Devils-Penguins Preview

The Pittsburgh Penguins would much rather have their full roster

intact, but they still have plenty of weapons despite the absence

of key players.

Help may be on the way soon for the slumping New Jersey

Devils.

Pittsburgh seeks its seventh victory in eight games Friday night

as it hosts New Jersey, which has dropped four of five.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik is out indefinitely with a concussion

suffered when he was knocked unconscious by Shawn Thornton during

Saturday’s loss to Boston, and James Neal is serving a five-game

suspension for a knee to the head of Brad Marchand in that

contest.

Evgeni Malkin, who had missed the previous two games with a

lower-body injury, scored in his return Monday to help the Penguins

(21-10-1) beat Columbus 2-1.

Malkin and Neal have plenty of chemistry on the ice, but Malkin

won’t get to play alongside Neal for a week, as he’s eligible to

return next Thursday against Minnesota.

”There’s no doubt they’re good together,” said Sidney Crosby,

who scored Monday and has three goals and four assists during a

four-game point streak. ”They’re both really good players. When

they don’t have each other, they’re capable of making plays,

too.”

Crosby leads the NHL with 43 points, Malkin has 38 and Chris

Kunitz has 31 after recording six goals and four assists during an

eight-game point streak that ended Monday.

Pittsburgh is among the league leaders with 96 non-shootout

goals and its 26.1 percent power-play conversion rate tops in the

NHL. It succeeded on 43.5 percent of its power plays while scoring

with the man advantage in six straight before going 0 for 2 on

Monday.

“Obviously the percentage is important, but I think the timing

of our goals has been really good, too,” Crosby told the team’s

official website. “We are in games where we haven’t necessarily

been really good 5-on-5, and our power play has got some big goals

and the penalty kill has been able to shut the door.”

Crosby scored and Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves in

Pittsburgh’s 3-0 win over New Jersey on Oct. 3. Jaromir Jagr had

two goals in the Devils’ 4-1 victory over the Penguins on Nov.

16.

New Jersey (12-14-6) has won four of the last five meetings, but

it’s gone 1-3-1 in its last five after falling 5-4 to Columbus on

Tuesday. Damien Brunner scored twice before Martin Brodeur allowed

a controversial goal off a skate with less than two minutes

left.

”It’s too bad to mess up a game we scored four goals,” Brodeur

said. ”It doesn’t happen often that we lose a game like

that.”

The Devils have been short-handed, as captain Bryce Salvador has

been on injured reserve since Oct. 22 with a non-displaced fracture

in his foot. He has resumed skating and will be out another week,

but Ryane Clowe (concussion) has been medically cleared to

play.

He won’t travel to Pittsburgh but could play Saturday at home

against Tampa Bay, much to the delight of coach Peter DeBoer.

“It’s been amazing,” DeBoer said of his team’s rash of injuries.

“I haven’t seen anything like it.”

Brodeur has started the last two games, though Cory Schneider,

who has a 1.89 goals-against average in 14 starts, could be in net

for this contest.

Fleury is 4-1-0 with a 1.38 GAA over his last five starts.