The Pittsburgh Penguins are on pace to threaten the franchise
records for most wins and points in a season, and that’s while
leading the league in man-games lost to injury.
Picking up two points in New Jersey, however, hasn’t come easy
for Pittsburgh in recent years.
The Penguins close their four-game road trip looking for a 15th
victory in their last 17 games Tuesday at the Prudential Center,
where they’ve won twice in their last 13 visits.
Pittsburgh (29-11-1) scored three power-play goals in a 5-3 win
over Columbus on Sunday, eclipsing the franchise mark for victories
through 41 games that was held by the 1992-93 team that won 56
games. The Penguins are on pace to finish one point off the club
mark of 119 put up by the ’92-’93 team.
”With the injuries we’ve had, the guys have come in, and the
job they’ve done is a big reason why we’ve had a decent first
half,” captain Sidney Crosby said after recording a goal and two
assists to increase his NHL-best point total to 58. ”We were at a
point where we started to lose guys and it could have gone either
way. But we’ve found a way to survive.”
Pittsburgh has lost 200 man-games to injury – Pascal Dupuis’
torn ACL was the latest blow – but it’s actually getting healthier.
Brooks Orpik and Tanner Glass returned Friday against Carolina, Rob
Scuderi came back in Columbus and Kris Letang and Malkin are on the
verge of returning.
Malkin, who fully participated in practice Monday, has missed
nine of the Penguins’ 13 games this month, but usual linemate James
Neal has been thriving since coming back from a five-game
suspension. Neal scored three times while playing with Crosby in
Sunday’s win and has four goals and six assists in the five games
since his return.
“It’s funny. When a guy like ‘Geno’ goes down you get to play
with ‘Sid,'” Neal told the team’s official website. “It’s pretty
special. I’m trying to find some chemistry with both of them.”
The Devils (16-16-8) have lost two of three to Pittsburgh this
season, but won the lone home meeting – something that’s not
unusual in this series. New Jersey is 11-2-0 against the Penguins
at home since the calendar turned to 2009, yielding 22 goals.
It’s done an especially good job slowing down Crosby, holding
him to a goal and three assists in his last seven trips to
Martin Brodeur made 27 saves in a 4-1 win over Pittsburgh on
Nov. 16, and he’ll get another start Tuesday.
The Penguins probably won’t be too happy to see the 41-year-old.
Brodeur is 9-2-0 with a 1.45 goals-against average in starting 11
of Pittsburgh’s last 12 visits.
Brodeur made 29 stops in a 2-1 shootout loss to Columbus on
Friday before Cory Schneider had 30 saves in Saturday’s 2-1 road
win over the New York Islanders.
”We needed this as a group,” Schneider said. ”We’ve been
stringing some points together, which is nice. But we couldn’t
settle for one. I think we needed the two.”
Only Boston has been stingier at home than New Jersey, which has
allowed 1.71 goals per game there despite going just 7-5-5.
The Devils got captain Bryce Salvador back for the first time in
more than two months Saturday and fellow defenseman Anton
Volchenkov should play Tuesday after missing the Islanders game
with “total body soreness.”
The status of winger Steve Bernier is up in the air after he
fell and crashed into the boards in Monday’s practice.