Pittsburgh is starting to challenge the New Jersey Devils in the Atlantic Division. It remains to be seen, however, if the Penguins can keep up with them on the ice.
The Penguins look to earn at least a point in 15 straight games for the first time in nearly 14 years and end a four-game losing streak in New Jersey when they face the Devils on Friday.
Pittsburgh (30-17-9) saw its point streak reach 14 games (12-0-2) on Wednesday night, beating Chicago 5-4 to remain seven points behind New Jersey (35-16-6) for the division lead.
It’s the first time the Penguins have been on a streak like this since they won 12 times and tied twice from Dec. 19, 1996-Jan. 21, 1997.
“Everyone is contributing and that’s the way it has to be if we’re going to win,” Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby told the team’s official Web site. “Whether it’s a big save or a big hit or a big goal or a big penalty kill, we’re finding ways.”
By winning or at least sending the game to overtime Friday, the Penguins would record a point in 15 consecutive games for the first time since closing the 1992-93 season with 17 wins and a tie. Their last game that season was the lone tie during that run, 6-6 in New Jersey.
The Penguins, who have finished last in the Eastern Conference each of the past two seasons, will be trying to beat the Devils on the road for the first time since a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 1, 2005. They haven’t won at New Jersey in regulation since a 4-2 victory on Jan. 7, 2004.
The Devils are 20-5-1 overall against the Penguins since Dec. 26, 2001, including seven wins in the past eight meetings. Pittsburgh did win once in four matchups this season, but has been outscored 8-2 in two visits to New Jersey.
Crosby, perhaps the main reason for Pittsburgh’s turnaround, has seven goals and 14 points in 12 games against the Devils. He leads the NHL with 88 points (25 goals and 63 assists), but has gone a career-high eight consecutive games without scoring a goal.
Crosby had an assist but failed to score in the shootout in a 5-4 win over Chicago on Wednesday night.
The Devils have won five of six and are 16-3-3 since Dec. 23 as they chase Buffalo for the top spot in the East.
Madden was hit under the right eye with a shot Sunday against Tampa Bay and required stitches, while White has an upper body injury.
New Jersey, however, could be without its top goal scorer. Brian Gionta pulled a groin muscle in the second period Wednesday, and his status for Friday’s game is uncertain. Gionta has 24 goals, including one in each of his last two games against the Penguins.
The Devils went 3-for-7 on the power play, including two goals from defenseman Brian Rafalski with a two-man advantage, against the Blackhawks after going 2-of-25 in their previous five games.
“It makes a difference when you score on your big power plays,” New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “A 5-on-3 for over a minute, there is no reason not to get tons of chances or a goal. It should be an automatic in this game if you want to win. Good teams put these in.”
Brodeur, who has given up two goals or fewer in four of the last five games, has posted a 1.76 goals-against average versus Pittsburgh this season while starting all four meetings.