When: 1:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, MSG+ in the NY/NJ market, NHL Network for out of market viewers
Opponent Track: The Devils are 1-1 against the Pens this week. It’s a tough road ahead for New Jersey, literally, as they go to Philly on Tuesday, then are in Washington for a back-to-back on Thursday and Friday and NJ stays on the road for two games next week in Boston.
Pens path ahead: For the first time since February 21-22 the Penguins will get two straight days off on Monday and Tuesday. Pittsburgh stays at home for the rest of March, today hosting NJ, then a back-to-back with Buffalo on Wednesday-Thursday and then they will welcome the Islanders next Saturday and the following Monday (3/29).
Season Series: NJ took Round one on Thursday night, 3-2 and the Pens returned the favor with a 3-1 victory yesterday. After today, there are five PIT/NJD games in the month of April 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 4-2-0 against the Devils in the last six games.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out All About the Jersey for the latest news to know about the Devils.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Part of the Devils issues this season have been the quiet and fairly unproductive play of Andreas Johansson and Nikita Gusev. The team was no doubt hoping for more than five goals and seven assists combined for these two over halfway through the season. Both players have been pretty invisible in the last two games and aren’t getting a ton of ice time.
Janne Kuokkanen - Travis Zajac - Yegor Sharangovich
Miles Wood - Pavel Zacha - Nick Merkley
Jesper Bratt - Jack Hughes - Kyle Palmieri
Andreas Johansson - Mikhail Maltsev - Nikita Gusev
Ty Smith / Damon Severson
Dmitry Kulikov / P.K. Subban
Ryan Murray / Sami Vatanen
Possible starting goalie: ?
Scratches: Will Butcher, Nathan Bastian, Michael McLeod, Mackenzie Blackwood
IR: Nico Hischier
—It might be Aaron Dell in net today for New Jersey, starter Mackenzie Blackwood didn’t even dress yesterday to serve as the backup and Wedgewood played on Thursday and Saturday. New Jersey’s goalie options seem like either a perhaps fatigued/over-worked Wedgewood or Dell, or a potentially less than 100% Blackwood if makes a quick recovery. Doesn’t seem like the best place to be for a third game in four days.
Devils power play letting them down
New Jersey had two chances to tie the game yesterday in the third period, but let it slip away. On the season the NJ PP is 28th in the league, clicking at just at 13.8% conversion rate. From devils.com:
Devils head coach Lindy Ruff didn’t mince words when asked what went wrong with the power play, which had scored in each of the previous three games.
“Execution, speed, determination,” Ruff said. “I thought we were slow. We were slow coming up ice. We made plenty of bad decisions. Once we were inside, we didn’t move it quick enough. We didn’t generate lanes quick enough. Probably the end of it is we didn’t support each other.”
It was only a one-goal game in the third period, 2-1, when the Devils had those four minutes on the power play, and they’ll look back at that missed effort as the moment when the outcome of this game could have been different.
“The power play, we have to be better,” Palmieri said. “We have to make sure we’re at least getting some momentum and getting good looks. I think the power play sucked a little life out of our team and the guys on it. And you can’t have that.
“You have to find a way to generate something, whether that’s momentum, goals, shots, good looks, energy, whatever it is. We just didn’t do any of that.”
And now for the Pens..
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Evan Rodrigues - Jared McCann - Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese - Mark Jankowski - Sam Lafferty
Colton Sceviour - Frederick Gaudreau - Anthony Angello
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / Cody Ceci
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Possible starting goalie: Tristan Jarry
Scratches: Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel, Brandon Tanev
IR: Evgeni Malkin, Jason Zucker, Mark Friedman, Teddy Blueger
Taxi Squad: Yannick Weber, Josh Currie, Josh Maniscalco, Maxime Lagace
—It’s kind of a humorous but painful turn of events lately on how Rodrigues has managed to stay in the top six lately due to other injuries. Rodrigues was slated to play on the fourth line yesterday until (sigh) even Brandon Tanev couldn’t answer the bell and missed the game with injury.
—Tanev did take the pre-game skate and probably won’t be out too long, but if he couldn’t play 24 hours ago his status for today’s game seems cloudy at best. But there is a two day break coming up, usually no big deal, but it looks like quite an oasis in this compressed schedule.
Return of the Rust-ache
Bryan Rust’s upper lip was looking pretty flush yesterday. Turns out an old tradition might have returned:
Yesterday, Rust lost the shootout competition at practice.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 20, 2021
Today, he's rockin' a mustache (the return of mustache boy?). And he's celebrating goals like this ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/JrBHJk3hRz
“It kind of just came out of nowhere, to be honest,” Zach Aston-Reese said of the shootout/mustache wager. “I think it was just to lighten the mood after a loss like that where we made a good push at the end. We didn’t play the best, but we didn’t play the worst.
“Definitely it’s something we did to lighten the mood, and Rusty losing it was just a little bit of cherry on the top with that.”
To his credit, Rust was a good sport about it, and it ended up working out for him today.
“Found a couple razors at the rink, found some shaving cream at the rink, took it back to the hotel and did it there,” he said. “Obviously it’s a look I’ve sported before during Movember, but I was just saving it for today, I guess. Took about 14 attempts in practice yesterday and couldn’t find it, obviously (laughs) and then I was able to capitalize today.”
It’s too bad Rust didn’t use the backhand move in the mustache boy competition that he pulled off in the game yesterday or else he might not have ended up the loser.