NHL Picks and Predictions: Can the New Jersey Devils Beat the Pittsburgh Penguins?

By Mark Donatiello
Ed Mulholland – US PRESSWIRE

The New Jersey Devils host the only team in the division they have yet to beat, the Pittsburgh Penguins, this Saturday at The Rock. With a win, the Devils can climb to first place in the conference. A loss solidifies the gap between the New Jersey Devils and arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference this season, and a team that already crushed New Jersey once.

The first time these two teams played, the New Jersey Devils fell apart defensively. Since they last met, however, the New Jersey Devils have elevated their play significantly.

Adam Larsson is finally seeing the playing time he deserves, while defensive mistakes in front of Martin Brodeur have been minimized of late. If they can suffocate the Penguins, much like they did to the powerful offense of the Tampa Bay Lightning, New Jersey can easily steal this game at home and take over the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Martin Brodeur may not be the same player he was in his prime, but he is capable of carrying the Devils. If he can rebound from a poor start against the Penguins, the Devils offense can provide enough scoring to go toe to toe with the Pens. David Clarkson is off to an incredible start to his contract year, and Ilya Kovalchuk is starting to heat up after notching his league-leading second shorthanded goal. The Devils may not have the depth they had from their Stanley Cup run, but they do have the chemistry to be one of the best offenses in the conference this year.

The Penguins are a very good hockey team. Though Marc-Andre Fleury‘s collapse last season was a major part of the Pens’ early exit from the playoffs, he has proven himself to be a capable goaltender. The Penguins offense is among the most intimidating in hockey, while defensive depth provides consistent efforts.

Pittsburgh handed the Devils their only loss in regulation this year, but New Jersey is ready for a rematch.  It’s going to be a tough game, but the Devils are certainly capable of taking out the Penguins.

Prediction:  Devils 3 – Penguins 2

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