By Kate Hedlin
New Jersey (47-25-4) at Pittsburgh (41-27-8) 7:30 p.m. EDT
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The New Jersey Devils are hardly playing like
a team that had been in contention for the top spot in the
Eastern Conference. The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, are
poised to go into the postseason as one of the league's hottest
The Penguins close an eight-game homestand and Sidney Crosby
looks to extend a 15-game point streak Wednesday when they host
the Devils, who are looking to avoid their longest skid in more
than eight years.
Crosby scored the go-ahead goal with 10:04 remaining in a 4-3
win over the New York Rangers on Saturday, extending the NHL's
longest active point streak to 14 games. He has eight goals and
17 assists during that stretch, which goes back to February 16.
"He's a go-to guy," said teammate Max Talbot, who had a goal and
an assist. "He always wants those big goals, and he got it
again. It's definitely two huge points for us."
Crosby's latest effort lifted the Penguins (41-27-8) to their
fifth win in six games, part of a 12-1-2 stretch since February
25. They've moved into sixth place in the East, one point back
of Carolina and two behind fourth-place Philadelphia for
home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Penguins, who went 6-1-2 to end last season when they
reached the Stanley Cup finals, play four of their final six
games on the road.
"I think as a team we've been playing well, and we just need to
continue playing well in the last six games and into the
playoffs," left wing Ruslan Fedotenko said. "That's the most
important thing, to get on kind of a hot streak going into the
While the Penguins appear to be surging toward the postseason,
New Jersey (47-25-4) is slumping despite having already clinched
a playoff spot.
The Devils have dropped five straight late in the season for a
second consecutive year - they went on to lose in the first
round of the 2008 playoffs.
"This group tried to turn a switch on last year. It didn't
work," coach Bruce Sutter said. "They can say they're a
different group, but a lot of the personnel is still the same.
"You get to a point where you say, 'Where is our commitment?
Where is our compete level?"
The last time the Devils went winless in a six-game span was in
November 2001, and they haven't lost six in a row since November
Before this 0-4-1 skid began, New Jersey was alone in second
place in the East and within three points of conference-leading
Boston. Now the No. 1 seed is nearly out of reach for the Devils
and they've dropped to third place, one point behind Washington.
Martin Brodeur has been in net for all five losses, giving up 16
goals, after going 9-1-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average in 10
starts following his return from an elbow injury that caused him
to miss 50 games.
"It's not fun," Brodeur said after Monday's 3-0 loss to the
Rangers. "It's the time of the year you need to play well, to
win games, to advance and to feel good about yourself. Right
now, it's not the case for us. We're doubting how we do stuff
out there. We have six games left and we have to find a way to
get through this."
Now Brodeur hopes to cool off Crosby, who has four goals and two
assists versus the Devils this season - all in two games.
Pittsburgh is 2-1-2 against New Jersey this season.