Devils host Penguins for Sunday matinee
Sunday, 02.05.2012 / 8:48 AM
PENGUINS (30-18-4) at DEVILS (29-19-3)
MSG PLUS RADIO:
Bloomberg 1130 AM
Pittsburgh 9-1-0; New Jersey 6-3-1.
This is the fourth of six meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Devils have won two of the first three matchups, including a 3-1 decision at the Consol Energy Center on Jan. 7.
New Jersey winger Ilya Kovalchuk
isn't known for his fists. But on Saturday, the Russian sniper had a "Gordie Howe hat trick," tallying a goal and an assist while also dropping the gloves with Philadelphia Flyers forward Brayden Schenn. Kovalchuk won the bout, knocking Schenn to the ice.
Kovalchuk was angered by what he thought was a slew-foot by Zac Rinaldo on Devils captain Zach Parise
. Kovalchuk wanted to fight Rinaldo, but instead found himself exchanging fists with Schenn.
"I asked him, 'What are you going to do?' He said, 'Fight you,'" Kovalchuk told the Newark Star-Ledger. "Rinaldo slew-footed Zach. He's one of those kind of players who wanted to get something going and they did."
Pittsburgh is playing without two of its top players -- centers Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal -- and yet it continues to find ways to win. The Pens won for the ninth time in their last 10 games Saturday afternoon, earning an impressive 2-1 victory against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Evgeni Malkin scored via the power play, while Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves.
"Marc was exceptional," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He was able to control the rebounds and limit the opportunities they had."
New Jersey appeared to be on its way to an emphatic victory in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon, as it held a 6-0 lead after 40 minutes. But the Flyers nearly pulled off an improbable rally, scoring four times in the third while outshooting the Devils 24-1. In the end, though, New Jersey hung on for a 6-4 win.
"It's a crazy game and it's a game of momentum," Devils goalie Johan Hedberg
told the Star-Ledger. "I think we played very good for two periods. We were up, 6-0. At the same time, if you've been in this game for a while, you know that these games can go crazy, like this one did.
"They were pushing it and everything bounced right for them. They got back in it, and it got a little crazy at the end."
Pens forward Matt Cooke has two goals in his last three games. … Kovalchuk now has seven points in his last three games for New Jersey. He also reached the 20-goal plateau for a 10th straight season Saturday afternoon. Martin Brodeur
has won back-to-back starts and his 5-2-1 in his last seven appearances.
Pittsburgh will be without captain Sidney Crosby (concussion/neck), as well as Jordan Staal (MCL), Simon Despres (MCL), Arron Asham (concussion) and Robert Bortuzzo (concussion). … New Jersey is likely to be missing Henrik Tallinder
(leg), Travis Zajac
(ACL), Ryan Carter
(hand), Adam Larsson
(back) and Adam Henrique
The Malkin-James Neal-Chris Kunitz line continues to shine for Pittsburgh. It is responsible for 35 of the team's last 67 goals. … The Devils lead the League with 12 shorthanded goals. Kovalchuk has three of them.
"Hopefully the word spreads you don't want to mess with this guy. He's a big, tough, strong man. I like why he fought. It wasn't for himself, but for Zach." -- Devils coach Peter DeBoer on Ilya Kovalchuk