Pens take 2-game losing streak to NJ

A quick start is a must against New Jersey tonight.

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Penguins at Devils, 7 p.m.

The Devils have been hot recently despite not having Martin Brodeur between the pipes.  With an 7-1-0 record in their last eight, the Devils have made life a little less easy for Pittsburgh.

Two weeks ago the New York Rangers and Penguins had distanced themselves a bit from the rest of the pack in the Atlantic Division.  However, both are now struggling while Philadelphia and New Jersey have been surging.

With a win last night, the Flyers are tied with the Pens for second in the division with 34 points, just four points behind the Rangers.  Also, the Devils are just four points behind the Pens and Devils.

Some say that it’s too early in the season to be watching the standings.  I believe that to be true.  Whether the Penguins were in first or last (or tied for second) at this point in the season wouldn’t really matter.

However, these divisional matchups are going to be either very helpful or very costly down the road.

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosy (87) is greeted by teammates after scoring his third goal of the game against the New Jersey Devils in a NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008. The Penguins won 4-1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosy (87) is greeted by teammates after scoring his third goal of the game against the New Jersey Devils in a NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008. The Penguins won 4-1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pittsburgh has earned three of a total four points against New Jersey so far this season and gave the Devils their only loss in eight games.  A win tonight would give the Pens five points and a very high chance of winning the season series.  To lock one of those divisional tiebreakers away early in the season would be great, especially against a tough defensive team like the Devils.

They have been doing it the same way for what seems like forever and it is still paying off.  The trap is tough to break … even more so when you fall behind.

Therefore, Pittsburgh needs to get an early lead.  They did so in the last game on Nov. 29 when Sidney Crosby scored his first of three goals just over a minute in to the opening period.

The Pens have been having a hard time protecting a lead against teams, but I believe that it is easier to do against the Devils.  Yes, they are better offensively this season than they have been in the past, but they don’t appear to be a team that is powerful enough offensively to overcome something like a two-goal their period deficit.

With that said, the Pens need to throw the puck at the net and hope for good things to happen.  That’s what Sid did the last time these two teams played just 11 days ago … it led to a win.

The power play is a topic of concern as well.  One-for-eight in Monday’s loss to Buffalo is unacceptable.  Any chances against the Devils on the power play are huge because you have them out of their element and can dictate play.

With the Devils penalty kill at 77.6% the man-advantage will play a huge role in tonight’s game.

Game Notes

  • Jeff Taffe was recalled from WBS for tonight’s game.  Taffe has 29 pts. (14 G – 15 A) in 24 games this season.
  • Tim Wallace was also re-called from WBS.  He is more of a “tough-guy” presence type of player, logging 152 PIM in 127 career games in WBS.  This season he has seven pts. (4 G – 3 A) in 21 game.
  • Pittsburgh is 5-0-1 in it’s last six games against New Jersey dating back to last year.
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