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Game Preview #46: New Jersey Devils vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

After an overtime loss to Seattle ended the winning streak, the Devils look to find more success at The Rock.

NHL: DEC 30 Devils at Penguins
It should be another start against the Penguins for Vitek Vanecek this afternoon.
Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (29-9-8) versus the Pittsburgh Penguins (23-15-7). SBN Blog: Pensbugh.

The Time: 2:00 PM

The Broadcast: TV - MSGSN

Need to Be Better At Home

This season, the Devils are second in the Metropolitan Division despite having a measly 11-10-2 home record. There is really no explanation for this — the Devils have the second best goal differential in the Eastern Conference behind the Boston Bruins, yet they always seem to find a way to lose when playing at home. In their last ten home games, the Devils are 2-6-2, with their only wins coming against the Rangers on January 7 and the Blackhawks on December 6. It is not good practice for a playoff team to win one home game every month.

How the Penguins Will Line Up

While the Devils did not do any line rushes in their short afternoon practice yesterday, the Pittsburgh Penguins recently played on Friday night. These were the lines in that game:

With Kris Letang still out of the lineup, the Devils need to really take it to the Penguins’ bottom two pairings. The current top pairing of Marcus Pettersson and Jeff Petry should be at least a solid defensive pairing - and it seems like Marcus Pettersson is also a playmaker to watch out for from the back end. I think the second pairing of Brian Dumoulin and Mark Friedman is the pairing the Devils should have the most success against — I do not really view them as a second pair-caliber partnership.

And on the note of defensive depth, I should note that John Marino is still in a non-contact jersey. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that he returns at least for a few more games. The Devils’ defense has been a bit inconsistent without him, but they are still a deeper group than what Pittsburgh is relying on.

What to Make of the Penguins

For once, the Penguins are a team that seems to be suffering in the finishing department. Outside of the top six, there aren’t any players that pop out as depth scoring threats. Seven players on the Penguins have 10 or more goals — and six of them are in the expected top six tonight. The only other is Brock McGinn, who has 10 goals and five assists in 45 games this season. It’s not the best situation for the Penguins, who have thrived most when they have had a balanced scoring attack, finding contributions from places you would not expect.

There are some deficiencies that are glaring with their forward group. For example, I would really enjoy watching Dawson Mercer play center today so he can match up against Jeff Carter’s third line. At Carter’s age, I would take Mercer any day of the week in that battle. And Pittsburgh has really reached into their depth for their fourth line, which features Jonathan Gruden in what should be his fourth NHL game. Gruden, a 2018 fourth round pick, had 16 points in 32 AHL games before being called up. If the Devils play their best group of centers, they should eat Pittsburgh bottom six alive. If they decide to trot out, say, Jesper Boqvist at center, that advantage might not be so substantial.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of this afternoon’s game? Will you be attending or watching from home? Are you looking forward to seeing their Lunar New Year jerseys? What do you think Lindy Ruff needs from his team to get the win against the Penguins? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.