Keeping Sidney Crosby in check is one way to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. Having Martin Brodeur in goal doesn't hurt either.
Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils look to grab a share of first place in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday night when they complete their regular-season series against the Penguins.
After a mediocre first three months of the season, the Devils (42-19-8) have been one of the NHL's best teams since Christmas with a 23-6-5 record. A victory in this game would extend New Jersey's lead in the Atlantic Division to eight points over the Penguins (38-21-10) and move it into a tie with Buffalo for the top seed in the East.
The Devils have won five of seven meetings against the Penguins, including a 4-3 shootout victory on Thursday.
Much of that success can be attributed to New Jersey's ability to limit Crosby, the NHL leader with 103 points.
Crosby has two goals and three assists in seven games this season against the Devils. Those totals are a long way from the six goals and six assists he had versus them in his 2005-06 rookie season.
Brodeur is 5-2-0 with a 2.13 goals-against average and two shutouts this season against the Penguins. He has won 10 of 13 starts versus Pittsburgh since Crosby joined the NHL.
Brodeur made 31 saves for his league-leading 41st win Saturday in New Jersey's 3-2 victory at Buffalo.
"We're here to get points and shake off Pittsburgh, but it's fun to be close to the top," Brodeur, said. "That's why you play, to be the best."
The victory was more impressive because the Devils played most of the game with only 16 skaters.
Right wing Brian Gionta sat out with a groin injury and defenseman Colin White was sidelined with a groin problem. Forward Erik Rasmussen missed the majority of the game after he was hit in the face with the puck following Brian Rafalski's clearing attempt seven minutes into the contest.
White practiced Monday with the team and said he expects to be in the lineup for this game.
New Jersey has lost three straight (0-2-1) at home for the second time this season. The Devils last dropped four in a row at home during a five-game skid from Nov. 4-14, 2000.
After collecting a goal and two assists during regulation, Crosby scored the deciding goal in the shootout Tuesday, lifting Pittsburgh to a 5-4 victory over the Sabres.
The game was played a few hours after Penguins owners and government officials announced an agreement on a financing plan to build a new multipurpose Pittsburgh arena and sign the Penguins to a 30-year lease to play there.
Mario Lemieux, a former Penguins star and Hall of Famer who's now the team's co-owner, addressed the crowd briefly before the game to a rousing ovation. "I am here to announce that your Pittsburgh Penguins will remain here in Pittsburgh, where they belong."
"I think everyone's relieved, including us, that got done and we can put it past us and look forward," Crosby said. "We're all happy for that and the fans obviously showed it tonight. With this team, they just keep coming. But we played a solid game, too."
By improving to 4-0-1 in their last five games, the Penguins stayed one point behind Ottawa in the race for fourth in the East.
Pittsburgh had lost four straight at New Jersey before holding on for a 5-4 victory on Feb. 16.
(c) New Jersey Devils 2013 - All Rights Reserved
newjerseydevils.com is the official web site of the New Jersey Devils, a member team of the National Hockey League ("NHL"). NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2013 New Jersey Devils and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.