Penguins Notebook: Devils have a chance to avenge embarrassment quickly
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UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Penguins grabbed first place in the Atlantic Division with a 7-1 victory Saturday against New Jersey at Mellon Arena.
Beat the Devils in the rematch tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark, and the Penguins can take a major step toward earning their first division title since winning the Northeast in 1998.
Doing that will require them to defeat a team that clearly was embarrassed about giving up six unanswered goals, including five in the third period, three nights ago.
- Matchup: Penguins at New Jersey Devils, 7:08 p.m. today, Prudential Center.
- TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh; WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Martin Brodeur for Devils.
- Penguins: Have won two of three games in Newark this season. ... C Evgeni Malkin has 9 goals, 11 assists in 15 career games against Devils. ... Are 8-3 on Tuesdays.
- Devils: Could lose three consecutive games in regulation for just second time this season. ... LW Zach Parise has 4 goals, 6 assists in 7 games against Penguins in 2007-08. ... Have gone 8-4-4 when tied after two periods.
- Hidden stat: Penguins' past six losses to New Jersey have been by one goal.
"They're going to be pretty mad, not happy by the way they finished," Penguins winger Jarkko Ruutu said.
Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner told the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger there are plusses and minuses to facing the Penguins again so quickly.
"That's both scary and a blessing," he said. "It's a chance to rebound. We've got to be excited about that opportunity and grasp it."
Sidney Crosby, who has been resting a high ankle sprain, participated in the Penguins' game-day skate but sat out his sixth game in a row when they took on the New York Islanders last night.
"My ankle's feeling pretty good," he said. "But it's not ready yet."
Although Crosby was noncommittal at midday about whether he would try to play against the Devils, he apparently has decided that he will sit out tonight's game, too.
He had made it clear that the significance of the showdown with New Jersey would not be a factor in whether he attempted to dress for it.
"It's a big game," Crosby said. "But it's a little bit easier not to push yourself when the team is playing so well."
Defenseman Rob Scuderi, who had missed the previous 11 games after having surgery on the small finger of his left hand, was back in the lineup last night.
"It's definitely not 100 percent, and it won't be that way for quite some time," he said. "But I'm as good as I'm going to get before the start of the playoffs."
His return coincided with the absence of left winger Pascal Dupuis, who flew to Atlanta to be with his wife while she gave birth.
With Crosby still not ready to return to the mix, coach Michel Therrien opted to dress seven defensemen, one more than usual, and 11 forwards.
Although Marc-Andre Fleury has emerged as the goalie on whom the Penguins figure to count in the playoffs, that doesn't mean Ty Conklin has slipped completely out of Therrien's plans.
He started Conklin last night, noting that Conklin had produced a career-high 50 saves in the Penguins' 4-2 victory Feb. 26 in their previous visit to Long Island, and cited the role Conklin has played in the club's success this season.
"Ty is one of the reasons we're battling for first place," he said. "You have to respect that."
Therrien declined to say how many starts Conklin might get in the final six games of the regular season, or whether he will try to get some work for No. 3 goalie Dany Sabourin.
New Jersey coach Brent Sutter is a ferocious competitor, so there's no reason to think the Devils won't be ready to play tonight.
After Saturday's game, Sutter made it clear that the 5-5-2 run his club is on is not satisfactory.
"The reality is, the last dozen games or so, we're a .500 hockey team," Sutter said. "You can't accept mediocrity. You have to want to be better. This game is all between the ears, and we have some work to do on that."
One plus for the Devils: Forward Patrik Elias, who missed the past two games because of illness, is expected to play tonight.
First Published March 25, 2008 12:00 am