-Happy New Year. Twenty-five years ago... something special happened between the Penguins and Devils on New Year's Eve:
-Mario Lemieux scored five goals five different ways against the Devils at the Civic Arena. To date, he is the only player in NHL history to accomplish this.
-It appears the Penguins will scratch Olli Maatta today. Dan Bylsma hinted as such in his comments yesterday. Maatta has had a few breakdowns as of late in individual one-on-one battles. Sunday, Columbus' Corey Tropp undressed him:
-On Festivus (Dec. 23), Ottawa's Erik Karlsson beat him on a slightly less spectacular move:
-This is what was always a concern with Maatta. Would he eventually start to wear down from playing professional hockey at the highest level - the NHL - for the first time as a 19-year-old. Considering the increased minutes he's had to deal with in recent weeks due to injuries and suspensions to other defensemen, he's maybe ahead of "schedule" in terms of starting to show signs of mental or physical fatigue. A game off might do him a world of good.
-Scratching Maatta under these circumstances isn't without recent precedent for the Penguins. As an 18-year-old rookie, Jordan Staal was made a healthy scratch after a stretch of iffy games. Head coach Michel Therrien sat Staal in an early December game during the 2006-07 season. Staal would finish the season with 81 games, 29 goals and was send in voting for the Calder Trophy voting as the league's top rookie.
-An EN reader on site sends in a jersey foul:
-It appears Matt Niskanen will be reunited with Rob Scuderi as a defensive pairing. Those two had quite a run at the start of the season while Kris Letang recovered from a preseason injury.
-Simon Despres returns to the lineup with Robert Bortuzzo. Those two have been solid in the handful of games they've played together this season.
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, the great Joe Vitale, Deryk Engelland, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratch is Olli Maatta.
-The Devils' starters are Jaromir Jagr, Travis Zajac, Danius Zubrus, Andy Greene, Mark Fayne and Martin Brodeur.
-Their scratches are Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby and Anton Volchenkov.
19:38: After an early icing, the great Joe Vitale hobbles down the runway to the dressing room with assistance. Neal jumps on the first line in his place.
19:24: Kunitz chips a wrister from the left half wall on net. Brodeur kicks it out.
18:50: Michael Ryder gains the offensive zone on the right wing and lifts a wrister which Fleury knocks dead.
18:22: The Devils strike first. After Neal loses the puck in the Penguins' left circle, Clowe taps a pass to Henrique in the slot. Henrique makes a few moves to get space on Scuderi and lifts a wrister by Fleury's glove hand. The Penguins looked like they were caught napping on that sequence. Clowe gets the only assist.
17:10: After Eric Gelinas turns the puck over deep in his own zone, Crosby flings a pass off the left wing wall to Kunitz in the right circle. Kunitz rips a one-timer over the cage.
16:59: Orpik whacks a one-timer from the right half wall. It hits a body and deflects behind the cage Crosby is able to force the rebound to Kunitz above the blue paint on the left of the cage. Kunitz has a wide open net but hurries a shove over the net.
16:36: Patrik Elias tries to push the puck through the neutral zone and is hit from the left side by Tanner Glass. Elias falls and crashes into the boards in front of the scorer's booth with his right side. Play is halted. An athletic trainer rushes out to attend to Elias. Eventually he recovers to his skates and makes his way to the bench and then the dressing room. There is no penalty. And there shouldn't be. It was a legal hit.
15:24: With Despres in deep on the left wing, Bortuzzo fumbles a puck at the Devils' blue line and has it stolen by the speedy Stephen Gionta. Gionta pokes the puck forward and is off on the races. He moves in on net and lifts a wrister from the slot. Fleury fights it off.
14:16: Off a turnover by Engelland in his own right circle, Zajac lifts a wrister wide to the far side.
13:54: Mark Fayne whacks a one-timer from the right point which Fleury fights off. S
13:43: The Devils will get ht game's first power play. Crosby is called for hooking Jaromir Jagr near the Penguins' right wing corner. The call was a little ticky tack. Brandon Sutter, Craig Adams, Bortuzzo and Orpik take the ice.
13:01: Bortuzzo cross checks Dainus Zubrus in the Penguins' right wing corner. No call.
11:58: Marek Zidlicky has a wrister from above the right circle blocked by Zach Sill.
11:37: As the Crosby minor expires Zidlicky whacks a one-timer from the right point which is blocked.
9:59: Battling for a puck behind the Devils' net, Conner is cross-checked by Jon Merril. No penalty.
