Penguins-Devils Preview


The Pittsburgh Penguins used a gritty effort against the reigning Stanley Cup champions to bounce back from their first loss in three weeks.

They could use the momentum gained from that victory to help end their recent struggles against the New Jersey Devils.

The Penguins hope to begin another successful run Sunday while trying to avoid a third straight loss to the Devils, who look to match a season high with their fourth straight victory.

Pittsburgh (30-18-4) had won eight in a row before falling 1-0 at Toronto on Wednesday for its first loss since a six-game skid Dec. 29-Jan. 11. The Penguins, however, put that defeat behind them and won 2-1 at Boston on Saturday.

Evgeni Malkin scored his 28th goal and Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves to help the Penguins come out ahead in their sixth consecutive one-goal contest.

"Every guy, every player had to play good defense, play good team defense, and we got a lot of big efforts and a huge win for us," coach Dan Bylsma told the Penguins' official website.

It is likely Bylsma's crew will need that same type of determined effort against the Devils (29-19-3), who have posted consecutive 3-1 victories over the Penguins after falling 4-1 at Pittsburgh on Oct. 22. New Jersey has won three straight against the Penguins at home where it has outscored them 22-11 while winning seven of eight there in the series.

Malkin, however, has 13 goals in his last 13 games overall - a stretch that began with one in a Jan. 7 home loss to New Jersey.

Fleury has won nine straight starts, but has allowed five goals in the last two meetings with New Jersey after giving up four during his four-game winning streak against the Devils.

New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk, who has two goals and four assists against the Penguins this season, had one with two assists and even dropped the gloves for a rare fight in Saturday's 6-4 win at Philadelphia. He lit a fire under his teammates when he flattened Philadelphia's Brayden Schenn in defense of a questionable hit on teammate Zach Parise.

"Hopefully the word spreads you don't want to mess with this guy,'' Devils coach Peter DeBoer said of Kovalchuk. "He's a big, tough, strong man."

It's Kovalchuk's play with the puck, however, that has helped the Devils win three straight following a three-game skid. New Jersey scored three times on the power play Saturday and recorded its league-high 12th short-handed goal of the season on Kovalchuk's third in that situation.

New Jersey has scored 15 goals in the last three games after totaling three during the previous three contests.

Defenseman Kurtis Foster had two goals with an assist as New Jersey matched its highest goal output of the season to open a 6-0 lead. The Devils then survived a wild third period where the Flyers scored four times and outshot them 24-1.

New Jersey star Martin Brodeur has stopped 70 of 72 shots in both New Jersey victories over Pittsburgh this season. He has an 0.82 goals-against average while winning 10 of his last 12 starts against the Penguins.