THEME: Staying “undefeated”
PLUS: After six games, New Jersey still has not lost a game in regulation time. The three extra-session points were garnered in overtime (two losses) and a lost shootout. The return of sophomore Adam Henrique was better than expected. He played nearly 15 minutes and scored a magnificent game-tying goal late in the third period.
MINUS: Martin Brodeur suffered his first less-than-stellar game. His forte — puckhandling — resulted not only in the winning, overtime goal but was flawed throughout the game. Marty will need to return to form in order for the Devils to shut down Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and co.
EVEN: Henrik Tallinder notched his first goal and appears in mint condition on the blue line. Adam Larsson made his season debut and all things considered, played a fair game. The fourth — Energy — line continues to earn significant ice time. Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier were very effective with Stephen Gionta doing his imitation of a water bug on a pond.
CHALLENGE: With Henrique back in the lineup, coach Peter DeBoer must find the right combinations for his first and second lines. Where to place Jacob Josefson remains an issue as well as the decision as to whether rookie Stefan Matteau should be returned to the Junior ranks or signed to the big club. In beating the Rangers on Thursday night, Crosby, Malkin, and James Neal dominated and therefore that terrific trio must be a major focus of Devils checkers and defensemen.
THREE KEYS TO BEATING PITTSBURGH:
1. Utilize all four lines to outscore a Penguins club that relies heavily on Crosby-Malkin on separate lines, but together on the power play.
2. Stay out of the penalty box. Pitt has an excellent power play.
3. Take the Consol Energy Center crowd out of it by following the Islanders’ plan; score first and often.
THREE MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
1. ILYA KOVALCHUK VS. EVGENI MALKIN: Two big Russians have game-winners on their sticks whenever they play.
2. DAVID CLARKSON VS. BROOKS ORPIK: Among NHL power forwards, the Devils hard-driver has improved every year. He’ll give the Penguins fits; unless Orpik can put the brakes on the New Jersey ace.
3. HENRIK TALLINDER VS. JAMES NEAL: Now that he’s playing like a Top Four Dman should, Tallinder will be key against Pitt’s gunners. The surprisingly effective Neal will be a prime target for the Devs’ Henny.
MAVEN’S RAVIN’: Neck and neck in the standings, the Devs and Pens are fighting to establish themselves as elite teams. It’s too early for all that, but a win either way would move the victor closer to that exalted rung on the NHL ladder. Brodeur has been shaky in the past two games, but on the Pittsburgh side, Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start — even though Tomas Vokoun shut out the Rangers in Pitt’s last contest.