Penguins defenseman Paul Martin admitted in June that his first two years in Pittsburgh were so disappointing that, "If you had told me this is where my game would be after two years, I wouldn't have believed it."

Year 3 has Martin making believers out of some of his critics.

With the Devils at Consol Energy Center for a Saturday matinee against the Penguins, Martin suddenly looks like the steady performer who started his career in New Jersey.

"I just think it's a confidence thing with him," said defenseman Brooks Orpik, who has joined forces with Martin in a formidable, defensive-minded pairing.

"The physical ability has always been there. Everyone knows that, and he is playing really well."

Martin, who missed the final three games of the playoffs against Philadelphia because of a concussion that was suffered in Game 1 of that series, worked harder than he historically had during the summer.

Disappointed with his performance after signing a five-year, $25 million deal with the Penguins on July 1, 2010, Martin said a "sense of pride" compelled him to intensify summer workouts. He also added 10 pounds of muscle to his frame in the offseason.

"I did a lot more this summer than I usually do," Martin said. "I made sure I did extra. I have certain expectations for myself. Last year wasn't so great. I always put pressure on myself. I wanted this year to be different."

So far, so good.

Martin scored the season's first goal for the Penguins, has been more of presence offensively and finds himself playing against the opposition's best players every game.

Coach Dan Bylsma decided to place Martin and Orpik together — they never were paired during the prior two seasons — and the results have been promising.