9:36: According to Root Sports broadcaster Bob Errey, the great Joe Vitale has returned to the lineup.
9:21: Collecting a dump-in in the left wing circle, Brian Gibbons whips a bad-angle wrister on net. Brodeur hugs the near post and kicks it out.
8:20: Fayne chips a wrister from the right point. Fleury steers it away.
7:47: The great Joe Vitale hustles up the right wing and puts a wrister on net. Brodeur kicks it out.
6:58: Glass slams Bryce Salvador into the end boards of the Devils' zone.
5:52: A slapper by Fayne from the right point is blocked out of play by the stick of Neal.
4:00: Collecting a puck at the right point, Niskanen rips a wrister which hits a leg and deflects wide.
3:18: Jussi Jokinen is skating with Sill and Adams, He sets up Sill with a pass on the right. Sill lifts wrister which is blocked.
2:35: Reid Boucher snaps off a wrister from the right circle which is kicked out by Fleury.
2:14: Circling off a check, Jagr snaps off a quick wrister from the right circle. Fleury eats it up.
1:24: Chasing after a puck along his end boards, Orpik is slammed to the ice by Ryane Clowe.
1:04: Taking a pass at the left point, Orpik smacks a slapper at the cage. Jokinen is in front of Brodeur and appears to re-directs it on net. Brodeur fights it off.
0:00: End of period. Devils 1, Penguins 0.
-That was a sloppy, disjointed period all around. There wasn't a ton of flow or sustained offensive pressure by either team.
-Both teams have been sloppy with the puck but the Penguins seemed to be a tad worse with their puck management. Lots of turnovers.
-Kunitz wasn't particularly sharp. He had missed badly on two nice scoring chances and had a turnover in the offensive zone.
-Officials seem to be having a rough day so far. There were plenty of potential penalties by both team which went uncalled.
-The Devils have a 13-8 lead in shots on net.
-The Devils lead in attempted shots, 29-15.
-Kunitz, Jokinen, Fayne, Henrique, Boucher and Ryder each led the game with two shots.
-The horribly underrated Andy Green leads the game with 8:30 of ice time.
-Scuderi leads the Penguins with 7:30.
-The Penguins have a 7-6 edge in faceoffs (54 percent).
-Sutter is 3 for 3 (100 percent).
-Zajac is 3 for 6 (50 percent).
-Engelland, Glass, Sill and Henrique each lead the game with two blocked shots.
-An update on Elias:
19:04: Collecting a puck at the left point, Scuderi flings a wrister on net. Brodeur eats it up.
18:35: Reid Boucher rips a wrister from the right half wall. Fleury snags it.
17:15: The Devils go up by two. Collecting a loose puck on the left wing, Henrique deals a pass to Ryder in the high slot. Ryder lifts a wrister by a kneeling Bortuzzo and by the glove hand of Fleury. That goal kind of came out of no where. Henrique and Brodeur get assists. Devils 2-0.
16:01: Racing through the neutral zone, Gibbons banks a puck off the right wing boards behind Gelinas, skate by Gelina, collects the puck in the right circle and puts a little wrister on net. Brodeur smothers it. What a crafty play by GIbbons.
15:25: Off a feed by Henrique, Clowe hammers a one-timer from above the left circle. Fleury eats it up.
14:31: Off a give and go with Zidlicky, Andrei Loktionov lifts a wrister from a bad angle on the left wing. Fleury fights it off.
13:02: The Penguins get a goal through hard work. After a nice cycle between Despres, Gibbons and Kunitz in the left wing corner of the Devils zone, Crosby collects the puck in the right wing corner and deals a pass to Niskanen in the left circle. Niskanen wires a one-timer behind Brodeur to get his team back into the game. Crosby and Kunitz get assists.
11:03: Taking a pass at the right point, Fayne stokes a one-timer from the right point. Fleury eats it up.
10:29: Bortuzzo trips up Clowe in the Penguins' left wing corner. That's two minutes. Orpik, Engelland, Sutter and Adams take the ice.
9:18: Off a feed by Merrill, Gelinas unleashes a big blast from the right point. It deflects off the lid of Fleury. He appears a little shaken up but doesn't leave the game.
8:29: The Bortuzzo minor is killed with little threat from the Devils.
7:32: Getting a little space in the right circle, Zubrus flings a heavy backhander on net which Fleury fights off.
7:09: Using Zidlicky as a screen, Neal releases a tricky wrister from the left circle. Brodeur fights it off.
