Gameday 8: Pens host New Jersey

Christian Petersen

The Pittsburgh Penguins are home to face the New Jersey Devils in a Saturday afternoon matinee.

Our buddy John from In Lou We Trust was nice enough to answer some questions and get us up to date for the upcoming Pens/Devils game.

#1 - At 3-0-3, the Devils are the only team in the East not to lose in regulation yet this season, but have suffered three straight extra-time (shootout, OT) losses. And each game of the season (except a 3-0 win vs Philly) has been a one goal game. What's the mood around the team and fanbase right now?

The mood is concerning. As great as the results have been, the Devils haven't been as sharp or as smart as they could be. They've take more penalties per game than they had in past seasons, including some really silly calls. They've had poor first period performances, either coming out of it with goals against the run of play at best or down deep in a game. The defense has been collectively good but really off at times. The power play hasn't been all that productive.

This isn't to say the Devils are just a bunch of scrubs. It says something about their talent level that they've fought back from deficits and kept a few of them. They've played in a variety of games - a penaltyfest against Philly, a blown lead against Washington, a big early deficit to Montreal, and dragging Boston to OT - and came out of each with points. The team has been getting good performances out of players even when the other team is doing better. If the Devils don't improve in the areas I've mentioned, then they're going to start dropping games outright. However, if they do, then they're going to be more than just fine.

#2 - Adam Larsson and Adam Henrique only played their first game in the last game. With the loss of Zach Parise fitting to doom the Devils (according to all the pre-season prognosticators), how held together early in the season especially with two key young players just now getting back? Any exceptional individual performances stand out?
They've held together with a collection of strong performances from various players from night to night. One night, Jacob Josefon had a strong night doing everything well. On another, it's Stephen Gionta playing way above his head. On yet another, it's Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac doing whatever they wished. And just recently on Thursday night, Adam Henrique returned and made an impact. It varies at all positions. The defense has looked spotty at times, they were only really lit up in recent games as a group. They've held the other team to a good level of shots against, which partially explains why Adam Larsson didn't get into the lineup until recently.

Martin Brodeur has been great except for his most recent start; and Johan Hedberg had a great debut save for the sole GA he had in regulation. Considering the team has made changes within their lineup in games and in between them, getting consistency has been a bit of a challenge. The only really consistent top players, I'd say, has been David Clarkson and Patrik Elias to some degree. Getting Adam Henrique back - and I mean back to what he was doing last season - will really help the forwards, and if Larsson can get into form, then he's more than capable of being a regular on the blueline. Before either happens, the Devils will just take whatever they can get out of the rest.

#3 - The stat-sheet tells me through six games David Clarkson has more goals, assists, points and shots on goal than Ilya Kovalchuk. Should I kill it with fire? (No but seriously, I take it Clarkson has been playing very well so far? Talk a little about his performance to this point).

3. Clarkson has been the team's top player so far. He's not just their top scorer with at least a point in every game this season, but he's also their top shooter and one of their best possession players. Clarkson has always been about firing away with the puck and he's been able to do just that with support from Elias and Dainius Zubrus. I suspect those two help Clarkson a lot with possession and defense, but they've meshed well with Clarkson's style of game.

Clarkson's on a hot streak from a production standpoint, but he's really taken command of that second line right wing position. It's going to take quite a bit at this point for him to lose it. Pretty good for a guy who was playing like a fourth liner in the first year of his contract. I don't know whether he'll continue to produce tonight, but you can be sure the Penguins will see a lot of shots and attempts coming off #23's stick.

-Pittsburgh Penguins Tickets

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