When: 7:00 p.m. eastern.
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, MSG+ for the NY/NJ area
Opponent Track: New Jersey has won two straight games, beating the NY Rangers 6-4 on Saturday for their last game. Like many lower-end team the Pens have seen recently, the Devils aren’t playing as bad as their season record suggests. NJ is 6-1-2 in their last nine games, with wins over Washington and St. Louis (among others) in that stretch. They’re 12-7-5 since firing Ray Shero in mid-January, so this certainly is not a team limping to the end of the season - they’ve been tough to beat in regulation!
Pens path ahead: The longest remaining road trip of the season will continue with a game at Columbus on Thursday night and then the Pens head south to play in Carolina on Saturday night. Then they’ll quickly return to Pittsburgh to play the New York Islanders on Sunday night.
Season Series: Today will be the third PIT/NJD game of the season. The Pens lost in NJ back on November 15th 2-1, but beat the Devs 4-1 on Nov 22nd in Pittsburgh. Three weeks from today NJ will return to Pittsburgh for the fourth and final game of the season.
Recent history: While it seems like the Pens always struggled against NJD, Pittsburgh is actually 5-3-0 in their last eight trips to the Prudential Center.
SBN Team Counterpart: Our friends at All About the Jersey will have you covered from the New Jersey perspective
Tale of the tape
—The Pens’ save percentage, once top-10 in the league is totally cratering. Their offense isn’t doing much to pick it up. It’s becoming possible (probable?) this team really isn’t better than it has been in the last two seasons.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Jesper Bratt has been the leading points scorer for the team since the All-Star Break, recording 16 points (8G+8A) in 19 games.
—Damon Severson has excelled lately too offensively with 15 points (3G+12A) in the last 20 games.
—A lot of Jersey’s second half success credit belongs to rookie goalie Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood is rocking a 8-1-2 record in his last 11 starts with 2 shutouts, .941 save% and 2.1 GAA. He’s become the workhorse of the team with 42 starts, next highest backup has 14. Blackwood has performed well in both games against the Pens this season. He’s got a 1-1 record, but that’s hardly his fault after being bombarded with 75 shots in the two games, stopping 70 of them for a .933 save%.
Possible Lines (based on Monday practice)
Miles Wood - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri
Jack Hughes - Travis Zajac - Joey Anderson
Jesper Bratt - Pavel Zacha - Nikita Gusev
Kevin Rooney - Michael McLeod - Janne Kuokkanen
Mirco Mueller / P.K. Subban
Dakota Mermis / Damon Severson
Connor Carrick / ? (Frederik Claesson)?
Expected starting goalie:
Expected Scratches: Will Butcher (injury), John Hayden
Injured Reserve: none
—Kyle Palmieri or Travis Zajac, which will strike first? Two notorious Penguin killers there, must be licking their chops for this game.
—Kuokkanen would be making his NHL debut (which coach Alain Nasreddeine did not officially confirm). Given what Morgan Geekie did to the Pens on Sunday in his NHL debut, he must be double excited too.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Sunday game)
Jason Zucker - Sidney Crosby - Conor Sheary
Patrick Marleau - Evgeni Malkin -Bryan Rust
Jared McCann - Nick Bjugstad - Patric Hornqvist
Brandon Tanev - Teddy Blueger - Evan Rodrigues
Brian Dumoulin/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Jack Johnson / Justin Schultz
Possible starting goalie: Matt Murray
Expected scratches: Zach Aston-Reese (lower body injury), Juuso Riikola (healthy), Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), Dominik Simon (injured), Anthony Angello (injured), Sam Lafferty (healthy)
Injured Reserve: Jake Guentzel (shoulder)
—The Pens are probably missing ZAR more than expected, as his defensive metrics have steadied and balanced out the weak offense of Brandon Tanev and Teddy Blueger. Without Aston-Reese, the two have contributed absolutely nothing offensively and their defense has slipped.
—Jared McCann’s last goal was January 14th against Minnesota, it’s now a stretch of 20 games.