Surging Pens aim to extend Devils' recent struggles
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins will aim for a seventh victory in eight games when they welcome the struggling New Jersey Devils for Friday's Metropolitan Division battle at CONSOL Energy Center.
Pittsburgh not only has won six of its past seven games but also is sporting a 9-2-1 mark over its last 12 games.
The division-leading Penguins also boast a 13-3-0 home record this season and have won six straight in the Steel City since last losing as the host on Nov. 13 against Philadelphia.
Although the Devils have won four of the last five meetings against the rival Penguins overall, including a 4-1 victory in New Jersey when the clubs last met on Nov. 16, Pittsburgh has claimed three of four and seven of the last nine games at CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins recorded a 3-0 home win over New Jersey back on Oct. 3 in the season opener for both teams.
The Pens bounced back from a loss in their most recent outing, posting a 2-1 regulation win over visiting Columbus on Monday after blowing a late lead in Boston on Saturday.
Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby both lit the lamp to lift the Penguins to the close win over Columbus. The win briefly gave Pittsburgh possession of first place in the Eastern Conference, but the Bruins regained that distinction with Tuesday's win over Calgary. With 46 points, Boston is currently three ahead of the Pens for the top spot in the East.
Olli Maatta, Deryk Engelland, Pascal Dupuis and Jussi Jokinen supplied the assists on the Malkin and Crosby goals, while Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 32-of-33 shots to help the Pens down the Blue Jackets.
The Pens played Monday without winger James Neal and defenseman Brooks Orpik and neither player is available for tonight. Neal is serving the second test of a five-game suspension for kneeing Boston's Brad Marchand in the head during last Saturday's game versus the Bruins.
Orpik, meanwhile, is out indefinitely with a concussion suffered in the same game. During a scrum on Saturday, Orpik was pulled down from behind by Boston's Shawn Thornton, who then began throwing punches at the unsuspecting player. Orpik was carried off the ice on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital.
Thornton's probable suspension is expected to come down today, as the Boston enforcer has an in-person hearing scheduled with the league on Friday.
Like Pittsburgh, the Devils also faced the Blue Jackets in their last outing, but Jersey coughed up a 3-1 lead on Tuesday en route to losing in regulation at Columbus. Nick Foligno was credited with the game-winning goal when Ryan Johansen's pass went in off his skate with 91 seconds remaining, lifting the Blue Jackets to a 5-4 comeback win at Nationwide Arena.
The Devils lost despite taking a 1-0 lead just 32 second into the game. New Jersey eventually pushed its cushion to 3-1 after Damien Brunner's goal at 1:08 of the second period. Columbus then scored the next three goals to take a 4-3 lead before Brunner tied it with his second tally of the game with 6:01 left in the third.
The only goal after that was the one that went off Foligno's skate with 1:31 remaining in the contest.
"It's tough to get scored against late in a game like that with the points sitting there for us," said Brunner.
In addition to Brunner's two-goal performance, Travis Zajac and Michael Ryder also scored for the Devils, who fell to 3-6-1 in their last 10. Martin Brodeur allowed five goals on just 23 shots in the loss.
Anton Volchenkov injured his neck in the recent loss to Columbus, but the veteran defenseman expects to play on Friday. Volchenkov has four assists in 24 games this season.
Cory Schneider will get the start in net tonight for the Devils. His only appearance against the Pens came in the loss on Oct. 3, when Schneider allowed all three goals on 21 shots.
Fleury is 16-21-4 with a 2.52 goals against average in 41 career tests against the Devils. He expects to get the call between the pipes on Friday.
12/13 10:53:55 ET