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Game 31 Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ New Jersey Devils 3/20/2021: lines, how to watch

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Round 2 for the Pens and Devils on Saturday afternoon

NHL: MAR 18 Penguins at Devils Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (18-11-1, 37 points, 3rd place in the Eastern Division) @ New Jersey Devils (10-13-4, 24 points, 7th place in the Eastern Division)

When: 1:00 p.m. eastern

How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, MSG+ in the NY/NJ market

Opponent Track: The Devils are up to a two game winning streak after beating the Pens 3-2 on Thursday night.

Pens path ahead: Day games weekend today and back to Pittsburgh tomorrow to play against the Devils. Then, mercifully, Pittsburgh gets their first two day break in quite a while on Monday-Tuesday of next week before getting the Sabres for a back-to-back next Wednesday/Thursday (3/24 and 3/25).

Season Series: NJ took Round one on Thursday night, 3-2. After this weekend, we’ll see five PIT/NJD games in the month of April (goody, goody) as the Pens return to Jersey on 4/9 and 4/11. The Devils then come to Pittsburgh for three straight games on 4/20, 4/22 and 4/24.

Recent History: The Pens are 3-2-0 against the Devils in the last five games.

SBN Team Counterpart: Check out All About the Jersey for the latest news to know about the Devils.

Player Stats at a Glance

via hockeydb:

—Leading scorer Pavel Zacha attempted to take the morning skate on Thursday, but did not finish and “just wasn’t able to go”. We’ll see on his status for the weekend, but it doesn’t sound like he’s healed up and ready for game action just yet, which might benefit the Pens on this quick Saturday-Sunday afternoon game turnaround.

—Kuokkanen and Sharangovich are fun players to watch. The Devils might be onto something with some players like that.

Possible Lines

FORWARDS

Janne Kuokkanen - Travis Zajac - Yegor Sharangovich

Jesper Bratt - Jack Hughes - Kyle Palmieri

Miles Wood - Mikhail Maltsev - Nathan Bastian?

Andreas Johansson - Michael McLeod - Nikita Gusev

DEFENSEMEN

Ty Smith / Damon Severson

Dmitry Kulikov / P.K. Subban

Ryan Murray / Sami Vatanen

Possible starting goalie: Scott Wedgewood?

Scratches: Will Butcher, Pavel Zacha

IR: Nico Hischier

—The rookie Bastian left the game on Thursday after absorbing a big hit and did not return. It seems like there are just a ton of injuries in Pens games this year. In the last week alone Dylan Cozens, Teddy Blueger, Evgeni Malkin, Jarred Tinordi and now Bastian have all been injured and missed time from incidents in various Pens games. There are a lot of games going on, but that number is way high. Coincidence or is it a physical brand of hockey the Pens are playing and absorbing?

—Not sure about the Devils goalie, but after a 42 save game and presumptive starter Mackenzie Blackwood apparently suffering some injury, why wouldn’t NJ go back to Wedgewood for this one? Pittsburgh has had some trouble scoring on the lanky goalie, but hopefully the last second Bryan Rust goal from Thursday will send a message and help break the ice.

Learning to fly

In a short year and not quite being ready for prime time, every game is a good shot for the Devils to learn and grow.

Hughes himself scored his seventh goal of the season Thursday against the Pens, matching his goal total from his rookie 2019-20 season (in 27 games this year, compared to 61 last year). Hughes might not have come right into the league dominant like some other first overall picks (hi, Sid!) but he certainly is figuring out how to make an impact in the top league in the world and getting better at creating more and more offense. Not bad for a teenager.

And now for the Pens..

Lines

Forwards

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust

Brandon Tanev - Jared McCann - Kasperi Kapanen

Zach Aston-Reese - Mark Jankowski - Sam Lafferty

Colton Sceviour - Evan Rodrigues - Anthony Angello

Defense

Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang

Mike Matheson / Cody Ceci

Marcus Pettersson / John Marino

Possible starting goalie: ?

Scratches: Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel, Frederick Gaudreau

IR: Evgeni Malkin, Jason Zucker, Mark Friedman, Teddy Blueger

Taxi Squad: Yannick Weber, Josh Currie, Josh Maniscalco, Maxime Lagace

—Ugh, just don’t look at this too long, it’s too depressing

—With games today and tomorrow, it figures the goalies will split them both. 5 of Casey DeSmith’s last 7 starts have come on the road, so it might be the backup today and save Jarry for the home game tomorrow. Or maybe not, guessing the Pens’ goalie splits lately has proven to be fruitless and just that, a guess.

Day time performers

It’s too bad Malkin is out for many reasons, one of which is being the second best active player in the matinee games. Luckily, the Pens still have the best player in day games available. From the team’s PR arm:

Over the course of his career, Sidney Crosby has thrived in day games. The Penguins captain has the highest points-per-game average in day games among all active NHL players:

Team/Player GP G A PTS PTS/GM

PIT – Sidney Crosby 112 57 94 151 1.35
PIT – Evgeni Malkin 114 62 82 144 1.26
WSH – Alex Ovechkin 127 69 56 125 0.98
TOR – Joe Thornton 151 39 107 146 0.97
PHI – Claude Giroux 167 46 108 154 0.92

Crosby’s 57 tallies are third-most among active players trailing only Alex Ovechkin (69) and Evgeni Malkin (62), while his 94 assists are also third-most, trailing Claude Giroux (108A in 166GP) and Joe Thornton (107A in 150GP).