Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (31-21-7; 69 points, 4th place in Metropolitan division, #1 wildcard playoff team) @ New Jersey Devils (23-28-8; 54 points, last place in Metropolitan division, 14th in Eastern Conference)
When: 7:00pm eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, MSG+ in the New York/New Jersey area
Opponent Track: This is a really heavy stretch for NJ, playing their seventh game in the last 11 days. They’re 3-3-0 in this stretch, having won the last two games, including beating Buffalo 4-1 on Sunday.
Pens Refresh: Split the weekend and won against NYR last game.
Season Series: The best thing about it is it’s over after tonight! The Devs always seem to give Pittsburgh troubles and this season was certainly no different. NJ won 6-3 he last meeting on Jan 28th, NJ won 4-2 on Nov 13th and NJ won 5-1 on Nov 5th. Maybe the Pens can avoid a season sweep against a bad team?
SBN Team Counterpart: All About the Jersey
Tale of the tape
—Well, at least the PK is good? That’s about the nicest thing you can say about a Devils team that doesn’t score much, gets outshot a ton and doesn’t get good goaltending so they end up giving up a lot of goals too.
—The Pens were at like 33.0 shots against per game just last week before the Philly game. It’s ballooning up this deep in the season, concerning!
—One of the more interesting splits this season is that NJ goalies have awful save percentages at even, but have excelled while short-handed. Goalies are voodoo.
Player stats at a glance
—Welcome back, Cory Schneider! Schneider won his first NHL game since December 2017 on Friday 2/15, coming in on relief and stopping all 15 shots he saw against Minnesota. He followed that up by stopping 34/35 against Buffalo on Sunday. It’s been a long, strange journey for Schneider, but now all of a sudden he looks like a good NHL goalie again. Will this be a brief mirage or can he build on it?
—In the last 13 games played, since January 16th there’s some interesting names producing for NJD:
—Marcus Johansson could be a trade target for a contender and is putting up points. Drew Stafford? Not so much.
—Big name missing? Taylor Hall who has been out with injury since 12/23 and to really sabotage New Jersey’s season. When Hall goes down, they simple don’t have the talent to overcome that.
—Kenny Agostino (possible scratch tonight) sound familiar? He was a 5th round pick of Pittsburgh in 2010 that was traded to Calgary in the Jarome Iginla deal. He didn’t catch on there and has bounced from CGY to St. Louis to Boston to Montreal and now over to New Jersey to play for the man who drafted him in Ray Shero. The 26-year old Agostino has been an incredibly prolific scorer and dominant force in the AHL, but unfortunately his game hasn’t translated to the top level NHL.
Lovejoy on the move?
AAtJ has a good Devils trade deadline primer, here’s what they say about old friend Ben Lovejoy:
Ben Lovejoy - RHD, 34 years old - Lovejoy is not fast, he does not contribute much on offense (although he has 63 shots in 48 games per NHL.com), he is not good on the puck in general, and he is somewhat prone to taking calls (he’s fifth on the Devils with 33 PIM per NHL.com). He has been quite good on the penalty kill and, despite some real poor games in recent memory, he has done relatively well in 2019 per Natural Stat Trick. The key is to limit him to a third pairing and pair him with someone who can handle the puck decently. Throw in some experience and teams may want him. If he played well in the last couple games, then I could see it increase. Instead, I see his value as holding steady for a guy of his caliber.
Some Pens’ fans are wondering if a third stint in Pittsburgh could be possible for “The Reverend” but at this point the answer seems to be not an ideal guy. For depth, maybe, but Lovejoy needs to be sheltered and the Pens already have a surplus of similar players like that (Johnson, Pettersson, Riikola, Ruhwedel).
Though the price might be higher, as we wrote last week a player like Detroit’s Nick Jensen would be a much better potential deadline add as a player that is younger and will help guard against zone entries and also support shot-based puck possession metrics a LOT better than Lovejoy would now in the year 2019.
Possible Lines (from Sunday’s game)
Marcus Johansson - Nico Hischier - Jesper Bratt
Miles Wood - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri
Kenny Agostino - Kevin Rooney - Joey Anderson
Drew Stafford - Brett Seney - Kurtis Gabriel
Andy Greene / Damon Severson
Will Butcher / Ben Lovejoy
Mirco Mueller / Eric Gryba
Injured Reserve: Taylor Hall, Sami Vatanen, Blake Coleman, Stefan Noesen
And now for the Pens
Check the game notes, eh bud?
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Zach Aston-Reese-Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Jared McCann- Nick Bjugstad - Patric Hornqvist
Tanner Pearson- Matt Cullen- Dominik Simon
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Jack Johnson / Justin Schultz
Marcus Pettersson / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Juuso Riikola , Garrett Wilson Teddy Blueger(healthy)
Injured Reserve: Olli Maatta (upper body, IR)
—The Pens were off yesterday as they traveled to NJ,
so we’ll stick with the same projection as the win on Sunday. It’s possible Simon could be shuffled out for Wilson or Pearson though.
—Based on lines in the Tuesday morning skate, it looks like Blueger is out and Pearson is back in
Eye on the standings
Mixed bag of news for Pittsburgh last night - Washington hung on for a 3-2 win on the road in Los Angeles, which isn’t great news but LA is a bad team so expecting the Caps to fall there might have been a stretch.
Columbus got throttled 5-1 by Tampa AND has to play tonight in Montreal. They definitely need a big response game on the road, in a back-to-back situation. If they fall again, the Pens could pass them in the standings with a win (though CBJ would retain a game in hand).
So Pittsburgh could be second in the division if that works, or out of the playoff picture completely if they lose and Carolina wins tonight at home against NYR. Quite the swing of events, which makes this a critical night across the board for PIT, CBJ, CAR (and MTL too) for playoff jockeying. The picture is bound to change a lot between now and April and could be quite a bit different by tomorrow morning. Buckle up.