The Pittsburgh Penguins will play host to the New Jersey Devils at Mellon Arena on Wednesday, October 17th, at 7:30PM. The Devils (2-3-0) are currently in 5th place in the Atlantic Division having played one more game than the 3rd place Penguins (2-2-0).
The Penguins are coming off from a good offensive road game against Toronto on Saturday night. The Penguins, who managed 6 goals on 52 shots against Toronto, had a much less impressive defensive outing and will be looking to improve that aspect of their game on Wednesday. The Penguins are also dealing with a spate of minor injuries across the team that could change the playing field come game time on Wednesday night.
Speaking of defense and injuries, yesterday the Penguins recalled defenseman Alain Nasreddine from the AHL where he spent two games on a “conditioning assignment”. He was called back up as an insurance marker against injured defensmen Brooks Orpik (concussion) and Darryl Sydor (groin), both of whom missed practice Monday. Orpik sustained a concussion during the Leafs game while trying to check Leafs forward Simon Gamache. Coach Therrien reported that Orpik has passed a neuropsychological test and has been cleared to resume playing. Sydor skipped practice in an attempt to rest a groin that started feeling sore a few days ago. Coach Therrien stated that both Orpik and Sydor are expected to play in Wednesday’s game.
Another victim from Saturday night’s game was Goalie Dany Sabourin, the Pens backup tender. Aside from giving up 2 goals on 6 shots, he left the ice during the first period to get the back of his head stitched up after getting bowled over by a Leafs player and recieving a cut to his head. Sabourin has returned to practice and is no longer experiencing headaches. Marc-Andre Fleury, who has had a sore digit for the past few days, will get the start for Wednesday’s game against the Devils. X-rays of the finger are negative.
Lastly, fouth line winger Georges Laraque remains day-to-day with a sore groin that kept him from joining the team in Toronto and had forced him to miss two practices prior to that trip. He skated for about 20 minutes on Monday, but is questionable for Wednesday.
The Devils are coming off a comeback win against the hapless (and winless) Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night. Patrik Elias scored two goals including a powerplay goal with 27 seconds left in the game to post the 6-5 win. The late goal enabled goaltender Martin Brodeur to finally notch his first win of the season, despite giving up 5 goals. “That was as close as it gets,” said Brodeur, who made only 12 saves. Brodeur, who is 1-3-0 on the season, has a GAA of 3.26 and a save percentage of 0.879.
The Penguins finished last year 3-4-1 against the Devils. Evgeni Malkin had 9 points (4G, 5A) against New Jersey last year, his second-most points against one club behind the 13 he had versus Toronto. Malkin currently leads the Penguins scorers with 5 points (1G, 4A). Sidney Crosby accumulated 6 points (2G, 4A) in last season’s series against the Devils. Martin Brodeur shutout the Penguins twice in 2006-07.
So far this season, the Pens have averaged more goals per game than the Devils (3.5 versus 2.6), but have also given up more goals per game than the Devils (3.8 versus the Devils 3.2). New Jersey has scored on 25% of their power play chances while the Penguins have only converted on 16.7%. However, on the penalty kill the Penguins maintain the advantage at 83.3%, versus the Devils 75%.
NHLPens.com Prediction: I am predicting a second consecutive win for the Penguins on Wednesday night by a score of 5-3. I think the Penguins will capitalize on the struggling Martin Brodeur, but will also struggle in their own end from continued defensive lapses which will prevent the game from being a runaway win. I think the key goals for Pittsburgh will be scored on the power play, upping their lackluster performance to date. I project a 2-point night for both Crosby and Malkin, and predict Staal will get his first goal. I also project goals by Ryan Malone and Sergei Gonchar.
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Go Pens Go!