The New Jersey Devils (3-0-3) and Pittsburgh Penguins (4-3-0) will have their first of four meetings this afternoon, as New Jersey looks to end a three-game losing skid. The Penguins, meanwhile, are fresh off a 3-0 win over the New York Rangers and are looking to make ground on the Atlantic Division-leading Devils. The puck is set to drop at 1 p.m. at Consol Energy Center. Here are the game notes and preview:
Henrique On Top Line: It took roughly a period-and-a-half for Devils forward Adam Henrique to move from the fourth line to the first line in his season debut on Thursday. After playing with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk in the third period against the New York Islanders, Henrique practiced on that line on Friday. Through the first six games, the Devils have used five different top line combinations and now it looks like it will be six in the first seven games.
Overtime Woes: The Devils have now played four straight overtime games, winning the first one against the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 22, but losing the next three. That streak has to end soon, otherwise New Jersey is going to start surrendering some ground in the Atlantic Division. With every game within the division meaning that much more, the Devils would certainly like to end that streak on the road in Pittsburgh.
Anderson Gone, Darche Signing Soon?: After playing two efficient games in the NHL, the Devils sent Matt Anderson back to Albany on Friday. No official word has yet been made, but it appears as if the move indicates that Mathieu Darche, who has been practicing with the team without a contract, is close to signing a deal and may play as soon as today in Pittsburgh. If Darche doesn’t have a contract, it could mean that rookie Stefan Matteau is here to stay.
Big-Time Match-Up: Early in 2013, the Devils and Penguins have looked like two of the top teams in the division. Aside from the surprising start from the Islanders, today’s game could give either New Jersey or Pittsburgh an early advantage in the division race and both teams will look to get that head start. The Devils are currently tied with the Islanders at nine points, and Pittsburgh is close behind with eight points, meaning the winner will take a divisional lead into Sunday with the Islanders being idle Saturday.