Devils vs. Penguins Preview
Only Pittsburgh is looking like a contender in 2010-11.
Sidney Crosby and the Penguins' longest winning streak in nearly 12 years have them atop the division, and Crosby will try to guide Pittsburgh to a 10th win in a row Monday night against the struggling Devils.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGlobal.com have made the Penguins –220 money line favorites for Monday's game against the Devils. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 76% of more than 3,473 bets for this game have been placed on the Penguins -220.
The over-under is set at 5.5. New Jersey is currently 9-15-2 this season on over-unders, while Pittsburgh is 10-16-2.
The Penguins (18-8-2) have finished second to the Devils in the division race in three of the last four seasons while edging them out for first place in 2007-08.
They're unlikely to find New Jersey (8-16-2) in their way this season. While the Penguins are tied with Washington and Atlantic rival Philadelphia with an NHL-high 38 points, the Devils are 20 points back and among the league's biggest disappointments.
Crosby is a major reason Pittsburgh is contending again.
The superstar center leads the league with 23 goals and 46 points, and has collected 17 tallies with 14 assists during a 15-game point streak. It's his longest since a 16-game run from Feb. 16-April 1, 2009, and still four shy of his career high set during the 2007-08 season.
The Penguins are 12-2-1 during Crosby's torrid stretch, and his two goals in Saturday's 7-2 win at Columbus helped extend their winning streak to nine.
They haven't won 10 in a row since Jan. 28-Feb. 15, 1999.
"It's probably just our level of competing every night," Crosby said. "The last week, two weeks, (it's) the willingness to compete every night. That's the biggest thing and it's not easy to do."
Keeping the streak intact against New Jersey would usually be seen as a tall order. The Penguins totaled five goals while getting swept in the six-game season series in 2009-10, but they took the first meeting of 2010-11 on the road 3-1 on Oct. 11.
Crosby has been held to one goal and no assists in the last five matchups, but he's unlikely to face Martin Brodeur this time.
The four-time Vezina Trophy winner is expected to miss a seventh consecutive game with a bruised elbow as the Devils attempt to avoid a sixth consecutive road loss.
New Jersey will likely have Johan Hedberg in net again. He's 3-3-0 with a 1.94 goals-against average and one shutout while Brodeur has been out.
Hedberg, though, is coming off his worst performance of that stretch, stopping 29 of 33 shots in a 5-3 road loss to the Flyers on Saturday.
"This was another big game for us to try to find our winning ways," said Hedberg, a member of the Penguins from 2001-03. "It's not about lack of effort."
Hedberg is 2-2-1 with a 2.90 GAA in six games against Pittsburgh, but he made all 33 saves in a 1-0 win with Atlanta in his most recent meeting with his former club April 10.
Ilya Kovalchuk is looking to build on his goal against Philadelphia, which ended an eight-game drought. The right wing continues to be a major disappointment for New Jersey with five goals and six assists after inking a 15-year, $100 million contract.
Kovalchuk doesn't have a point in his last two games against Pittsburgh.