The Penguins (8-3-0, 16 pts) and Devils (6-1-3, 15 pts) ¬†faceoff for the second time in seven days as the teams begin a home and home series this weekend. It’s a good bet the Penguins are going to see a better performance from New Jersey this afternoon than last weekend in Pittsburgh where the Devils were a mess defensively.
Both teams come in on winning streaks, Pittsburgh riding a five game winning streak and the Devils on a three game winning streak. The Devils who have played in one less game than the Penguins, have points in nine of 10 games this season. Both teams sit at the top of the Eastern Conference with just one point separating the two.
An encouraging sign for the Penguins through 11 games is their 2.36 goals against mark, which ranks 10th in the NHL. The Penguins have had eight defensemen in the lineup this season and only played three games with their top-3 pairings of Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin, Kris Letang – Matt Niskanen, Simon Despres – Deryk Engelland that opened the year together.
Goaltender Marty Brodeur comes into today’s game 0-3-0 with a 4.70 GAA in the last three games vs the Penguins. Brodeur is 5-1-2 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .906 save percentage on the season. Marc Andre Fleury (5-2-0, 2.37 GAA, .909 sv%) makes his third straight start.
*One question going around is whether the Penguins got good value for Ben Lovejoy. I’ve felt the Penguins were fortunate to get a 5th rounder for a player who was eventually going to go on waivers and the Panthers getting a 5th round pick for 25 year old defenseman Keaton Ellerby on Friday shows the Penguins got good value for Lovejoy. Ellerby hasn’t panned out for the Panthers after being the 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft but still has the “upside” factor about him that Lovejoy doesn’t have.
*Looking back at the Capitals game, the Penguins were tremendous in the faceoff circle. Brandon Sutter was 8 of 13, 62%, Joe Vitale 4 of 6, 67%, Evgeni Malkin 10 of 16, 63%, and Sidney Crosby 12 of 23, 52%. What stood out was offensive zone draws where Brandon Sutter and Sidney Crosby went a combined 9 of 13. That is going to win you offensive zone time.
*Dan Bylsma was a bit overboard in calling Dylan Reese’s play vs Washington “outstanding” but he wasn’t a liability out there. Reese had some uneasy moments with the puck early on but I liked his gap right around the Penguins blueline where he was aggressive in not letting players use their size advantage against him and get around him. He thinks the game well.

*If Tyler Kennedy doesn’t improve his play, I’m hearing the plan will be for Dustin Jeffrey to get a look on the third line with Matt Cooke and Brandon Sutter.