When: 7:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: On TV locally in Pittsburgh (AT&T Sportsnet), New York area (MSG+ Network),
Opponent Track: This is game #4 of a seven game road trip for New Jersey, and so far it hasn’t gone well to say the least. They lost 8-3 in Tampa last Tuesday, then 4-3 on Thursday in Detroit and last time out lost 3-0 to the Islanders on Saturday night. This is also the first end of a back-to-back as the Devils will have to get out of town quickly tonight and fly up to Ottawa for a game tomorrow night.
Pens Refresh: Lost 3-0 on Saturday night to Toronto and are in a 0-2-1 mini-slump themselves.
SBN Team Counterpart: All About the Jersey
Tale of the Tape
—The two teams have played fairly similar on paper so far this season. New Jersey has been a little more dull in terms of less shots for and shots against than Pittsburgh. New Jersey has gotten much better goaltending. The Penguins have shot the puck better and scored more goals than the Devils. These are all items shown in that stats and all makes sense with the eye test too.
Player stats at a glance
—Is Taylor Hall having a Hart trophy hangover? That might be a bit much to say for a guy still over a point per game, but Hall is only on pace after the season’s first month to score 15 goals (after netting 39 last year). Paces can change quickly though, especially since NJ has played a league-low 11 games so far this season.
—I feel like the slide of Cory Schneider from really good goalie to unreliable backup has been a pretty quiet one on the national hockey media landscape. Schneider finished 6th in the Vezina voting as recently as 2015-16 and even got a Hart vote that year too! But he’s been pretty poor for a while since then and is now firmly entrenched as the backup to Keith Kinkaid. Schneider, 32, still has this season and THREE more at a cap hit of $6.0 million. Goalies, man. They’re tough to project.
—Old friend Jean-Sebastien Dea started off in Jersey like a house of fire scoring three goals in his first four games there after being claimed on waivers in October. He’s goal-less and point-less in the last seven games and sort of finding his level once again.
—What in the world happened to Pavel Zacha? The 6th overall pick in 2015 (and Ray Shero’s first NJ selection) just got demoted to the AHL after 10 scoreless games. All About the Jersey has a good breakout
What do we make of this? There are of course several ways to think about it. In one way, the optimistic view is that he is struggling to find his game, and time away from the spotlight up in Binghamton should help him find his scoring touch once again. Give him some games down there to find success, and let him bring that success back to Newark, where he can then start to add to the secondary scoring that this team so desperately needs. I mean, he was a force in his two seasons for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, producing 64 points in 51 games in his second season there. He has proven he can dominate offensively, so let him get that confidence back again in the AHL, and then bring that to the NHL.
If you are a fan thinking that way, I give you so much credit, and I hope you are right. Given the tone of how I have been writing this, however, I am sure you can assume I am less optimistic. There have been many players who have not been able to translate success in major junior hockey to the NHL, and it seems to me like Zacha might just be the next in that long line.
Shero, ironically with his love of defensemen, drafted Zacha over Ivan Provorov and Zach Werenski who were selected with the next two picks. Also a top-10 pick? Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen who currently is the NHL’s leading scorer. Ouch.
Will Bucher / Ben Lovejoy
And now for the Pens
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
(from Sunday practice)
Penguins at practice:— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) November 4, 2018
**Yes, Rust and Cullen were on their off-wings
—One notable absence above is Phil Kessel who was given a “maintenance day” from practice. Typically that means player is expected to play, and Phil always plays, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in those lines above. They will have to be shuffled up quite a bit to get Kessel in. Plus I doubt either Mike Sullivan or Mark Recchi really want to show the young bucks how it is done just yet.