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Game Preview #46: New Jersey Devils at Pittsburgh Penguins

The slide continues.

NHL: APR 20 Devils at Penguins
Six goals in a period again today, or no?
Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (14-25-6) at the Pittsburgh Penguins (29-14-3). SBN Blog: Pensburgh.

The Time: 7:00 PM

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+2

Getting Nico Going

In the past two games, Nico Hischier has been creating a lot of offensive opportunities for the New Jersey Devils. On Sunday when the Devils last lost to the Rangers, Hischier led the team in individual scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances, getting seven shots on goal and scoring one. Last game against the Penguins, Hischier put four shots on net, scoring a goal in a second straight game. Hischier is now up to four goals in 10 games played - and his 15.7 shot percentage is showing some good signs for his scoring capability despite how little he’s played.

When returning from both of his injuries this season, Nico Hischier had three scoreless games followed by back-to-back games where he scored a goal. Before being struck by the shot from P.K. Subban, Hischier looked like he was about to string some good games together for the Devils after taking a few games to shake off the rust. Fortunately, Nico was not injured in his fifth game back this time around, and has a chance to continue to improve his scoring pace.

Hopeful Returns of Bratt and Zacha

Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha have been out of the lineup for over a week now - as both have been described as “day-to-day.” Lindy Ruff has continually been hinting at their upcoming return.

Tonight’s game is the second since he made this comment, so I would hope that Zacha and Bratt are able to return tonight. Pavel Zacha joined the Devils’ morning skate on Tuesday this week, so that gives me some hope for tonight. Bratt and Zacha would help Nico Hischier significantly, and Nico already seems to be warming up without them.

The Defense Situation

Will Butcher had to play some important minutes last game, with Ty Smith out day-to-day. He had three assists while taking four shots on goal, and played 4:27 on the power play. Perhaps the Devils should consider using him in that capacity for the second unit, which has not been very good since Ty Smith was promoted to take Severson and Subban’s place on the first power play unit.

With P.K. Subban out, the Devils probably hoped that Ryan Murray and Damon Severson could keep the team afloat in tough matchups on Tuesday. Did that work out? Severson, who led the team in ice time, had a 28.57 CF% in 19:03 at five-on-five, with the Devils getting outshot 14 to four and outscored two to one. Murray, in a bit more than two fewer minutes of even-strength ice time, was on the ice for three goals against, and both of their xGF percentages were in the low 20s. I would much prefer to see Damon Severson with Jonas Siegenthaler, as they had a 62.50 CF% in 5:34 together last game. Or, if Ty Smith returns to play, I’d like to see Severson reunited with him. I have not liked Murray with Severson, and think this team’s defense would have been better the past several games if they had not flipped Subban and Severson’s partners.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of tonight’s game? Will the Devils get good goaltending tonight? Will the defense allow the goaltending to be good? Do you think Hughes and Hischier will continue to produce offense, or will the team get smothered tonight after going on a tear in the third period on Tuesday? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.