Who: New Jersey Devils (7-9-4. 18 points 8th place Metropolitan Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-4, 26 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, MSG+ in the NYC area, NHL Network if you’re anywhere else, Sportsnet in Canada
Opponent Track: After beating the Pens a week ago last Friday 2-1, NJD won 4-3 in overtime against Montreal on Saturday but then dropped a 5-1 decision to Boston on Tuesday and have had a few days off since then.
Pens path ahead: The Pens stay at home for the next few days pre-Thanksgiving with two Western teams visiting next week; Calgary on Monday, Vancouver on Wednesday.
Season Series: As mentioned, the Devs beat the Pens 2-1 just a week ago in Jersey. Mackenzie Blackwood was taking over the torch from now former NJD goalie Keith Kinkaid as the “Devils goalie who isn’t very good but the Penguins make look like Martin Brodeur” in this one. Blackwood stopped 38 of 39 of the Pens’ shots. After tonight the teams don’t play again until two matchups in March (3/10 @NJ then 3/31 in Pittsburgh).
Recent history: NJD has played Pittsburgh tough, despite not being very good as of late. The games are 2-6-1 since the start of the 2017-18 season.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out All About the Jersey for everything you need to know about the NJD perspective for this game.
Tale of the Tape
—NJ’s 50 goals rank dead last in the league to date in the 2019-20 season.
—The Devils are pretty much bad at anything, except preventing shots at 5v5, but that doesn’t even matter when their goalies can’t stop the puck.
—NJ has struggled on special teams as well, in the rudimentary but useful “special teams index” of PP + PK%’s, trying to get to 100 or a little above is a good mark to be at. NJ is currently at 88.9. Pittsburgh at 103.6 is buoyed by the strong penalty kill.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Hall only having 2 goals on 71 shots (2.8%) is standing out as something that will probably regress back in a positive way for a career 10.5% shooter eventually. He’s had his passing stick going though with the team-high 15 assists, which would be more than any other teammate has points.
—After Blackwood’s terrific performance against the Pens last Friday, he played both the games and gave up a pedestrian 8 goals on 62 shots (.870 save%) in them, falling back to earth in a major way. And NJ decided they had seen enough of struggling veteran Cory Schneider, waiving him and calling up Louis Domingue from the AHL.
Possible Lines (based on AatJ projection)
Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Miles Wood - Pavel Zacha - Jesper Bratt
Jesper Boqvist - Jack Hughes - Wayne Simmonds
Blake Coleman - Travis Zajac - Nikita Gusev
Andy Greene / Damon Severson
Will Butcher / P.K. Subban
Mirco Mueller / Sami Vatanen
Expected scratches: Matt Tennyson, John Hayden
Injured reserve: Connor Carrick, Kevin Rooney
—Vatanen was out injured last time at this week, so the NJD roster will be a bit stronger for having him back from what the Pens saw last time.
—Both the goals NJ scored against the Pens came from what is now fourth line players. Zajac has long been a thorn in Pittsburgh’s side. As AatJ notes in their preview, due to this pretty even talent spread, don’t put a lot of stock in the traditional “lines”:
As we’ve noticed in the past, I would NOT pay much attention to the order of these lines. With the exception of the first line clearly being the top guns, each of the bottom three lines are capable offensive lines with their own purposes and will likely see equal deployment if not based on their performances in-game as Hynes usually tends to do. Its been quite a while since we’ve had lines that can be looked at as relatively even and not in increasing increments of depressing. The spread out talent in these lines is actually a good thing to see if not a bit jarring as well.
This will be worth watching how the game unfolds because the Pens have been pretty even-handed themselves with deployment and usage of a deep four line time (i.e. the Blueger/”4th” line occasionally starting periods). For matchup purposes it will be interesting to see which line Mike Sullivan might send out (Malkin or Blueger) if NJ starts the game with the Taylor Hall line.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Thursday’s game)
Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Alex Galchenyuk - Jared McCann-Brandon Tanev
Dominik Kahun - Dominik Simon - Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Sam Lafferty
Brian Dumoulin/ John Marino
Marcus Pettersson / Zach Trotman
Jack Johnson / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Juuso Riikola (healthy), Joseph Blandisi (healthy)
Injured: Sidney Crosby (hernia surgery, IR), Kris Letang (lower body injury), Nick Bjugstad (lower body injury, IR), Justin Schultz (lower body injury)
—ES minutes for the defensemen last night were pretty interesting. Interesting but sad in the sense Zach Trotman steps from the AHL into a No. 4 D role (and sad anytime Zach Trotman has to play a semi-big role in an NHL game) but tells interesting tale of usage:
- Tier 1: Dumoulin (17:54), Marino (17:53), Pettersson (17:41) Trotman (17:31)
- Tier 2: Johnson (12:19), Ruhwedel (10:52)
—Seven different Penguin players took minor penalties last night. For a team that’s been very disciplined and able to stay out of the box, that was a real back-breaker.
—Do the math and that’s a cap hit of $25.55 in four players on the shelf. That’s 31% of the salary cap unavailable for this game which really drives home the point of the key injuries the Pens are fighting through right now with two of their top three centers hurt and the top two right handed defensemen on the team out as well.