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Monday, December 21, 2009

Atlantic lead on line in Pens-Devils clash

TSN- The battle for supremacy in the Atlantic Division has been slanted one way so far this year. The Pittsburgh Penguins will try for their first win in three games versus the New Jersey Devils this year in tonight's battle of division co-leaders at Mellon Arena.

The Penguins and Devils are both tied for the most points in the NHL with 51, good enough for a 16-point advantage over the third-place New York Rangers in the Atlantic Division.

However, while Pittsburgh has won seven of its 10 games versus division foes this year, two of those losses have been at home to New Jersey by 4-1 margins. The Devils are 6-3-0 versus the Atlantic Division this year and have won eight of their last 11 in the Steel City.

These two clubs will meet for the first time this year in New Jersey on December 30.

Both teams come into this matchup riding impressive win streaks. The Devils are in the midst of their second four-game winning streak of the season, while the Penguins have won five straight overall.

Pittsburgh has been doing its damage in the shootout, where it has won its last two games and is 6-0 this year. Kris Letang scored the lone shootout tally in Saturday's 2-1 victory over Buffalo, while Marc-Andre Fleury halted all three Buffalo skaters in the final frame to cap his 31-save effort.

"I think our side did awesome," Fleury said. "Guys played really hard to the end and in overtime. They blocked a lot of shots and they took the rebounds away from me, so that was big."

Chris Kunitz had the lone regulation tally for the Penguins, who went 0-for-5 on the man advantage but also held the Sabres scoreless on their eight power- play attempts.

The Penguins have now won seven of their last nine at home and begin a three- game residency tonight.

Pittsburgh has an outstanding 12-5-1 mark at home this year, but welcomes a New Jersey squad to town that is 12-2-1 on the road. New Jersey has won three straight as the guest and kicked off a three-game swing with a 5-4 victory in Atlanta on Saturday.

New Jersey fell behind 3-1 in the first period, as Martin Brodeur allowed three goals on six shots before getting the early hook. He was making his 12th straight start and first since setting a new NHL record for most regular- season appearances by a goaltender with 1,030. Yann Danis came on in relief in his first appearance since November 21 and made 19 saves on 20 shots.

Brian Rolston, Rod Pelley and Dean McAmmond all scored in the second period and McAmmond capped a four-goal burst with another marker in the third. Pelley, meanwhile, notched his first goal since November 23, 2007 versus Atlanta.

"We changed goalies to be different," said New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire. "I thought it was a good opportunity to put Danis in. The guys kept working hard. It's a great win for us because of the situation. Our first period was probably our best period."

New Jersey's Patrik Elias added an assist to run his point streak to seven games. He has four goals and eight points on the run.


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