(SportsNetwork.com) – The New Jersey Devils hope to avoid their longest losing
streak of the season when they visit the rival Pittsburgh Penguins for
Tuesday’s Metropolitan Division clash at Consol Energy Center.
The Devils are in the midst of a four-game slide, matching their longest skids
of 2014-15. New Jersey previously dropped four in a row from Oct. 16-24 and
Nov. 4-10, but the club hasn’t lost five straight since opening the 2013-14
campaign on a 0-4-3 losing streak.
The most recent loss of New Jersey’s current 0-2-2 slide came Saturday when it
opened a three-game road trip against the New York Islanders. New Jersey
outshot the Isles by a 35-28 margin in the game, including a 16-2 edge in
shots in the third period, but lost 3-1 on the scoreboard.
Jaroslav Halak frustrated the Devils’ offense time and again, posting 34 saves
and helping to kill off all four of New Jersey’s power-play chances.
Damien Brunner had the only goal against Halak, while Cory Schneider allowed
two goals on 27 shots in the loss. The regulation defeat dropped Jersey to
3-8-2 over its last 13 games and the Devils road mark fell to 6-8-1.
“We can be encouraged by it but we can’t be happy or satisfied,” said
The Devils were without centermen Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique on Saturday
after both players were hurt in Friday’s game against Detroit. Those injuries
led to New Jersey signing Scott Gomez to an undisclosed contract on Monday.
Gomez, who spent the first seven years of his career with New Jersey, was
invited to the team’s training camp on a tryout contract. He was not signed by
the Devils prior to the start of the season, but continued practicing with the
team waiting for an opportunity.
With Zajac being placed on injured reserve Monday with a lower-body issue, and
Henrique still considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury, the time was
right to ink Gomez.
In a 14-year career totaling 987 NHL games, Gomez has tallied 173 goals and
713 points. He spent the 2013-14 season with Florida, scoring two goals and
totaling 12 points in 46 games.
Gomez, a first-round pick by the Devils in 1998, is expected to suit up for
the Devils tonight for the first time since the 2007 playoffs.
“He does have skills, he knows the system, he’s been practicing and we’ll see
how it goes,” Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said.
New Jersey, which caps its swing Thursday in Toronto, also could have
defenseman Jon Merrill (arm) back tonight. Merrill hasn’t played since Nov. 1.
The Penguins enter Tuesday tied with the Islanders for first place in the
division and have won three of their last four games.
Pittsburgh fell Friday in its home half of a home-and-home series against
Carolina, but rebounded from the 4-2 setback with a road victory the following
Thomas Greiss came up with 32 saves to help the Penguins edge the Hurricanes
3-2. The Penguins supported Greiss’ solid effort with first-period goals by
Chris Kunitz and Robert Bortuzzo, with Christian Ehrhoff netting the eventual
game-winner in the third.
“I thought the intensity tonight, our battle level was certainly a lot higher
than last night,” Penguins head coach Mike Johnston said.
The Pens played Saturday without forward Marcel Goc and defenseman Kris Letang
after both skaters were injured in the opener against Carolina. Letang has
been ruled out for tonight, while Goc is questionable.
Pittsburgh owns a solid 7-3-1 record at Consol this season, but has lost two
of its last three home games. This evening’s test kicks off a three-game stay
in the Steel City, where the Devils have lost three straight, five of six and
nine of their last 11.
The Pens have claimed three of five overall from New Jersey and recorded an
8-3 win when the clubs met in Pittsburgh on Oct. 28. The Devils were outshot
33-19 in that game and surrendered a season-high in goals. Marc-Andre Fleury
stopped 16 shots for Pittsburgh, while Schneider surrendered five goals on 23
shots and was pulled after two periods.
Schneider is expected to make his 24th start of the season tonight. He is
winless (0-3-0) with a 4.15 goals against average in his career against
Fleury is 18-22-4 with a 2.50 GAA in 44 lifetime appearances versus the