BY DAVE TURNER
New Jersey Devils (3-0-3) at Pittsburgh Penguins (4-3-0) 1:00 pm Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Devils and the Penguins square off in a matinee from The Steel City, with a lot on the line. Both teams have been inconsistent thus far, As the Penguins have beaten the Rangers twice, but been blown out by the Islanders and Maple Leafs.
As for the Devils, their 3-0 start has been followed up with three straight overtime/shootout losses. Although they’re happy to be getting points in all six contests they’ve played thus far, a win is needed.
A victory in regulation by either team will result in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division. Look for this to be a well played, physical game, as both teams know the implications of this early-season matchup.
Here are some notes and thoughts on today’s game.
1. The first line is finally complete. With Adam Henrique moving up to play center on a line with Danius Zubrus and Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils finally possess a solid first line. With apologies to Stefan Matteau and Mattias Tedenby, they aren’t quite Adam Henrique. The man who scored the game winner against the Rangers in the ECF last year, netted one in his first game back and he looked ready to shoulder some major minutes.
2. How will Patrik Elias perform at left wing? Elias is slated to play left wing with Travis Zajac centering him and David Clarkson. The Elias-Zubrus-Clarkson line seemed to have a bit of mojo lately, so we’ll see how they can do in a different spot. Both lines will likely see equal minutes and may even change throughout the game.
3. Adam Larsson needs power play time. Marek Zidlicky has been a train-wreck and Andy Greene doesn’t do much either. Pete DeBoer needs to give the young Swede a chance to grow and show what he can do on the power play. Even if it’s with the second unit, he needs to get some time on the man-advantage.
4. Welcome back Peter Harrold! After a solid run last year, Harrold will be back in the lineup. He’ll be playing wing on the fourth line and you know what, I like it. It’s a major step up from Cam Janssen. Harrold is not going to wow you with his offensive skill or anything, but he’s smart and can give you minutes without being a liability. Not to mention, he can step in on defense if someone was to go down. There’s also talk that he may get some time on the point on the power play as well.
5. The Devils need to tighten up defensively. New Jersey made a lot of sloppy plays that led to Islanders goals on Thursday. Though the Penguins don’t have the same kind of speed as the Isles, they do possess a ton of elite level scorers. Give Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby or James Neal space and you’ll pay. Plain and simple the Devils MUST be better in their own end if they expect to win.
Prediction: Penguins 4 Devils 2
The Penguins are win-less at home and they’ll come in today looking to change that. The Devils will have trouble with the physical Penguins forecheck and their ability to score in transition. I think that New Jersey will be chasing from behind all game.
Lineup for Today:
Dainus Zubrus – Adam Henrique – Ilya Kovalchuk
Patrik Elias – Travis Zajac – David Clarkson
Ryan Carter- Stephen Gionta – Steve Bernier
Krys Barch – Jacob Josefson – Peter Harrold
Bryce Salvador -Anton Volchenkov
Andy Greene – Adam Larsson
Henrik Tallinder – Marek Zidlicky
Starting Goaltender: Martin Brodeur
(note: Matt Anderson was sent back down to Albany)