One team has won 7 of their last 8 and completed a road trip with 4 wins out of 5. They have had some players return from injury and the team is getting closer. Now they are back at home and looking to keep the momentum churning to roll down the river to Port Victory.
The other team has recently gave up a 3-1 lead quite easily on Monday to Buffalo, and are struggling with numerous injuries of their own. Yet, despite an awful power play, they boast two of the best players in the world and it is the same team who beat the first team 4-1 last time these two met.
The other team is blogged by this guy right here. That first team are Your New Jersey Devils. Click on after the jump for more information, general thoughts, and such. Otherwise, feel free to leave a comment about the game before, during, and after. As always, keep it clean, keep it relevant, and keep it New Jersey. And if you're going to the game, try to bring a new and unwrapped toy to the game for the team's annual Toys for Tots drive and help someone's holidays a lot happier.
I recently (as in Tuesday evening) got a chance to ask Frank of Pensburgh (SBN Synergy! Catch it!) his thoughts about the game. I think they sum up, in conjunction with how the team has been doing recently, why this could turn out well for the Devils.
Yeah injuries are really mounting for the Pens. It's bad enough they started the season off with some guys banged up already but this is just getting painful. With Philippe Boucher and Hal Gill joining Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar, it's almost like teams are planting land mines on the Penguins' blue line.
In Monday's game against the Sabres, Evgeni Malkin threaded some amazing passes to Ruslan Fedotenko for two goals and a near third. The two don't play together as often as, say, Malkin and Sykora, but I'd expect head coach Michel Therrien will throw them out there again against the Devils.
Crosby is still on a hot streak, scoring at least a point in the past seven games. Combined he's notched 16 points over seven (6G, 10A). I don't suspect he'll cool down tomorrow night, especially considering how well he faired against the Devils the last time out.
One thing that is suspect is the Penguins' power play. They went a dreaded 1-for-8 the other night (as you read/commented on) and were literally handed chances all night. Take for example the THREE 5-on-3 chances they had on the night, in which they only converted on one. I, as well as many readers on Pensburgh, contribute the failure to over-passing, over-thinking and under-shooting.
Either way it should be a good game, as many division matches are. Best of luck Devils (but not too much) and let's have a good one.
So we have a team that has won one out of their last four, striken further by injury, and their power play is awful. Combine that with the Devils' recent form, and we got ourselves a receipe for tasty victory.
However, that would be foolish - as are most of my attempts at metaphors - the Devils really can't take this team lightly for the reasons I highlighted in bold from Frank's message. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby our world class hockey players playing like world class hockey players. From November 29, it was the Crosby show that deflated a Devils winning streak in decisive fashion. And it's going to take a lot to keep a fantastic player down. Especially when the Penguins have the league's leading scorer on another line with other players who have already immediately benefitted from his talents.
That all said, the Penguins are beatable and I think the best approach may be how the Devils did it up in Montreal. While it may sound stupid to get in a heads-up battle against Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins defense is literally hurting. That should allow the Devils forwards to hustle up and give Dany Sabourin a lot of work. Even if he looks good to start, they can be confident in beating him as that is what happened in New Jersey's last two games: Martin Biron and Carey Price played very well in net for their teams; but the Devils didn't give up and they broke through with some well placed shots. If it can work against a fast Montreal team in an intimidating place to play, where the Devils kept it close and battled real well all game long; it could work at home against Pittsburgh.
The last thing the Devils should do is to keep handing Pittsburgh power plays. Frank laments their recent struggles, but a team with Crosby and Malkin will eventually get their reward for a man advantage. New Jersey should make extra effort to keep their sticks down and their tempers cool.
From the recent games, I expect the same lineup from the Montreal game against Pittsburgh. I don't see a need to change anything, really. Maybe Mike Rupp in for P-L L-L, but it doesn't bother me that it might not happen. Gulitti is confident that Clemmensen will get the start; and I agree - he did very well in his last two starts. Plus, he may want a little revenge after Crosby lit him up. So does the rest of the team, as they didn't do well in that game at all. Sutter is cognizant of this, based on this Gulitti post. Let's hope the Devils give an excellent effort Wednesday night and come away with that all-important W.