Having already clinched the top seed in the East, the Pittsburgh
Penguins look to rebound from a rare defeat while continuing to
heal up their banged-up stars.
Even with all its key players, Pittsburgh has had a difficult
time in Newark.
After having their seven-game winning streak snapped, the
short-handed Penguins will try for their third win in 12 road
meetings on Thursday night when they take on the Devils.
Pittsburgh (35-11-0), which has found a way to keep winning
despite dealing with several injuries, appeared to get a boost with
the return of reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin on Tuesday.
Malkin, who had missed four games because of a shoulder injury,
assisted on Jarome Iginla’s game-tying power-play goal in the third
period before Buffalo scored the final two in a 4-2 win that handed
the Penguins their first loss since April 3.
“We’ve been pretty physical lately and we’ve been skating well
and I don’t think we did that quite as much,” said Iginla, who
extended his scoring streak to four games.
Malkin may also be able to give the Penguins a spark in this
contest since he’s had four goals and five assists over his last
seven games against the Devils (18-18-10), who were eliminated from
playoff contention on Sunday.
Pittsburgh, though, could be missing another important piece –
defenseman Brooks Orpik is uncertain for this contest after
suffering a lower-body injury in the first period on Tuesday.
The Penguins hope to get back to full strength by the start of
the playoffs next week, but continue to be without captain Sidney
Crosby (broken jaw), forward James Neal (concussion) and defenseman
Paul Martin (hand injury).
Pittsburgh has still won 22 of its last 25 games overall, but
New Jersey has taken two of the first three meetings after sweeping
home-and-home contests on Feb. 9-10.
The Devils, who are the only team with a winning record against
the Penguins, have also won nine of 11 at home in this series. New
Jersey claimed its third win in four games following a 10-game
losing streak with a 3-2 victory over Montreal on Tuesday.
“Without a doubt, there’s a lot of pride on this team,” said
winger Steve Sullivan, who keyed the win with a goal and an assist.
“We want to win every game. We weren’t going to just give up.”
Ilya Kovalchuk played a major role with a pair of assists in a
3-1 home win over Pittsburgh on Feb. 9. He’s looking to extend a
five-game point streak (3 goals, 7 assists) at home in this
Leading scorer Patrick Elias has three goals in his last three
games overall, but has scored only once in his last 14 against the
Johan Hedberg is expected to start in goal after snapping a
three-game losing streak in this series with 23 saves in a 3-1 road
victory on Feb. 10.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, meanwhile, has already named goalie
Marc-Andre Fleury his starter for the final two contests.
Fleury, who had won four straight starts before losing to the
Sabres, has a 3.58 goals-against average while losing five of his
last six starts at New Jersey.