Devils head to Pittsburgh to face Penguins
Friday, 02.01.2013 / 8:11 PM
NHL.comDEVILS (3-0-3) at PENGUINS (4-3-0)
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First of four meetings between these Atlantic Division rivals, three of which come over a nine-day span. New Jersey and Pittsburgh play a home-and-home on Feb. 9-10. Last season, they split six games. Ilya Kovalchuk had a field day for the Devils, putting up 11 points (four goals). Evgeni Malkin had four goals and six points to pace the Penguins.
Is the third time the charm? Pittsburgh aims for its first win this season at Consol Energy Center after losses to Toronto and the New York Islanders. New Jersey, on the other hand, enters as the only team left in the Eastern Conference without a regulation loss; however, the Devils have still dropped three in a row.
On the one hand, New Jersey has picked up at least a point in all six of its games this season. But the Devils have sandwiched a pair of overtime losses around a shootout defeat, and will be looking to snap that skid Saturday. They never led on home ice Thursday night against the Islanders, but rallied from 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 deficits before a Brad Boyes power-play goal in the extra period doomed them to a 5-4 setback. Adam Henrique forced overtime by scoring in his return to the lineup.
"What do you say? He's got a knack for those big goals," coach Peter DeBoer said of Henrique, a 2012 Calder Trophy finalist. "I thought he gave us a boost of energy."
Even if Pittsburgh picks up two points Saturday, the Penguins will still have one fewer win in their own building than they already have at Madison Square Garden. Their new backup goalie, Tomas Vokoun, is in large part to thank. Vokoun picked up his first victory with the team in New York on Jan. 20, then stopped all 28 shots by the Rangers on Thursday night in a 3-0 triumph. Vokoun made an early goal by Malkin stand up for 40 minutes before James Neal and Simon Despres added scores in the third.
"It was a lot easier game," said Vokoun, who had a far more strenuous night the first time he faced the Rangers. "Obviously the play of the team defensively was good and it was a kind of simple game for me. There was not a lot of tough decisions. We protected the back side of the net well, and when there was a loose puck, we cleared it and there [were] no second chances. I think today we played as good as we have this year."
David Clarkson's assist on Henrique's goal Thursday gave him a six-game points streak to start the season (4-4-8) and pushed him into the Devils' scoring lead. Ryan Carter had his first points of the season, a goal and an assist. … Despres had his first career multi-point game for the Penguins with a goal and an assist Thursday.
New Jersey defenseman Mark Fayne missed Thursday's game with an upper-body injury. … Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen is on injured reserve and expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a foot injury.