Even though the Devils proved yesterday they can play with Pittsburgh, the Penguins still had multiple moments where they seemingly controlled the entire ice surface withing the snap of a finger. The way Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin navigate the ice, creating space and moving defenders with their actions is sublime to watch. If the Devils aren't careful, they could lose track of the game quickly against a Penguins team that is notorious for scoring in bunches.
Sharp early: Consider this part two of the first point, but focused on the fact that backup Johan Hedberg will need to very sharp despite a week-long layoff. I know -- such is life for a backup goalie and Heddy is a very good backup goalie. He was excellent against Boston despite not playing in a game since last April and he was flat-out fantastic against the Islanders last Sunday. Except, as I wrote above, the Penguins will come out of the gate flying tonight, putting lots and lots of early pressure on Hedberg and the Devils. They will overwhelm the Devils defense and create a lot of chances with their "sick skill," to borrow a phrase from the always respected Pierre McGuire. It will be up to Hedberg to keep the Devils in the game during this stretch and to make sure the Penguins don't have a 2-0 or 3-0 lead before the Devils can ride out the surge and eventually regroup.
Your turn: Yesterday, Stefan Matteau and Bobby Butler each scored their first goals as a Devil. For Matteau, it was his first NHL goal and his reaction is the early frontrunner for shit-eating grin of the year. The question today is -- who's next? The common theme for the Devils this season has been at least one goal from one of their key players (Kovy, Zajac, Clarkson, Henrique, Elias) and then at least another from a secondary scorer. That's the way the Devils win games. So who will step up today? Will Ryan Carter get his second of the year? Or how about Jacob Josefson continuing the "firsts" trend with his first goal of the season? All decent options, especially Josefson with the way the fourth line was attacking yesterday. But I'm going to put my money on Carter's linemate, Steve Bernier. Bernier was fantastic screening Marc-Andre Fleury on the power play yesterday and was a big part of both of the Devils' third-period goals. Add that in to the fact that Fleury gave up a lot of rebounds that the Devils failed to capitalize on and I'm thinking Bernier is going to get his fourth of the year tonight.
Shoot, Kovy. Shoot: This won't be long, but just a daily reminder to Mr. Kovalchuk to almost always shoot the puck. When Ilya shoots, especially that rocket from the point of the power play, good things tend to happen. So shoot, Kovy. Shoot.