The Penguins, who are coming off of an irritating loss to the Carolina Hurricanes last night, head into New Jersey with a chip on their shoulder. Sure they are angry about last night’s loss, but this chip has roots elsewhere.
The irritation that they are filled with today stems from the fact that they have gone 168:28 without scoring a goal against the Devils. An unbelievable stat for any team, let alone one that features two Art Ross Trophy winners along with an impressive supporting cast.
When you couple that scoring drought with the fact that the Penguins have dropped all four games against the Devils this season, you gain an understanding of why the Birds are frustrated.
“They’ve played some really good hockey against us,” Penguins winger Bill Guerin told the Post Gazette. “When they’re at their best, they’re playing a patient, clog-the-middle type of game. We’ve given in to our frustrations and played into their hands a bit.”
Losing patience and allowing that frustration to throw them off of their game has derailed the Penguins’ plan in each meeting this season. The Devils have tortured the them in the neutral zone, forced turnovers and capitalized on them.
If there is a silver lining to tonight’s meeting, it is that Nic Bergfors was shipped to Atlanta in the Ilya Kovalchuk deal. Sure number Kovy is a force to be reckoned with, but Bergfors owned the Penguins this season notching 7 points (4G-3A) in the four previous meetings.
Bergfors wasn’t the only one padding his stats in those victories, his line-mates did a pretty fair job themselves. Zach Parise and Travis Zajac combined for 13 points (3G-10A) in building the Devils 4-0 record against the Penguins.
In looking at the match-up, it is easy to let yourself think that tonight could be the night that the Penguins get into the win column. The two teams have seemingly been heading in opposite directions since before the Olympic break. The Penguins have been playing what could be their best hockey of the season, while the Devils and Marty Brodeur have struggled a bit.
This game takes on even more intrigue when you consider that these two teams are embroiled in a race for the Atlantic Division title. The Penguins currently hold a 4 point lead, but the Devils have two games in hand. I victory would go a long way towards helping both teams title aspirations.
It looks as if Tyler Kennedy could be missing his second straight game this evening and will be joining defenseman Jay McKee in the press box.
The goaltending match-up is slated to be Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins and Marty Brodeur for the Devils.
I will be back with more post game…
Quick bold prediction of the night: Penguins 3 Devils 2 as they end this losing streak against their division rivals.