6:42: Neal is seend heading down the runway. He appeared to catch an elbow to the face from Zidlicky. Replay show Brodeur's stick catching him in the face.
5:59: Battling for a puck in the neutral zone, Sutter trips up Ryder. Engelland, the great Joe Vitale, Adams and Orpik take the ice. Neal is seen back on the bench.
4:09: With Kunitz on the ice to kill some power-play time, Jagr rips a wrister from the right circle which Fleury fights off.
3:52: As Sutter leaves the box, Jagr rips another wrister which deflects out of play.
2:22: Conner blocks a shot by Merrill at the left point. The puck rolls to the Devils' zone. As Conner gives chase, Brodeur sprints out of his crease and whips it into the Penguins' bench.
1:44: Fayne rips a wrister from the left point wide of the cage. It hits off the end boards and is smothered against the side of the cage by Fleury.
1:09: Working a puck free in the left wing corner, Jagr lifts a wrister from the right circle. Fleury fights it off.
0:58: Off a feed by Crosby, Neal rips a wrister wide to the far side.
0:50: Loktionov veers his way across the crease and tries to feed a backhanded pass to Steve Bernier above the blue paint. Despres reads the play all the way and intercepts the pass.
0:00: End of period. Devils 2, Penguins 1.
-Given flurry of offensive chances late in the period, the Penguins are probably a little lucky to only be down by a goal. The Devils dominated puck possession in the latter stages of the second.
-Being down 3-0 in terms of power play chances definitely hasn't helped the Penguins. We wouldn't be shocked to see them get a make-up call in the third period.
-Adam Henrique has been a pretty dangerous player today.
-Bortuzzo has had better games in his career.
-Jagr looks like he really wants a goal.
-The Devils lead in shots on net, 24-13.
-The Devils lead in attempted shots, 47-22.
-Fayne, Boucher, Ryder and Loktionov each lead the game with three shots.
-Kunitz, Jokinen and Gibbons each lead the Penguins with two shots.
-Zidlicky leads the game with 15:37 of ice time.
-We're guessing this is a byproduct of the lopsided special teams, but Engelland leads the Penguins with 15:26.
-The Devils have a 17-16 lead in faceoffs (52 percent).
-Gionta is 4 for 5 (80 percent).
-Sutter is 5 for 9 (56 percent).
-Engelland, Glass, Jokinen, Sill and Henrique each lead the game with two blocked shots.
17:35: Despres makes a nice play in the left circle of the Penguins' zone to knock the puck off Jagr's stick.
17:12: A pedestrian wrister by Greene from the left point is fought off by Brodeur.
15:56: Niskanen pounds a slapper from the right point wide to the far side.
15:31: Off a feed by Despres, Kunitz whacks a one-timer from center point. Broduer kicks it out. Crosby fends off Fayne and taps the rebound back on net with one hand. Brodeur eats it up.
13:32: On a two-on-one with Conner, Sutter lifts a wrister from the right wing which Brodeur fights off.
13:27: Niskanen whacks a slapper from the right point wide of the cage.
13:19: off a feed from behidn the cage by Conner, Kobasew rips a wrister from below the right circle. Brodeur fights it off.
12:16: Things have opened up. Off a feed from Jagr, Zubrus puts a little one-timer on net from the right circle. Fleury kicks it out.
12:08: Neal grips and rips a wrister from the left circle. Brodeur knocks it dead and covers.
11:55: Battling for a puck from behind the cage, the great Joe Vitale deals a pass to Jokinen to the left of the cage. Jokinen taps a one-timer off the near post.
11:20: Niskanen booms a slapper from the right point which Brodeur fights off.
10:36: With Fleury swimming in the crease, Loktionov tries to tuck in a forehand wraparound from the right of the cage but misses the cage.
10:10: Sill whacks Zajac to the ice with a nice shoulder check above the Penguins' right circle.
9:43: On a delayed penalty, Jagr circles out of the ring wing circle and a wrister over the cage.
9:37: The Penguins will need to kill off another penalty. Orpik is called for interference against Zubrus. Bortuzzo, Sutter, Adams and Scuderi take the ice.
8:18: Greene lifts a wrister from the left circle. Despite traffic, Fleury boots it out.
7:41: Gelinas lifts a wrister from the left wing. It hits of a stick. Fleury knocks it dead and smothers to freeze play.
7:37: The Penguins kill off the Orpik minor. The Devils offered little threat but they ddi eat two minutes of the game clock.
7:00: Nisanen whacks a one-timer from the right point off the end boards.
