newjerseydevils.com – The Devils look to close out a four-game homestand with their fourth win in five contests when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at Prudential Center (7 p.m., MSG Plus, WFAN 660).
In its final home game of 2008, Jersey's Team hopes to add to its one-point lead over Pittsburgh for third place in the Atlantic Division.
Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins snapped the Devils' three-game winning streak. New Jersey has suffered only three regulation losses in its last 16 games.
"It was a good test to see where we're at in a sense. They're where we want to be," Devils head coach Brent Sutter said. "I thought it was a very good hockey game in a lot of ways. A break was the difference in the game."
New Jersey has been getting most of the breaks recently, thanks in part to Scott Clemmensen, who stopped 22 of 23 shots in Tuesday's defeat. Playing in place of injured four-time Vezina Trophy winner Martin Brodeur, Clemmensen is 11-2-1 with a 2.23 goals-against average in his last 14 starts.
Behind Patrik Elias, New Jersey had also been clicking offensively before Tuesday, averaging 3.8 goals in its previous 15 games while going 12-2-1. Elias had 11 goals and 16 assists over that span.
Pittsburgh (18-12-4) boasts impressive offensive talent, with the NHL's two points leaders in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. But that hasn't translated into much success lately, as the defending conference champions have lost six of nine to sink to fourth place in the division - one point behind New Jersey.
Poor defense has been a problem at times for the Penguins, but it was a lack of offense that cost them on Tuesday, when they managed only 15 shots and lost 2-0 at home to the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning.
While Malkin's 58 points are the most for an NHL player before Christmas since Mario Lemieux's 60 for Pittsburgh in 2002-03, Crosby has been struggling, with only one goal in 11 December games. The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005 has just three points in his last five contests.
Pittsburgh's poor penalty killing also has slowed the team down. In the Penguins' last six games, opponents have converted 32.4 percent (11-of-34) of their power plays, with each opponent scoring at least once on the man advantage.
This game will be the fourth meeting this season between the teams, with New Jersey winning two of the first three, including a 2-1 overtime victory on Oct. 11.
Crosby had a hat trick in the Penguins' 4-1 home win over the Devils on Nov. 29, but Pittsburgh lost by the same score at the Prudential Center on Dec. 10. The Penguins had been 5-0-1 in their previous six visits to New Jersey, shutting out the Devils three times over that span.
with AP wire services
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