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Game Preview #21: Devils at Pittsburgh

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The second half of back-to-back games features the Devils and Penguins. Here’s the preview.

Detroit Red Wings v New Jersey Devils
After falling to the Red Wings, the Devils and Beau Bennett travel to face the Penguins for the first time this season
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Today marks the first of five meetings between the Devils and Penguins. Both teams have lost three of their past four, and both teams would make the playoffs if the season were to end today.

The Matchup: New Jersey Devils (10-6-4) at Pittsburgh Penguins (12-6-3; SBN Blog: Pensburgh)

Time: 7:00 PM EST

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+; Radio – 660 AM & 101.9 FM WFAN

The Last Devils Game: The Devils lost 5-4 to the Red Wings in overtime. A game full of defensive mishaps, and a disappointing loss for the Devils. They were outshot 33-19, and gaveaway the puck 11 times. John recapped the game here.

The Last Penguins Game: The Penguins lost 6-2 to the Wild last night. From a quick glance at the box score, the easiest thing to note is that the Penguins gave up three power play goals on 5 penalties. From a statistical standpoint, Fleury had a terrible game, which doesn’t matter for the Devils as they’re likely going to face Matt Murray. Phil Kessel scored his 6th of the season, and Brian Rust scored his 3rd. Surprisingly enough, Sidney Crosby did not record a point during the game. The Penguins did have 36 shots on goal, so perhaps Devan Dubnyk continued his out-of-this-world performance, and led the Wild to the 6-2 win.

The defense needs some fixing: The Devils have given up four goals or more in each of their last four games. For a Devils team that generally struggles on offense, this is unacceptable. While +/- isn’t the most reliable statistic, the pairing of Damon Severson and Andy Greene would be seen as one of the main guilty parties based on that stat. The past few games, Kyle Quincey has been one of our better defenders, aside from an embarrassing own-goal. Damon Severson needs to be smarter with the puck. After nearly allowing a breakaway goal against the Sharks, he gaveaway the puck to Justin Abdelkader while the Devils were on the power-play, which led to a shorthanded goal for the Red Wings.

Containing Crosby?: Although he was effectively contained by the Wild yesterday, that’s a very very rare occurrence. On the year so far, Crosby has scored at a goal-per-game rate, which is almost unheard of. When Crosby scores, he scores a lot. When he’s had a point in a game, he’s recorded a multi-point game seven times, compared to the five games where he’s only recorded one goal. When he doesn’t score, he tends to be very bad. In the game against the Rangers on the 21st, he had a -4 rating.

Goalies: Both teams are likely to play different goalies than they played yesterday. On the Devils side, it’s Keith Kinkaid. He’s 2-1-1, with a .931 save percentage. Although he gave up four goals against the Sharks, none of them were really his fault, which makes his save percentage even more respectable. On the Penguins side it’s Matt Murray, who’s 6-1-0 with a .945 save percentage. On an off-handed note, I find Matt Murray’s development as a player incredible. He recorded subpar numbers in the OHL until his 4th year with the Greyhounds, and has dominated on every level since then. He is the future for Pittsburgh, which is bad for the Devils in the short and long-run.

Schneider woes: Although he isn’t playing today, I feel it is necessary to bring up Schneider’s woes. An incredible goalie, he is currently going through a stretch of five games with a save percentage under .900. He’s a lot better of a goalie than that, and this bad streak could be associated to a case of lost confidence. However, Schneider is essential for the Devils to win, and us as Devils fans must hope he finds his confidence again soon.

The Penguins as a Team: While they’ve scored a lot of goals, they’ve also given up the same amount of goals. This, sadly, doesn’t seem to occur when Murray is in the net, but should still be mentioned. The Penguins have the 6th best-power play in the league, so it is essential that the Devils don’t shoot themselves in the foot by committing penalties.

There’s no point in trying to double-team Crosby only — the Penguins have enough offense to make up for that. Kessel, Malkin and Letang are star players in their own rights, and players such as Matt Cullen and Connor Sheary can hurt the Devils as well.

On the injury front, Chris Kunitz and Patrick Hornqvist are out. Both are very good players, and important for the Pittsburgh Penguins offense. This has forced the Penguins to call up players such as Tom Sestito. Hopefully Sestito plays today, and if he does doesn’t kill anyone.

Your Take: Thank you for reading this preview. Let me know what you think the score for this game will be, and have a good day.