The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (7-9-4) vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-4)
The Time: 7:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: MSG+, NHL
The Devils played the Penguins just one week ago, a game in which the hockey gods finally smiled on New Jersey and gave us a win in a game we absolutely did not deserve one. This seems to be a pattern for the Penguins currently, so if we’re lucky we might be able to draw another undeserved win out before they figure their problems out. They’ll be coming in on the second half of a local back to back, having just dropped last night’s game to the Islanders in OT despite dominating the possession the entire game.
What to Expect
As he has many times in the past few seasons, Mackenzie Blackwood stole the game for the Devils last week. Blackwood will likely be in the net again tonight, and this time he’ll have a bit stronger defensive core in front of him. Sami Vatanen has returned to the lineup since last week’s game— the swap of Matt Tennyson for Vatanen is an absolutely huge one for the Devils blueline.
With Kevin Rooney still out of the lineup and now officially placed on injured reserve, Pavel Zacha returns to his usual position at center, and the lineups are forced to get one heck of a shuffling. The new lineups for tonight’s game are expected to look like this:
Hall - Hischier - Palmieri
Wood - Zacha - Bratt
Boqvist - Hughes - Simmonds
Coleman - Zajac - Gusev
Greene - Severson
Butcher - Subban
Mueller - Vatanen
As we’ve noticed in the past, I would NOT pay much attention to the order of these lines. With the exception of the first line clearly being the top guns, each of the bottom three lines are capable offensive lines with their own purposes and will likely see equal deployment if not based on their performances in-game as Hynes usually tends to do. Its been quite a while since we’ve had lines that can be looked at as relatively even and not in increasing increments of depressing. The spread out talent in these lines is actually a good thing to see if not a bit jarring as well.
In addition to rejoining the lineup, Jesper Boqvist will also join the PP. Notable absences from the PP lines after practice yesterday include Jesper Bratt and Damon Severson or Will Butcher. Vatanen’s return to the lineup means he returns to the top PP unit, and the second unit is expected to be backed by PK Subban. Subban hasn’t been ‘put him on the power play’ level for me lately, but that’s where we can expect him to be tonight. The lackluster special teams performances lately have warranted a change there. Whether or not these are the right chances, Kowalsky and I will have to agree to disagree.
PP1: Hischier, Hughes, Hall, Palmieri, Vatanen
PP2: Zacha, Gusev, Simmonds, Boqvist, Subban
The Penguins are still without Sidney Crosby, who will likely not return this calendar year. They tend to manage their way through injury with miraculous results, but the loss of Crosby is staggering for them. They’ve put up a pattern of losses lately in which they were clearly the better team in the game but have been unable to come away with the win (sound familiar?). They’re coming in on a back to back but not really one with travel so the Devils won’t get much of an advantage there. Their lines should look relatively familiar:
Guentzel - Malkin - Rust*
Kahun - Simon - Hornqvist*
Tanev - McCann - Galchenyuk
Aston-Reese - Lafferty - Blueger
Trotman - Petterson
Dumoulin - Marino
Johnson - Ruhwedel
*May see Rust and Hornqvist switch, the top lines switched around a bit in their last game
Your Take: Give us your predictions for tonight’s match-up, your reactions to these new lines and special teams, and your grandma’s secret cookie recipe in the comments, and thanks for reading!