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Preview: Devils at Penguins

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:46 AM

New Jersey Devils

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Preview: Devils at Penguins
New Jersey Devils vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

With eight games remaining, the Devils and Penguins couldn't be in a tighter race for the Atlantic Division lead.

One team, though, will break the deadlock at the top on Saturday night when the Penguins welcome the Devils to Mellon Arena in a matchup of teams tied for first place with identical records (7:30 p.m., MSG Plus, WFAN 660 AM).

New Jersey (42-25-7) has dropped three of its last five and scored only two goals in those defeats. Pittsburgh (42-25-7), meanwhile, comes in having won four in a row at home, and four of five overall.

But the Devils have taken four of the six meetings with the Penguins, with all four victories decided by one goal. New Jersey also has won five in a row and seven of its last eight in Pittsburgh - all one-goal decisions.

The two teams trail Montreal by one point for the Eastern Conference lead. The Canadiens, who will be looking for their 11th straight win over Boston on Saturday, do not face the Devils or Penguins again in the regular season.

New Jersey must bounce back after a lackluster 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Friday. Martin Brodeur gave up a power-play goal to rookie Kyle Okposo with 2:35 to play that snapped a 1-all tie, and Travis Zajac scored his first goal since Feb. 18 for the Devils, who lost despite a 35-16 shots advantage.

"All games are tough when you lose," head coach Brent Sutter said. "I don't care when it is. ... In a game like this, you have to score. You have to capitalize on the chances that you get. We scored one goal, it wasn't enough."

Brodeur has alternated wins and losses in his last seven starts against the Penguins, recording a 3.38 goals-against average.

Pittsburgh extended its winning streak at home by beating Tampa Bay 4-2 on Thursday. Evgeni Malkin's 42nd goal midway through the second period gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead before Jordan Staal and Petr Sykora scored 16 seconds apart in the opening minute of the third.

"The first two periods we were playing sloppy, and that's not acceptable right now," said the Penguins' Jarkko Ruutu, who also scored. "We have to learn that. The little things make the difference. That's what we did in the third."

With an assist on Sykora's goal, Malkin tallied his 26th multipoint game of 2007-08. Pittsburgh is 19-4-3 when Malkin has at least two points in a game.

Malkin has recorded a point in all six games against the Devils, totaling three goals and five assists. The reigning rookie of the year has seven goals and 10 assists while recording points in 15 of 17 career games versus New Jersey.

With his next point, Malkin will become the 12th player in Penguins history to reach 100. Current owner Mario Lemieux did it nine times and teammate Sidney Crosby almost certainly would have reached that mark for the third time in his three-season career had he not missed 25 games with an injured ankle.

Crosby, who remains sidelined, had a league-best 120 points in 2006-07.

After winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie last season, Malkin has a chance to add the Art Ross Trophy as the league's top scorer in only his second season. He trails only Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, who has 106 points.

with wire services

2007-2008 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 25 '08 PIT 2 at NJD 0 R. Malone
Mar 22 '08 NJD 1 at PIT 7 R. Malone
Feb 04 '08 PIT 3 at NJD 4 - OT Z. Parise
Jan 29 '08 PIT 4 at NJD 2 R. Malone
Nov 21 '07 NJD 2 at PIT 1 Z. Parise
Nov 12 '07 NJD 3 at PIT 2 P. Elias
Nov 05 '07 PIT 5 at NJD 0 S. Crosby
Oct 17 '07 NJD 5 at PIT 4 A. Asham
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