Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (25-13-2, 52 points, 3rd place in the Eastern Division) @ New Jersey Devils (14-18-6, 34 points, 7th place Eastern Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, MSG+ in the NYC area, also available on ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Devils also played last night, beating Buffalo 6-3. But it hasn’t been great for NJ as of late, they lost 5-3 to those lowly Sabres on Tuesday night, and the Devils went 0-1-1 in their prior two games against Washington last week.
Pens path ahead: Tonight is the third game in four days for the Pens, and they’ll make it four in six with the rare Sunday night game also in Newark. Then, an oasis in the desert of a short season with a year long (non-COVID reason) three days off on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week before the Pens host the Flyers next Thursday.
Season Series: It’s a 1-1-1 season series for Pittsburgh so far against Jersey (2-1-0 from their perspective). NJ took Round one on March 18th, 3-2 in New Jersey. The Pens returned the favor with a 3-1 win on 3/20, but the Devils won 2-1 in OT in Pittsburgh on 3/21. Tonight is the first of five PIT/NJD games in the month of April (goody, goody) as the Pens are Jersey tonight and Sunday night to complete the @NJD portion of the year. The Devils then come to Pittsburgh for three straight games on 4/20, 4/22 and 4/24 to finish out the series.
Recent History: The Pens are 3-2-1 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
—The recent trade of Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri will open up more chances for younger players. Per our old pal Sam ‘the Man’ Kasan, Jesper Boqvist was only back in the lineup last night because Zajac is gone. And he scored his first of the year last night.
Lines from last night
Janne Kuokkonen - Jack Hughes - Yegor Sharangovich
Miles Wood - Pavel Zacha - Jesper Bratt
Mikhail Maltsev - Michael McLeod - Tyce Thompson
Andreas Johansson - Jesper Boqvist - Nick Merkley
Dmitry Kulikov / P.K. Subban
Ty Smith / Sami Vatanen
Ryan Murray / Damon Severson
Possible Starting goalie: Mackenzie Blackwood
Scratches: Will Butcher, Scott Wedgewood
IR: Nico Hischier, Nate Bastian
—Aaron Dell got the start last night. The Devils are carrying three goalies on the roster right now, so they’ll have no shortage of options to play tonight. Dell has had the worst season of all the goalies, so no matter who they pick it will likely be an upgrade in talent in the net for the Pens to deal with tonight.
—Jack Hughes will be a key player to watch for tonight. He had three points (1G+2A) as his line created three goals last night against Buffalo. Hughes has taken over the departed Zajac’s spot on a line with wingers Sharangovich and Kuokkonen, who have been starting to emerge as impressive young players. They will be the main players counted on to create offense now and in the future for New Jersey.
Trades take a lot of experience out of New Jersey
The Devils were a very young team before this week’s trade. Now they’re way less experienced after trading Zajac (1,024 career NHL games) and Palmieri (595).
After trading Travis Zajac + Kyle Palmieri, here are the current leaders in games played for New Jersey:— Corey Masisak (@cmasisak22) April 8, 2021
467 - Damon Severson
305 - Miles Wood
303 - Pavel Zacha
223 - Will Butcher
216 - Jesper Bratt
214 - Nico Hischier
Zajac (1,024) had nearly as many as the top 3 combined.
And now for the Pens..
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Jared McCann - Evan Rodrigues
Zach Aston-Reese - Frederick Gaudreau - Sam Lafferty
Radim Zohorna - Mark Jankowski - Colton Sceviour
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / Cody Ceci
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Possible starting goalie: Casey DeSmith
Scratches: Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel
IR: Evgeni Malkin, Mark Friedman, Teddy Blueger, Kasperi Kapanen, Brandon Tanev
Taxi Squad: Yannick Weber, Emil Larmi, Josh Currie, Anthony Angello
—Goalie decision hasn’t been announced, but the Pens rarely ride the starting goalie on both ends of a back-to-back. DeSmith has been great this year (although his last two appearances haven’t been) but this looks like a good opportunity for him to right the ship.
—Blueger remained unavailable for the game last night, still awaiting final medical clearance to get back in the lineup. Coming off the big win, and with Frederick Gaudreau and Radim Zohorna playing so well, the Pens would be just fine with the same forward group and lines for a third straight game tonight.
—Pittsburgh generated five goals and Crosby was off the scoreboard last night. That’s always a great sign when they can get so much offense without the captain’s impact, because he doesn’t stay quiet for very long.
Pens confident after getting back on track
After giving up 15 goals in the prior two games, the Pens knew they needed to buckle down defensively and play a stronger game last night. And they did, limiting the Rangers offense to just 24 shots on goal, 2 goals and only six high danger 5v5 scoring chances (per natural stat trick). From the Pens recap:
“I think we have a confident group,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think they understand the circumstance. Nobody was happy with the last couple of games, specifically the result, but the process had a lot to do with it. It starts with a competitive spirit, in my opinion, and when you have it and then bring the details to your game, that formula is going to give you the best chance to win.”
“We knew we had to turn the page quick after that loss,” Letang said. “You watch the film, and you can see that we had tons of chances where we could have won that game, but at the same time, it’s up for grabs when both teams are kind of loose defensively and try to score a bunch of goals. We know going forward, if we want to have success, we need to play a good defensive game with a five-man unit out there. So I think we tightened up today and we got the result.”