Devils host Penguins on New Year's Eve
Friday, 12.30.2011 / 4:36 PM
A loss in their last game kept the Pittsburgh Penguins from moving into a first-place tie in the Atlantic Division and snapped their four-game winning streak. They'll look to get back on track by keeping their run against the New Jersey Devils intact.
The Penguins go for their fourth straight victory in the series as the teams meet for the second time this season Saturday at the Prudential Center.
Pittsburgh (21-12-4) failed to match its longest win streak of the season Thursday, falling 4-2 to Philadelphia and missing a chance to tie the New York Rangers atop the Atlantic. Tyler Kennedy had a goal and an assist and Jordan Staal opened the scoring, but the Penguins lost at home for the first time in four games.
"Tough one to swallow. We've got to go back to work tomorrow and keep getting better," said left wing James Neal, who had a four-game goal streak snapped.
Pittsburgh hasn't had much to improve upon in its last three games versus New Jersey, giving up three total goals. The Penguins, 5-1-1 in the last seven matchups while allowing nine goals, beat the Devils 4-1 on Oct. 22 after scoring three times in the third period.
Despite their recent domination of the series, the Penguins have gone 1-4-1 in their last six road games versus New Jersey.
Staal scored twice in the October matchup to give him three goals and an assist in his last two meetings with the Devils. The center has scored one goal in each of his last three games overall after a seven-game drought.
While the early season loss to Pittsburgh was part of a 1-4-1 stretch for the Devils (20-15-1), they come in having won eight of 11. Petr Sykora
scored twice and Martin Brodeur
made 22 saves in a 3-1 victory over Buffalo on Wednesday.
Pittsburgh will have to account for Sykora's line that includes Patrik Elias
and Dainius Zubrus
. Elias has five goals and seven assists in the last 11 games, and Zubrus has 10 goals on the season to match Sykora's total.
"I'm getting a chance to play with great players - Patty and Zubie most games. Each guy brings something different," Sykora said. "Once in a while you're going to have a game like this."
Brodeur didn't start Oct. 22, but he's gone 8-1-1 with a 0.79 goals-against average and four shutouts in his last 10 starts versus Pittsburgh.
He'll be trying to slow down Evgeni Malkin, who has six goals and 13 assists during a nine-game point streak and is among the NHL leaders with 43 points. Malkin, though, hasn't recorded one in his last five games against New Jersey.
Kennedy has two goals and five assists in a five-game point streak, while former Devil Chris Kunitz has recorded a goal in his last two games in the series.
Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, whose .894 save percentage since Nov. 25 is among the league's worst, has won four straight over New Jersey with a 0.98 GAA.
Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder
appears ready to make his return to the lineup Saturday after missing six games with back spasms.
"I think so," coach Peter DeBoer told the team's official website. "We wanted to get through a full practice, get a little contact in. I thought he looked good to me."