Who: New Jersey Devils (7-6-1, 13 points, 6th place Metropolitan Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (8-6-0, 16 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division)
How to Watch: SportsNet Pittsburgh, MSG, streaming on ESPN+
Pens’ Path Ahead: The next week should be a real test for the Penguins; after tonight they go to Carolina on Saturday and then head back home to see Vegas on Sunday on a back-to-back. Then the Pens host their traditional Thanksgiving Eve game with the Rangers coming to town next Wednesday.
Opponent Track: The Devils enter tonight losers of three straight games and four of their last five, a bad trend that started when Jack Hughes got injured. That includes dropping a 6-3 contest to Winnipeg in their last game on Tuesday.
Season Series: This will be the only PIT/NJ meeting for a while, the two teams don’t see each other again after tonight until all the way on March 19th in Jersey. They’ll play just three times this season, the final game comes on April 2nd (also in NJ).
Last Year: Pittsburgh has a great chance to out-perform last year by doing better against NJ. The Pens were just 0-3-1 against the Devils last year, getting out-scored 16-6 on aggregate. Tough to do worse than that this time around.
Hidden Stat: From Pens PR: the Penguins are looking for their first win at home against the Devils since Apr. 24, 2021.
Trivia question: Sidney Crosby recorded his 13th career regular season hat trick last game against Columbus. When was his previous hat trick to that? (Answer below)
Getting to know the Devils
Lines from last game
Timo Meier – Michael McLeod – Jesper Bratt
Tyler Toffoli – Dawson Mercer – Alexander Holtz
Ondrej Palat – Erik Haula – Curtis Lazar
Tomas Nosek – Chris Tierney – Nate Bastian
Luke Hughes / Dougie Hamilton
Jonas Siegenthaler / John Marino
Kevin Bahl / Brendan Smith
Goalies: Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid
Possible scratches: Jack Hughes?, Max Willman, Colin Miller
IR: Nico Hischier (IR)
—The above is subject to change, and could be a major shift in the game. Hughes didn’t travel with the team to Winnipeg on Tuesday, but may meet with the team in Pittsburgh. If he’s able to jump back in from his shoulder injury that would clearly be a massive boost to the top of the lineup. However, his return is no sure thing and might be getting held off for New Jersey’s next game against the Rangers over the weekend.
—The Devils didn’t address their goaltending in the offseason and that looks questionable now. They’re 31st (.892%) in 5v5 save% and 30th in all situations (.874%). Goaltending failing plus injuries to their centers in Hughes and Hischier was probably the nightmare, worst case scenario for NJ this season — and it’s come to pass in the first month and the team is barely above .500 as a result. There’s still a long way to go, but that’s a recipe for a frustrating start.
—After years of waiting for John Marino to activate his offensive game, could he finally be stepping into that? Marino only had 14 assists all of last season and already has nine helpers in the early going this year. His career-high of 26 points remains his rookie campaign of 2019-20 (in 56 games). Marino is riding a current five-game point streak.
—Dawson Mercer avoided a sophomore slump last season by improving on a solid rookie year to score 27 goals and 56 points in his second go round. Now is it a junior slump? The youngster is enduring a tough stretch that he previously hasn’t had in his NHL career with 3G+0A in the early going.
Luke jumping right in
Tonight will be the first game the Penguins will see Luke Hughes as an opponent. The 2021 fourth overall pick only has 16 NHL games under his belt but already looks the part of a skillsy, difference maker. The 20-year old is almost matching his age in average ice time (19:41), has put up some points from his blueline position. He tends to have the puck on his stick a TON already, just like his brothers who have figured out this whole NHL thing pretty well.
These Hughes boys are involved.— Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) November 14, 2023
All puck carries per 60 mins, all situations, from @HockeyAnalytics. Out of 567 players (100 mins TOI+), NHL average of 58.3.
1) Quinn Hughes: 120.3
2) Luke Hughes: 111.7
3) Clayton Keller: 101.8
4) Jack Hughes: 100.2
5) Shea Theodore: 98.3
And now for the Pens...
Infographic courtesy of Pens PR
Projected Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Reilly Smith - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Drew O’Connor - Lars Eller - Radim Zohorna
Matt Nieto - Noel Acciari - Vinnie Hinostroza
Ryan Graves / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Erik Karlsson
Ryan Shea / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry and Magnus Hellberg
Expected scratches: P.O. Joseph, Jeff Carter
IR: Alex Nedeljkovic, John Ludvig (concussion)
Season opening IR: Will Butcher
—Nedeljkovic practiced in full yesterday and appears to be about good to go, but can’t return to games until he’s eligible to get taken off LTIR on Saturday. That could mean if all goes according to plan (and we know it always does for Penguin goaltenders, he said tongue in cheek) that Magnus Hellberg might not be playing again in the NHL anytime soon.
—Nieto missed practice yesterday on a “maintenance day” and has been dealing with some sort of minor injury that’s been keeping him off the ice lately aside from games. Not a huge deal but a little note. Malkin was also absent yesterday and wasn’t feeling well, the team hopes he’ll be feeling better and able to play tonight.
—Ludvig was a full participant in practice as he gets back up to speed. It was revealed that Ludvig will be spending a few games in Wilkes-Barre on a conditioning assignment to knock some rust off, being as he’s only played a few shifts this season so far.
Third jersey Thursdays
Every home game Thursday this season, the Pens are wearing their alternate jerseys. 1-0-0 so far on the season.
- Erik Karlsson (776 career points) is one away from tying Rob Blake (777) for the 20th most points among a defenseman in NHL history, per Pens PR.
- Kris Letang is at 699 career points. With one more point, Letang is set to become just the 10th defenseman in NHL history to record 700+ points with one team.
- With a point tonight, Sidney Crosby would earn a 10-game point streak, tying Jaromir Jagr (11) for 14th most all-time in 10+ game streaks. The names ahead are a who’s who of greatest offensive players of all-time: 99, Lafleur, 66, Dionne, Bossy, Esposito, Brett Hull, Messier, Yzerman, Denis Savard, Peter Stasny, Coffey and.....Connor McDavid, who somehow already has 12 streaks of 10+ games.
Trivia answer: Crosby notched hat trick 13 on Tuesday, his 12th was back in January 2022, which also came against Columbus.