New Jersey (25-8-1) at Pittsburgh (25-10-1)

  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Mon Dec 21, 2009
  • TV: MSG+, ROOT
Preview | Box Score | Recap

While the New Jersey Devils are among the league’s best defensive teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins have one of the NHL’s most potent offenses.

With sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division at stake, the Devils look to win their fifth straight overall and third in a row in Pittsburgh on Monday when the Penguins try to win their sixth consecutive game.

New Jersey (25-8-1), which is tied with Pittsburgh with a league-high 25 victories and 51 points, is among the league leaders with 2.18 goals allowed per game. That is largely due to the efforts of four-time Vezina trophy winner Martin Brodeur(notes), who leads the NHL with 22 wins and has a 2.17 GAA.

However, Brodeur was pulled Saturday after giving up three first-period goals before the Devils rallied for a 5-4 win over Atlanta. One night earlier, Brodeur moved past Patrick Roy to become the all-time leader in games played by a goaltender with 1,030.

“We changed goalies to make a difference,” said Devils coach Jacques Lemaire, whose team won for the 11th time in 13 games after Yann Davis made 19 saves backing up Brodeur. “I thought it was a good opportunity to put Danis in and rest him (Brodeur).”

If Brodeur gets the start, he’ll again seek his 104th career shutout to move ahead of Terry Sawchuk as the all-time leader. He tied Sawchuk’s mark with 22 saves in a 3-0 victory over Buffalo on Dec. 7.

Brodeur is 15-4-0 with a 2.50 GAA in his last 19 starts in Pittsburgh, including a pair of 4-1 victories this season. He will face a Penguins team that is among the league leaders with 110 goals.

Captain Sidney Crosby(notes), who leads the reigning Stanley Cup champions with 22 goals and 43 points, missed his first shootout attempt in six tries Saturday, but Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) made 31 saves and carried Pittsburgh (25-10-1) to a 2-1 win at Buffalo. The Penguins are 6-0 in tiebreakers this season.

“He’s tough to beat in practice, and it shows in the games,” Crosby said of Fleury, who is 10-1-1 with a 1.80 GAA in his last 12 starts and has allowed one goal in 19 shootout chances. “He doesn’t like the puck going in, period. He makes it tough on teams, and tonight he bailed us out a number of times.”

Fleury, though, has allowed seven goals in two losses to New Jersey this season. He is 5-7-3 with a 2.39 GAA in 15 career starts at Mellon Arena versus the Devils.

Zach Parise(notes), who leads New Jersey with 22 assists and 37 points, has not scored a goal in 10 games, but he has a goal and an assist in each of the two games in Pittsburgh this season.

Teammate Travis Zajac(notes) has a goal and four assists in these two matchups while Niclas Bergfors(notes) has two goals and three assists.

While New Jersey owns an NHL-best 12-2-1 road record, Pittsburgh has outscored its opponents 38-20 while going 7-1-1 at home since the Nov. 12 loss to the Devils.

Evgeni Malkin(notes), who missed that contest with a strained right shoulder, has 11 goals and 17 assists in 23 lifetime games against New Jersey.

Devils center Patrik Elias(notes) has four goals and four assists during his seven-game point streak.

New Jersey is 26-9-1 in Pittsburgh since March 4, 1997.

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Monday, Dec 21