-The Penguins will face a different Devils team they saw in the season opener Oct. 3. During that game, the Devils' offense was a bit stagnant for most of the game and failed to generate many quality scoring chances. While it was shutout last night by the Kings, 2-0, the Devils' offensive has come to life as of late. The Penguins will have to play some tight defense tonight.
-Fleury will get the start once again tonight after facing a light workload last night. We understand he only faced 18 shots last night but we would still start Jeff Zatkoff. It's not about how many shots or how much work he gets in the span of a few games. The bigger focus should be about how much of a workload he accumulate overs the entire season. One would presume he will face the Ducks Monday as well.
-Another part of it is seeing what Zatkoff offers you. He is still in an evaluation process. It's one thing to see him face a less than spectacular Blue Jackets team as he did two weeks ago. It's another thing to see him face a veteran Devils team in a game of larger consequence.
-Speaking of the Ducks, we'll have large post on Teemu Selanne's history in Pittsburgh tomorrow on the blog. We hope you'll like it.
-In the span of 48 hours, the Penguins will face arguably the greatest Finn (Teemu Selanne), the greatest Czech (Jaromir Jagr) and the greatest goaltender of all time. Let that sink in.
-Jagr still has it. He has 14 points in 19 games. At the age of 41, he's still a legit top-line forward. He's not a 50-goal, 100-point threat like he was in his prime but he can still give you 20 goals and 50 points a seaosn if he's healthy (an admittedly big "if.")
-The Devils enter t his game with a banged up blue line. Captain Bryce Salvador, Anton Volchenkov and rookie Jon Merrill are each out of the lineup due to injuries while Peter Harrold will play after taking a big hit from Los Angeles' Jordan Nolan last night. The Penguins need to pressure the Devils' defensemen.
-We're not sure how or if Zach Sill will be used. He is a fourth-line player at any level. He had a fairly decent preseason and won a ton of faceoffs. But the Penguins' fourth line of Tanner Glass, the great Joe Vitale and Craig Adams has been playing pretty consistent most of the season. We're not saying Sill doesn't deserve a call-up but we don't see a need he would fill.
-Simon Despres has been really strong this season at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and by many accounts of those who have seen him play, he's been playing a pretty strong all around game. But short of injuries, we're not sure we see an immediate route for him to reclaim a spot on the NHL roster at the moment.
-Sill is in the lineup in place of Vitale. We're not sure what Vitale would have done to deserve a healthy scratch (if that is indeed the case). Vitale played okay.
-Sill will be the 11th player to wear No. 38 for the Penguins. He joins Scott Gruhl, Jiri Hrdina, Peter Allen, Andreas Johansson, Jan Hrdina, Jeff Taffe, Jonathan Filewich, Mark Letestu, Nick Johnson and Colin McDonald.
-We'll go with Jan Hrdina as the best No. 38 in franchise history.
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Dustin Jeffrey and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Devils' starters are Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique, Michael Ryder, Andy Greene, Marek Zidlicky and Martin Brodeur.
-Their scratches are Jacob Josefsen, Mattias Tedenby and Anton Volechekov.
19:16: A wrister by Jussi Jokinen from the top of the right circle is fought off.
18:43: A slapper by Dainius Zubrus from the right circle is blocked partially by Letang.
16:46: A wrister by Eric Gelinas from the left point is deflected juuust wide.
14:58: Jagr tries to sneak a pass from the left circle to Travis Zajac above the blue paint. Matt Niskanen reads the play and breaks it up.
14:55: Zubrus bring a stick up in teh Penguins' slot and catches Jokinen in the face. That's two minutes for high sticking. Crosby, Kris Letang, Evgnei Malkin, James Neal and Kunitz take the ice.
13:06: Jokinen snaps off a wrister from deep on the right wing. Broduer makes the save. Brandon Sutter tries to jam in the rebound but no dice.
12:51: As the penalty expires, Niskanen snaps off a shot from the top of the left circle. Brodeur fights it off.
12:45: Niskanen pumps a slapper form the left point, Brodeur fight sit off.
12:00: Pinching in deep on the left wing, Gelinas is slammed hard into the Penguins' end boards by Engelland for his troubles. He's a little sluggish to recover.
11:04: A slap shot by Andrei Loktionov from the right point is blocked wide.
10:32: Paul Martin whips a wrister from the right point off the end boards and banks it to Crosby to the left of the cage. Crosby tries to jam it in but hits it off the post.
9:35: Olli Maatta cranks a slapper from the right point. Brodeur stands up and fights it off with a chest save. Neal is battling for the rebound but Adams Larsson sweeps it away.
8:44: Kunitz cransk a long-range slapper from the left point. Brodeur boots it away.
6:52: Maatta tees up a slapper form the left point. Brodeur kicks it out with his left skate.
