When the Penguins take the ice today for the pre-game skate, a familiar face will be wearing the enemy colors.
Paul Martin, who signed with the Penguins this offseason, makes his first return to the Prudential Center as the New Jersey Devils host their Atlantic Division rivals.
Martin expects to be booed.
“I’m sure they will boo. I saw it with Nieder,” Martin said to Star Ledger reporter Rich Chere in recalling Scott Niedermayer’s return to New Jersey with the Ducks. “How do you boo a guy like that? I just hope it’s not as bad for me as it was with Scott Gomez when he was playing for the Rangers.”
Martin, who missed most of last season with an arm injury, figured he’d return to the Devils during the offseason. But after it became clear that Ilya Kovalchuk was the Devils’ main priority, Martin looked elsewhere.
“There really wasn’t any offer. It was more of seeing where I was at,” Martin recalled. “We really didn’t get anywhere during the time they could’ve offered me a contract. Me and (agent) Ben Hankinson figured out that Kovy was their main priority.”
Martin’s homecoming overshadows an important game between the two rivals. Although it’s still early in the season, both teams have yet to win a game. Pittsburgh fell to 0-2-0 Saturday night, when they lost their second straight home game, falling to the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2. The Penguins held a 2-1 lead in the third period, but Montreal mounted a comeback. Michael Cammalleri’s second goal of the game tied the game, 2-2, with 3:12 left in the third period. Scott Gomez then completed the comeback, scoring the game winner with 1:48 left in third.
The Devils are also winless this season, and have struggled defensively. New Jersey lost, 7-2, against the Capitals Saturday night. The Devils got out to a 2-1 lead after the first period on goals from Jason Arnott and Henrik Tallinder. But the wheels came off in the second, as the Capitals scored four straight goals – including three in five minutes – to take a 5-2 lead. Martin Brodeur was pulled after the second period of play, and Johan Hedberg would allow two more goals in the third period.
Coach John MacLean said the Devils need to give effort for the entire 60 minutes.
“It’s a process we’re going through that they’re 60-minute hockey games,” MacLean said. “It’s staying with the game plan and playing 60 minutes.
“We got what we deserved. The score we got we deserved.”
The Devils swept the Penguins last season, winning all six meetings. Martin even scored a goal against Pittburgh in the Devils’ final meeting against them last season.
Even though Martin didn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs with the Devils, he still respects the organization and the fans.
“That’s typical for most fans,” Martin said. “I don’t have anything against New Jersey. It was a good experience and they gave me the opportunity to play here.
“The fans have been great. Everything was great. It’s not like I was so glad to get out of here. It wasn’t as if, at the end of the year I wanted to leave. It wasn’t that at all.”