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Game Preview #18: New Jersey Devils vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

With Sidney Crosby sidelined, the Devils look to reverse their fortune versus Pittsburgh.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (5-8-4) versus the Pittsburgh Penguins (10-6-2). SBN Blog: Pensburgh.

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+

The ESPN+ Affiliate Link: For those in the US and use ESPN+, then please check out our affiliate link here.

The Time: 7:00 PM ET

Downed Crosby: As you might have heard in sports news recently, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will be out for a minimum of six weeks after getting surgery on a core muscle. Sidney Crosby has five goals and 12 assists in 17 games for the Penguins this season. Crosby has been stellar at five-on-five, with 14 of his 17 points coming at even strength.

Last month, the Penguins saw Evgeni Malkin sidelined with a “soft tissue” injury. Since he returned, he has a goal and five assists in five games playing just under 18 minutes per game.

Who Can Replace Crosby?: Not only can we expect to see more Evgeni Malkin in the absence of Sidney Crosby, but also the former first round pick of Vancouver in the 2014 Draft, Jared McCann, who is on his third NHL team at just age 23 after being traded with Nick Bjugstad to Pittsburgh from Florida last season.

This season, Jared McCann has six goals and five assists on 28 shots in 16 games while getting third line minutes (13:59 average time on ice). Without Crosby, it can be expected that he gets the nod in the top six. His trade partner, Nick Bjugstad, has been off to a bad start in Pittsburgh this season, with just one goal in nine games played.

While nobody can truly replace Sidney Crosby for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team has ventured to get some level of insurance if one of their top centers were to go down for an extended period. That played out well with Jared McCann, and less so this season with Nick Bjugstad.

Devils Injury Report: Sami Vatanen and Kevin Rooney will be out for tonight’s game - and Vatanen may be out for the weekend.

It annoys me very greatly to see Pavel Zacha, who has been very good this season, still get relegated to the fourth line. Meanwhile, Zacha’s +3.5 relative Corsi For percentage is sixth best on the team - only behind Kyle Palmieri, Nico Hischier, and Wayne Simmonds among forwards in that regard. It may end up making a legitimately good fourth line, as it has both Zacha and Simmonds on it, who have been pretty strong in possession this season. Nonetheless, it is probably a waste of Zacha’s talent.

Goalie Issues:

So, while Blackwood will go against Pittsburgh tonight, that means it will have to be Cory Schneider that faces Montreal on the road after travel. It probably doesn’t need to be said that these are as close to must-win games as you can get for the Devils at this point of the season. With just five wins in 17 games, the Devils really need to start making up ground now. At 14 points, they have less than half of Washington’s total of 32. And with several teams in both the Metropolitan and Atlantic Divisions vying for a spot in the wild card, the Devils need to not only be capable of beating their divisional opponent but the game against Montreal as well.

Your Thoughts: What do you think about tonight’s game? Do you think the Devils can possibly win? Do you expect them to be ready? Do you expect them to make use of Crosby’s absence? What do you make of the team’s chances of getting back into playoff contention? Does it start tonight? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.