6:49: The Devils their first power play as Neal is called for xxx Stephen Gionta in the Devils' slot. Sutter, Orpik, Adams and Martin take the ice.
6:27: Ryder snaps off wrister from teh right circle which Martin leans down to block.
4:34: Neal leaves the box and pressures Larsson for a puck in the Devil's right wing corner. He forces a turnover and deals a pass to Crosby in the right circle. Crosby lifts a wrister which Brodeur knocks down and covers.
4:11: Zidlicky whacks a quick slapper from the right point which is deflected wide to the far side.
3:52: Battlign for a puck on the Devils' end boards, Henrique sort of holds up Kunitz and forces him to crash into the boards facefirst. Kunitz is a little slow to get up but seems fine for the most part. Henrique is sent to the penalty box for holding. Neal, Kunitz, Malkin, Letang and Crosby take the ice.
3:01: Neal tries to sweep in a forehand shot from the right of the cage. Broduer holds it out.
2:39: Crosby shacks a one-timer from above the right circle. Zubrus fights it off and clears to give his team a change.
1:53: Martin chops a slapper from the right point wide of the cage.
1:47: As the Henrique minor expires, Jokinen chops a slapper from the top of the left circle. Brodeur smothers it.
0:55: Zidlicky wires a slapper from the right point. Fleury gloves it.
0:44: Zubrus snaps off a wrister from the lef tcircle bu thas it blocked by a kneeling Engelland.
0:18: The Devils force a turnover and get a late goal. Zubrus forces Letang into a turnover in the right corner of the Penguins' zone with a check into the boards. Greene corrals it and snaps off a wrister which appears to hit off a skate of Adams. It squeaks through Fleury's equipment and into the net. The Devils had generated some strong puck possession before the turnover and potentially wore out the Penguins who were chasing the Devils in their own zone. The goal is unassisted. Devils 1-0.
0:00: End of period. Devils 1, Penguins 0.
-The Penguins controlled that period for the the first 19:42 of play. They put a lot of shots on net and kept play in the offensive zone for most of the game. If not for Brodeur and one strong shift by the Devil sat the end of the period, the Penguins have a lead.
-The Penguins power play did a nice job of generating shots. Brodeur did a better job kicking out safe rebounds which the Penguins' forwards couldn't get to.
-Sill was hard to notice that period. He had 3:45 of ice time on four shifts and was 1 for 1 in faceoffs.
-The Penguins lead the game in shots on net, 10-3.
-Maatta, Kunitz, Sutter and Neal each lead the game with two shots.
-Greene leads the game with 9:04 of ice time.
-Martin leads the Penguins with 8:17.
-The Penguins have an 8-3 lead in faceoffs (73 percent).
-Crosby is 6 for 7 (86 pecent).
-Henrique was 2 for 6 (33 percent).
-Engelland, Letang and Greene each lead the game with two blocked shots.
19:33: Ryder hustles in off the right wing and attacks the net. Martin slides down and knocks the puck off his stick.
18:47: After Brodeur fumbles a puck behind his own net, Jokinen recovers it in the right wing corner and centers a pass to Malkin above the blue paint. Malkin taps the puck wide of the cage as Brodeur scramble back to the crease.
18:35: Gelinas pounds a one-timer from center point. Fleury gets a piece of it.
17:35: Kunitz is shown on the bench with a towel over a bloody nose.
17:52: Sutter lifts a wrister from the right half wall. Brodeur knocks it dead and covers.
17:29: Matt D'Agostini whacks a one-timer from the left wing. Brodeur steers it away.
16:38: An up and down sequence for Letang. He makes a marvelous play behind the Penguins' net to muscle Gionta off the puck and push it up ice. At his own blue line, he forces a pass to Sill but allows Ryan Carter to partially break it up. Luckily for the Penguins, Sill is able to recover the puck but he has to hold up to collect it. If that's a clean pass, the Penguins have a potential three-on-two heading into the Devils' zone.
15:42: The Penguins generate their own offense off a turnover. Taking a pass at the right point. Zidlicky fumbles the puck and allows Kunitz to race after it into the neutral zone. Gaining the puck, he enters the offensive zone, veers towards the net and attacks. Brodeur lunges out with a poke check and get part of the puck which ends up hopping up and into the cage. The goal is unassisted. Devils 1, Penguins 1.
12:23: After a few stagnant minutes, Kunitz chops a slapper from the right wing over the cage.
9:45: As the Penguins make a poor line change, Harrold is able to snap off a pass to Steve Bernier and springs him off on a breakaway. Flying down the slot, he attacks with the backhand. Fleury is able to stretch to his left and kick out the puck.
7:49: Zidlicky pounds a slapper from the right point which Fleury fights off with his blocker.
6:36: Letang hustles up the left wing and flips a backhander on net. Brodeur gloves it.
6:25: Zajac tries to jam in a backhander from the right wing but is denied by Fleury.