4:48: The Penguins finally get a power play. Gibbons pushes the puck up the right wing one-on-one against Salvador. Salvador shoves him slightly and is called for interference. That was a really ticky tack call. Jokinen, Niskanen, Kunitz, Crosby and Neal take the ice.
4:09: Niskanen whacks a one-timer from the right half wall. Gionta blocks it.
3:37: Despres forces a pass from the left circle. Merrill blocks it.
2:48: The Salvador minor is killed with no threat from the Penguins.
1:15: Jagr and company are trying to eat the puck in the right wing corner of the Penguins' zone to kill time.
0:46: Off a faceoff wing in the Penguins' left circle, Clowe snaps off a wrister which Fleury fights off.
0:20: After the Penguins finally get the puck out of the zone, the Penguins pul Fleury for an extra attacker.
0:00: End of game. Devils 2, Penguins 1.
-The NHL should institute a Devils/Two goal rule. If the Devils get up by two goals, the game should automatically be over. That way, we would all be spared having to watch any more.
-In all seriousness, this was a classic Devils game. They got an early lead, sat on it and lulled the other team to sleep with some tough defense.
-The lack of a true second line for the Penguins really played into the Penguins' favor in this game. The Devils were able to limit what the first line could do by getting matchups they wanted as the home team. The Devils had Mark Fayne and Andy Greene on the ice for the vast majority of Sidney Crosby's faceoffs.
-This was a game where getting the first goal was huge. The Penguins have ridden out their rough patch of injuries and suspensions largely by playing with the first lead. Even in ideal circumstances with regards to personnel, allowing to the first goal to the Devil can be a killer.
-Special teams were huge in this game. While the Devils didn't get a power-play goal, they did get four power-play chances to the Penguins' one. That's a lot of time the Penguins had to spend in their own zone.
-The Penguins certainly had their chances to cash in. Chris Kunitz missed a wide open net. Brandon Sutter didn't do much with a two-on-one. And Jussi Jokinen clanks a prime chance late off the near post. The Penguins hurt themselves quite a bit.
-Simon Despres was a lone bright spot for the Penguins. A bad pinch which led to an odd-man rush aside, he was pretty steady for most of the game in his own zone and gave the coaching staff little reason to sit him again.
-Officials didn't have a sharp game. They allowed a few questionable hits from behind by both teams then penalized some ticky-tack plays such as the Crosby hooking and the Bryce Salvador interference.
-There has been a cute "Nisk-Cannon" meme floating around for Matt Niskanen. He's certainly picked up the offensive load in the wakes of injuries to Kris Letang and Paul Martin but he's not exactly a sharpshooter. He attempted seven shots today and got one on net.
-Rob Scuderi was on the ice for both Devils goals today. He was more directly involved with the first than the second but he wasn't in great position for either. Scuderi hasn't been shy about admitting he has been slow to round back into game shape in his recovery from his broken ankle. The evidence has been clear as day.
-Brian Gibbons had some positive contributions. He had a crafty play off the right wing boards to create a scoring chance and he drew the penalty with led to the Penguins' only power play with some simple hustle.
-Andy Greene is so good in subtle way. The comparison might be lazy since they were teammates, but he's very similar to Paul Martin. He's never out of positions, he avoids putting himself in the way of big hits and he has a quietly effective offensive game. We're not sure how effective he'd be in another team's system, but he's a perfect fit for the Devils.
-Martin Brodeur has had more difficult days at the office. His defense made his day easy.
-The Devils led in shots on net, 30-20.
-The Devils led in attempted shots, 56-40.
-Kunitz, Gibbons, Fayne, Stephen Gionta, Reid Boucher, Michael Ryder, Andrei Loktionov and Ryane Clowe each led the game with three shots.
-Greene led the game with 26:27 of ice time.
-Deryk Engelland led the Penguins in ice time for the second consecutive game with 21:51.
-Faceoffs were even, 25-25 (50 percent).
-Sutter was 8 for 15 (53 percent).
-Dainius Zubrus was 5 for 5 (100 percent).
-Jon Merrill led the game with three blocked shots.
-Engelland, Niskanen, Tanner Glass, Jokinen, Sill and Bortuzzo each led the Penguins with two blocked shots.
-The Penguins finished the 2013 calendar year with a 65-24-1 record.
-The Penguins are now 11-9-3 on New Year's Eve.
-Kunitz (254 points) moved ahead of Pierre Larouche (253 points) for 29th place on the franchise's all-time scoring list.
-Happy New Year.