All of the New Jersey Devils’ success this season has come on the road, but to keep that trend going, they’re going to have to overcome some sustained struggles in Pittsburgh.
After ending a four-game winless streak, the Devils will try to keep their away success going Tuesday night in a visit with the Penguins.
The Devils (4-2-2) are winless in three home games but improved to 4-1-0 on the road with Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win in Ottawa. Jaromir Jagr scored the winner on the power play, giving the 42-year-old former Penguins star four points in four games after going pointless in his previous three. He had two goals and an assist in four games against the Penguins a season ago.
"The scoring doesn’t show, but I feel the best I’ve felt in probably the last 10 years," Jagr told the team’s official website. "I don’t worry about it. I try to play hard every shift. I think I have more confidence. Hopefully my luck is going to turn the right way and it did today. Even if the scoring is not there, that’s OK."
Rookie defenseman Damon Severson had a goal and an assist, giving the 20-year-old four goals and three assists through his first eight games. All of his goals have come in road environments.
"Just outstanding. He’s got poise, composure. He’s a special player," coach Peter DeBoer said.
Winning in Pittsburgh has been considerably more difficult as the Penguins have won eight of 10 at home in the series while limiting the Devils to 1.50 goals per game. They split last season’s four-game series, with the home team winning every game.
The Penguins (4-2-1) got back in the win column with Saturday’s 3-0 victory in Nashville after dropping their previous two with nine goals allowed.
"We played the right way," Sidney Crosby said. "We didn’t sit back to play defensively. We play defense with our forecheck and getting sticks in lanes and forcing them to miss shots sometimes. All around, that’s more our style of game."
Crosby had a goal and two assists after going without a point in his previous two. The Devils, though, have done a good job containing him as he’s been limited to a goal and two assists over his last six games in the series.
Evgeni Malkin also scored against the Predators to extend his season-long point streak to seven games. He’s also struggled against New Jersey with two assists in six games.
"For (Malkin), there’s been adjustments with linemates," Penguins coach Mike Johnston told the team’s official website. "There’s been adjustments with not having a training camp, to playing the wing, to back playing center now. There’s been a lot of things he’s had to handle, but I like it right now where he’s at."
Pittsburgh got some difficult news Monday, learning that 20-year-old defenseman Olli Maatta has a tumor on his thyroid gland that doctors believe has an ”85 percent chance” of being cancerous. He’s expected to make a full recovery and will undergo surgery next week, and though he’ll likely miss a month after that, Maatta intends to play the next three games.
”I feel fine,” Maatta said. ”The only thing that’s different is now I know that I have a cancer. It’s tough news but I really don’t think it has affected me much.”
Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves Saturday for his first shutout this season after entering with a 2.81 goals-against average. He’s 8-1-0 with a 1.33 GAA and .950 save percentage at home against the Devils since Dec. 6, 2010.
Counterpart Cory Schneider made 33 saves against the Senators after a 0-2-2 stretch with a 3.65 GAA and .882 save percentage.
Two visits to Pittsburgh last season resulted in a pair of losses with a 3.02 GAA and .864 save percentage.
In addition to Crosby and Malkin, Schneider might have to contend with a Penguins’ power play converting at a 40 percent clip (10 for 25).
Pittsburgh’s penalty kill has thwarted all 15 short-handed situations over the last four games, a drastic improvement after surrendering six power-play goals in 15 opportunities in their first three games.