5:44: After Letang is knocked off the puck behind the Penguins' net by Zubrus, Zajac deals a little pass to Jagr on the right wing. Jagr lifts a shot which Fleury fights off.
4:55: After Niskanen makes a terrible turnover at center point, Ryder steals it and veers in on net on a mini breakaway. Fleury challenges and knocks the puck off his stick. Niskanen owes Fleury a beer.
2:29: Moving in off the right wing wall, Malkin spins in the right circle and whips a backhander wide of the net on the near side.
1:49: Jokinen snaps off a wrister from the left wing towards the cage. Malkin is there hoping for a re-direction but Brodeur challenge and breaks it up.
1:38: The Devils strike in strnation. Zubrus gains the offensive zone at center point and deals a pass Zajac above the right circle. Zajac deals a pass to Larsson who slide into the left circle and rips a wrister. Jagr appears to get a stick on it and re-directs it by Fleury. Larsson gets credit for the goal while Zajac and Zubrus get assists. Devils 2-1.
0:00: End of period. Devils 2, Penguins 1.
-That was similar to the first period. The Penguins controlled play for most of the period then gave up a goal late.
-Brodeur continues to be the story of the game to us. He's making plenty of save.
-The Devils put a few more shots on net in the second period than the first period. Fleury had to step up a few more times.
-Kris Letang has not had a strong game. He's been fairly sloppy with the puck.
-The Penguins lead the game in shots on net, 16-13.
-The Penguins lead in attempted shots, 30-27.
-Kunitz leads the game with four shots.
-Andy Greene leads the game with 17:11 of ice time.
-Letang leads the Penguins with 16:42 of ice time.
-The Penguins lead in faceoffs, 15-13 (54 percent).
-Crosby is 10-14 (54 percent).
-Gionta is 3 for 6 (50 percent).
-Engelland, Martin, Letang, Greene and Larsson each lead the game with two blocked shots.
19:15: Crosby clips Zubrus in the face with a stick in the neutral zone. Zubrus is cut so that's four minutes for high sticking. Sutter, Adams, Orpik and Martin take the ice.
18:29: Brunner flings a wrister from a bad angle on the right wing.
18:18: Gelinas hammers a heavy one-timer from the right point. Fleury fights it off.
16:54: After helping force a turnover on the boards Orpik flings a puck down ice for a big clear.
15:22: Brunner tries to saucer a pass from the right wall but has it stolen by Glass. Glass is able to backhand it down ice to kill off the rest of Crosby's penalty. What an effort by the Penguins' special teams.
14:41: Malkin fights off a check from and puts a low wrister from the left of the cage. Brodeur fights it off.
13:11: Martin takes a pass above the right circle and rips a one-timer which Brodeur fights off. He allows a big rebound to the slot. As Brodeur slides out of position, Jokinen chops the rebound back the cage but has Larsson blocks it. What a sequence!
12:39: Battling for a puck at the Devils' blue line Zidlicky clips Neal in the face with a stick. That's two minutes. Crosby, Letang, Neal. Malkin and Kunitz take the ice.
12:23: Kunitz hacks at a loose puck in the blue paint several times but can't get it by Brodeur's right skate.
11:57: Off a rush, Neal lifts a wrister from the left circle. Brodeur knocks it dead and covers.
11:48: Crosby booms a slapper from above the left circle. Brodeur fights it off and rejects Kunitz's chance on the rebound.
11:20: Off a neutral zone turnover by Malkin Gionta lifts a little ackhander from the left circle. Fleury fight sit off.
10:57: From center point, Malkin strokes a slapper which Gionta blocks.
10:39: The Zidlicky minor expires. The Penguins put plenty of chances on net.
10:07: Beau Bennett whips a wrister from the right wing on net. Brodeur fights it off.
9:52: Another power play for the Penguins as Larsson put a puck out of play from his own zone. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Letang and Neal take the ice.
8:23: Off some pretty passing by Jokinen and Crosby, Letang chops a shot from the left circle. Brodeur steers it away.
8:05: Malkin zips a backhander from the right circle. Brodeur punches it out.
7:52: Larsson's penalty expires. He leaves the box and tags Beau Bennett with a big hit just as he leaves the box. Wow.
6:08: Martin chops a slapper from the left point. Jagr gets a stick on it and deflects it out of play.
5:54: Another turnover. Another Devils goal. Controlling a puck in his own right circle, he tries to force a pass through Zubrus' skates. He tries to recover the puck but is tripped up a bit by Zubrus. Jagr recovers the puck and rips a wrister by the glove hand of Fleury. Letang barks at an official apparently claiming hie was tripped. Zubrus gets an assist. Devils 3-1.
4:39: Brunner rips a wrister from the right wing on net. Fleury eats it up.
