Devils bid to brush aside Sidney Crosby, Penguins

The New Jersey Devils will look for the season sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday when they entertain their division rivals in Newark, N.J.

New Jersey beat Pittsburgh by identical 5-2 scores in the first two meetings of the season between the two clubs, most recently on March 19 in Newark.

Pittsburgh (33-30-11, 77 points) leapfrogged New Jersey (36-34-4, 76 points) in the Eastern Conference standings on Monday night with a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers.

Superstar captain Sidney Crosby collected two goals and an assist in the victory over the Rangers to clinch a 19th season averaging at least a point per game, tying Hall of Fame member Wayne Gretzky for the most in NHL history. The Penguins captain has points in five straight games (four goals, nine assists).

“That’s cool. Obviously, something that I didn’t want to talk about. I knew it was getting closer. Anytime you can be in that company, that’s pretty cool,” Crosby said.

Forward Bryan Rust scored twice on Monday to extend his point streak to five games (five goals, two assists).

The Penguins have points in seven of their last 10 games (5-3-2) and are 13-17-7 on the road this season.

Pittsburgh enters Tuesday’s contest five points behind the Washington Capitals for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with eight games remaining.

Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry, who was supposed to start Monday’s game, sat out due to illness.

“No challenges. You prepare the same way whether you’re playing or not — stuff like this happens,” said goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, who made 28 saves in the win over the Rangers.

Nedeljkovic, who is 13-6-6 with a 2.83 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage in 30 appearances (25 starts) this season, said he will be ready if called upon Tuesday for the second game of the back-to-back.

“Absolutely, I’ve done it before,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of games throughout my professional career in the minors — back-to-backs and three-in-fours and whatnot. We’ll get some food tonight, get to Jersey, get good sleep, and get ready to do it all over again.”

The Devils, seventh in the Metropolitan Division, are six points back of the Capitals for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

New Jersey enters Tuesday’s action following a 5-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night. It has dropped two of its past six games and is 17-18-2 on home ice ice this season.

“It’s just (focusing on) the next day — just try to be the best you can every single day,” forward Erik Haula said. “You don’t want to get too focused on who is next — it’s about living in the present and trying to play as well as we can as a group.”

Forward Jesper Bratt leads the Devils with 73 points through 74 games, while center Jack Hughes and right winger Tyler Toffoli are tied for the team lead with 26 goals each. Hughes has five goals over his last five games, while forward Timo Meier has five goals and five assists in his past six contests.

Goaltender Jake Allen is 10-15-3 this season with a 3.38 GAA and a .900 save percentage. Since being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens at last month’s trade deadline, Allen has made seven starts with the Devils and is 4-3-0 with a 2.59 GAA and a .923 save percentage.