Pittsburgh (40-22-5) at New Jersey (39-23-3)

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  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Fri Mar 12, 2010
  • TV: RDS, MSG+
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The Pittsburgh Penguins have managed to build a modest lead in the Atlantic Division. It might not hold up if they can’t find a way to solve Martin Brodeur(notes) and the New Jersey Devils.

Following their first defeat since the Olympic break, the Penguins look to avoid another loss to the inconsistent Devils on Friday night.

Pittsburgh (40-22-5) won its first four games after captain Sidney Crosby’s(notes) overtime goal against the United States gave Canada a win in the gold-medal game at the Olympics. The Penguins, though, had their run snapped Thursday, losing 4-3 in overtime to Carolina in the opener of a five-game road trip.

“We’re not happy with just the one point, obviously. We want to get two,” Pittsburgh backup goaltender Brent Johnson(notes) said.

Pittsburgh, which leads the Devils (39-23-3) by four points in the Atlantic, will now play two games in six days at the Prudential Center including a rematch Wednesday.

It’s been a one-sided season series, though, with New Jersey winning all four games. Brodeur, a teammate of Crosby’s in Vancouver, has started all of those contests, surrendering two goals.

Brodeur isn’t expected to get much rest down the stretch for the Devils, and has allowed one goal or less in six of his last seven games against Pittsburgh.

Crosby has 11 goals and six assists over his last 11 games, but he has not found the back of the net this season against New Jersey. Penguins center Evgeni Malkin(notes) has been held without a point in three straight contests versus the Devils.

But New Jersey has been an enigma over the past two months, losing 14 of its last 21 games. Though the Devils are headed for their 13th straight postseason appearance, they could be quickly eliminated if they don’t build some momentum over the final month of the regular season.

New Jersey is coming off a promising performance, beating the New York Rangers 6-3 on Wednesday for its fourth win in 12 games (4-7-1).

“I think it is a step in the right direction,” Devils defenseman Mike Mottau(notes) said. “We had a little team meeting and addressed some of the problems we had in the last month and aired it out a bit.”

That meeting helped New Jersey refocus following a dismal effort in a 2-0 loss to league-worst Edmonton on Sunday. The Devils displayed much more passion, which has been lacking in recent weeks.

“It sort of woke everyone up,” New Jersey center Travis Zajac(notes) said. “We decided as a team we don’t have many games left to work on some things before the playoffs. We want to be peaking at the right time going into the playoffs and if we want to do that, we have to start to win some hockey games and play good.”

Rob Niedermayer(notes), Jamie Langenbrunner(notes), Brian Rolston(notes), Zach Parise(notes) and Zajac each had a goal and an assist versus the Rangers. Parise will face Crosby for the first time since his goal for the United States with 24.4 seconds remaining sent the gold-medal game into OT.

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Friday, Mar 12