3:23: Off some strong passing, Dupuis lifts a wrister from the right circle. It glances off Brodeur's mask and deflects out of play.
1:55: With a faceoff in the New Jersey zone, the Penguins pull Fleury for an extra attacker.
1:17: Why not? Pressuring Kunitz into a turnover in the Penguins' left circle, Jagr recovers the puck and flings a backhander into open cage for one of us:
The goal is unassisted. Devils 4-1.
0:00: End of game. Devils 4, Penguins 1.
-During the recent build up to this past week's induction ceremonies to the Hockey Hall of Fame, we came across an article on former Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer. In it, he talked about how he chaffed a bit at the style the Devils coaches wanted him to play. As a junior player, Niedermayer could rely on his skating to get up and down the ice and do virtually anything on the rink. When he got to New Jersey, the Devils reign him in and limited how many chance he could take to make an individual play with his own abilities. The Devils forced and taught him to play within in the team's structure. Niedermayer said at the time he wasn't crazy about the heavy-handed ways of the Devils coaching staff, specifically assistant Larry Robinson who oversaw the defense. As he developed into a Norris Trophy winner and a hall-of-fame caliber player, Niedermayer grew to appreciate those lessons from the Devils coaching staff.
-That brings us to Kris Letang. The Penguins all-star defenseman is every bit the peer of Niedermayer in terms of physical abilities. In fact, he might have an edge on Niedermayer in terms of physical play. But he doesn't have one ounce of Niedermayer's composure or discipline. That handicap was on display tonight.
-Throughout Letang's time with the Penguins, the Penguins primary assistant coaches who oversaw the blue line have been Mike Yeo and Todd Reirden. We think both are good coaches, but they aren't butt-kickers the way Robinson is. In other words, the Penguins haven't developed that composure or discipline in Letang. They still allow him to do too much outside of the structure of the team. Tonight, he had a role in turnovers in his own zone which led to three goal by the Devils. And this isn't a new trend with Letang. Undisciplined plays like those are alarmingly becoming the norm for him.
-We're not sure if composure or discipline is more of a natural trait or if you can develop it, but Letang doesn't display much of it. We're not sure what the answer is in his regard.
-The Penguins' offense reverted back to it's cold ways tonight. The Penuins put plenty of shots on net tonight but couldn't really capitalize on second chance rebounds. Martin Brodeur kicked out a lot of rubber tonight but most of his rebounds were safe.
-The power play, which Letang is part of, really let the Penguins down tonight. Likes much of their five-on-five offense, the Penguins puts plenty of power-play shots on net but didn't do much with rebounds.
-We're not sure if using Paul Martin, a product of that Devils system, on the first power-play unite would have lead to better results tonight, but he has shown an ability to distribute puck a little better from that center point position than Letang or Evgeni Malkin.
-So much for our theory on offensive zone faceoffs being key. Tonight, the Penguins dominated in that area by winning 13 of 18 (72.2 percent).
-The Penguins generated plenty of quality scoring chances but just didn't capitalize on them.
-Chris Kunitz did everything he could to punch in some goals. He scored the Penguins' only goals and put seven shots on net. He was not the problem tonight.
-The Malkin-James Neal-Jussi Jokinen line took a step back after displaying a strong effort last night.
-The Devils' top line of Dainius Zubrus, Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr just devoured the Penguins with offensive pressure. Their forecheck, particuarly by Zubrus created several problems.
-The Penguins' third line was once again very quite. Beau Bennett, Brandon Sutter and Matt D'Agostini took a step back as well from last night.
-Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis created a few things but it would be a stretch to say they really offered a sustained threat.
-Sill was hard to notice for most of the game. He had 9:10 of ice time on 11 shifts and and was 1 for 5 on faceoffs (20 percent).
-Marc-Andre Fleury was not the problem. He did what he could with so many turnovers in his own zone.
-News flash: Brodeur is still pretty good.
-Jagr still keeps scoring. It's amazing how he always seems to adapt to a new team and a new style of play but still keeps producing.
-We say this every time Andy Greene plays the Penguins but he's such an underrated player. He doesn't have any skill or physical attribute which overwhelms you but he always seems to make the right decision on the ice. He is the prototypical Devils defenseman. If we were making the decisions for Team U.S.A., he would be making the trip to Sochi.
-The Penguins led in shots on net, 28-22.
-The Penguins led in attempted shots, 46-38.
-Kunitz led the game with seven shots.
-Jagr led the Devils with three shots.
-Greene led the game with 27:04 of ice time.
-Letang led the Penguins with 26:11.
-The Penguins led in faceoffs, 26-19 (58 percent).
-Crosby was 20 for 26 (77 percent).
-Stephen Gionta was 5 for 10 (50 percent).
-Letang and Larsson each led the game with three blocked shots.
-Malkin had a six-game assist streak snapped.
-Malkin extended a goal-scoring slump to 13 games.