Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (38-29-10, 86 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division) @ New Jersey Devils (48-21-8, 104 points, 2nd place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, MSG Networks for the Devils, Sportsnet in Canada, ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Devils have been threatening to snatch the top spot in the Metro from the Hurricanes, as a late-season slump for Carolina coincided with the continuation of career campaigns from defenseman Dougie Hamilton (he has 71 points in 77 games) and captain Nico Hischier (he averaged a point per game in March, and is now at 73 points in 76.) But what might be New Jersey’s biggest problem was exposed on Sunday, when backup Mackenzie Blackwood—who has struggled all season with consistency—was pulled during a 6-1 blowout loss in Winnipeg.
Pens Path Ahead: With just four games remaining, the Penguins alternate between playing at home (they face the Wild on Thursday and the Blackhawks next Tuesday) and away (they’re heading to Detroit on Saturday before ending the season in St. Louis next Thursday) for the rest of the campaign.
Season Series: The Penguins have yet to win a game in this season series. A Nico Hischier shorty with under a minute left in the second period was the game-deciding tally in Pittsburgh on December 30. The game in New Jersey on January 22 was tied for over 50 minutes until Marcus Pettersson scored in overtime— but he was the fourth man on the ice, so the goal was called back and Dougie Hamilton ended it on the ensuing Devils power play, 2-1. And the most recent matchup on February 18 featured yet another short-handed tally from Hischier as the Devils downed the Pens, 5-2, at PPG Paints.
Hidden stat: Like the Bruins, the Devils can sink their teeth into a third-period lead and hold fast. New Jersey is 31-1-2 (12-0-1 at home) when leading after the second frame.
Getting to know the Devils
SBN partner blog: All About the Jersey
Potential Game Lines
Tomas Tatar - Nico Hischier - Dawson Mercer
Ondrej Palat - Jack Hughes - Jesper Bratt
Timo Meier - Erik Haula - Jesper Boqvist
Miles Wood - Michael Mcleod - Yegor Sharangovich
Jonas Siegenthaler - Dougie Hamilton
Ryan Graves - John Marino
Kevin Bahl - Damon Severson
Goalies: Vitek Vanecek (Mackenzie Blackwood)
IR: Jonathan Bernier (hip, out for the season)
- Nathan Bastian, who is one of New Jersey’s most physical presences when laying hits or planting himself in front of the net, has missed three weeks due to a shoulder issue that has been nagging him since November, according to Ryan Novozinsky of NJ.com.
- The Devils have been shuffling trade-deadline pickup Timo Meier throughout the lineup and have not yet settled on their optimal forward combination. On Sunday, head coach Lindy Ruff had swapped the former Shark out from playing on Hischier’s side on the top line to slide Meier in on the third line. We’ll see if the Devils stick with these combinations after the blowout loss.
And now for the Pens...
Saturday Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Danton Heinen - Ryan Poehling - Mikael Granlund
Drew O’Connor - Jeff Carter - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
P.O. Joseph / Jeff Petry
Mark Friedman / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry, Casey DeSmith
Scratches: Jan Rutta (injured)
IR: Dmitry Kulikov (week-to-week, lower-body injury), Nick Bonino (week-to-week, lacerated kidney), Marcus Pettersson (lower body)
- The Penguins re-assigned Alex Nylander to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday. Nylander registered one assist while playing six games in March, back when a flurry of injuries hit the Penguins roster. He slotted in well on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker.
- Rutta missed his ninth straight game on Sunday. The Penguins are getting Mark Friedman’s always-willing-to-scrap energy into the lineup in his stead.
- Mandatory wild-card race check in: The Panthers and Penguins both have played 77 games heading into Tuesday. Pittsburgh (86) leads Florida (85) by one point. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the Panthers hold the tie breaker (they have 33 regulation wins to the Penguins’ 29), so the Pens must hold onto the one-point lead to make it past game No. 82. The Penguins’ biggest hope might be that after the Panthers face three non-playoff teams in Buffalo, Ottawa and Washington, they have to take on Toronto and Carolina in their final two contests. Meanwhile, the Penguins must deal with the Devils and Wild, but they end the season against the racing-for-Bedard Blackhawks and Blue Jackets. This one might come down to the wire.