Pittsburgh Penguins back home to meet Devils

By: Brad Young | Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Jersey (34-35-3-1) continues a four-game road trip with Friday’s matchup against a Pittsburgh (42-23-5-3) squad playing on back-to-back nights.  The Devils are quickly running out of time to make the postseason, sitting nine points behind eighth-place Buffalo in the Eastern Conference standings with just nine games remaining.

The Penguins are still trying to get healthy for another run at the Stanley Cup, with star centers Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (lower body injury) still not available to take the ice.  Pittsburgh currently resides in second place in the Atlantic Division, and is fourth in the Eastern Conference.

New Jersey dropped to 1-3 its last four games after Tuesday’s setback to Boston as a 120 road underdog, 4-1.  The combined five goals landed directly on the closing total, ending a string of three consecutive ‘under’ outings.

Left wing Ilya lit the lamp at 11:05 of the first period on a power-play goal, but the Devils were unable to score the rest of the game.  New Jersey finished the period by outshooting the Bruins, 16-6, before getting outshot in the second period, 17-8.

The Devils rank eighth in the league in penalty-kill percentage (83.6) and ninth in goals against (2.5), but have struggled by ranking 26th in power-play percentage (15.3) and 30th in goals per game (2.1).

Pittsburgh improved to 3-1 its last four games heading into a Thursday-night matchup at Philadelphia.  The Penguins upended Detroit Monday in a shootout as a 157 road underdog, 5-4.  The combined nine goals soared past the 5 ½-goal closing total, enabling the ‘over’ to cash the fourth straight matchup.

Pittsburgh almost blew a four-goal lead before netting the only goal in the shootout when James Neal scored the game winner.  That marked the Penguins first win in Detroit since winning Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals.

Pascal Dupuis had two goals and an assist in the victory, while Tyler Kennedy made the score 4-0 with a second-period tally.  Goaltender Brent Johnson stonewalled 37 shots, subbing in for starter Marc-Andre Fleury.  Pittsburgh prevailed despite trailing the Red Wings in shots on goal, 41-25, and faceoffs won, 42-24.

The Penguins currently rank second in penalty-kill percentage (85.9), seventh in goals against (2.4), 10th in goals per game (2.8) and 23rd in power-play percentage (15.9).

New Jersey is a surprising 8-2 the past 10 meetings with Pittsburgh, but the teams have split four games this season.  The Penguins prevailed Oct. 11 as a 115 road underdog, 3-1, and Dec. 6 as 185 home ‘chalk,’ 2-1.

New Jersey triumphed Jan. 20 as a home ‘pick,’ 2-0, and March 4 in overtime as a 149 home favorite, 2-1.  The ‘under’ is a stellar 9-1 the previous 10 games in this series.  The Devils are 19-7 its last 26 games in Pittsburgh.

New Jersey left wing Zach Parise is still ‘out’ of action due to a knee injury.  The Devils conclude their road trip with Saturday’s matchup at Buffalo.  New Jersey has seen the ‘under’ go 13-4-5 the last 22 games against Atlantic Division opponents.

Pittsburgh left wing Matt Cooke (suspension) will miss the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs.  Center Mark Letestu is expected to miss this matchup with the Devils due to a shoulder injury.  The Penguins continue their three-game homestand versus Florida and Philadelphia.  The ‘under’ is 10-2-1 their previous 13 home outings.

NHL Network will provide coverage of Friday’s New Jersey-Pittsburgh game beginning at 4:00 p.m. PT from the Penguins’ CONSOL Energy Center.

 
 
 
 
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