Devils look to rebound in Pittsburgh
DEVILS (3-1-1) at PENGUINS (5-2-2)
WFAN 660 AM
This is the first of six meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Penguins went 4-1-1 against the New Jersey last season and outscored the Devils 11-8.
After a three-game skid, the Penguins have bounced back with wins against Minnesota on the road and Montreal at home. The Devils are coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to San Jose Sharks in new Jersey on Friday, snapping their three-game winning streak.
The Devils appear to have found their game, going 3-0-1 after dropping their season opener 3-0 to Philadelphia. After losing starting goalie Martin Brodeur
with a shoulder injury, the Devils have been getting solid play between the pipes from Johan Hedberg
, who earned three straight wins and made 38 saves on Friday.
Hedberg likes the resolve of his club.
"We knew we were in for a tough game," he said. "They really took it to us in the second period and I thought we battled back pretty good in the third. It was a tough game. It went all the way to a shootout. It was one of those that can go either way."
Coach Peter DeBoer indicated he was leaning toward starting Hedberg on back-to-back nights. Twenty-two-year-old prospect Keith Kinkaid
has dressed as Hedberg's backup in the last two contests.
"I thought he was great," DeBoer said of Hedberg's play against the Sharks. "He gave us a chance to get a point."
Devils forward Petr Sykora returns to Pittsburgh to face his former club, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 2009.
No Sidney Crosby. No Evgeni Malkin. No problem. Without their superstars, the Penguins have stuck to their system and relied on opportunistic scoring, sound defense and stingy goaltending. As a result, the Pens sit atop the Atlantic Division. A big reason for the early-season success is the play of forward James Neal, who is tied for most goals in the League with seven.
"Things are going good," Neal said. "I'm feeling good. The team's rolling. You keep doing the right things, hopefully they'll keep coming."
Neal is leading the way for the Penguins on offense with his seven goals in nine games… The Devils, meanwhile, have relied on the point-per-game pace of forward Ilya Kovalchuk
, who has five points in as many games… Zach Parise
has a team-leading three goals after converting on his first career penalty shot Friday… David Clarkson
has goals in back-to-back games. He scored the late go-ahead goal against the Sharks before Joe Pavelski tied it in the final minute. Clarkson also had the tying goal at Nashville last Saturday, when the Devils rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to win in a shootout.
Crosby (concussion) and Malkin (knee) remain out for the Penguins, while the Devils have to deal with the recent loss of Jacob Josefson
, who suffered a broken right clavicle against the Sharks.
Penguins forward Steve Sullivan will be suiting up for his 900th NHL game -- and will be doing it against the team that brought him to the NHL. Sullivan made his debut against Montreal in 1996 as a Devils and collected his first NHL goal in the same night.
"It’s going to be a great test. They’re leading their division and playing great. We’ve got to turn around here, bounce back and pick ourselves up. For me, we’ve got to play a better game than we played tonight. We got a point tonight and I didn’t think it was our best game. We’ve got to be better [Saturday]." -- DeBoer on facing the Penguins.