The Pittsburgh Penguins (29-11-8) have won two in a row after a four-game winless streak leading into the All-Star break, though we still haven’t seen the Penguins best in over a month. Sidney Crosby will try again for his 500th career goal. The Penguins can technically claim first place in the Metropolitan Division over the New Jersey Devils (17-26-5). The puck drops just after 1:30 p.m. at Prudential Center.
However, the Carolina Hurricanes will have three games in hand on the Penguins.
Evgeni Malkin should return from COVID protocol, as well. Officially, he’s a game-time decision.
The Penguins raced up and down the ice to beat the Ottawa Senators, 2-0 on Thursday at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Penguins put 44 shots on goal, including Bryan Rust’s empty netter. Former Penguins goalie Matt Murray was sharp and turned aside 42 of 43, but current Penguins’ tendy Casey DeSmith stopped all 26 shots he faced.
The Penguins stayed primarily on the perimeter, and the shot map from NaturalStatTrick.com did not show any concentration of shots between the dots or near the net. The game was completed in less than two-and-a-half hours.
The New Jersey Devils are red-hot. They’ve scored seven goals in back-to-back wins. They beat the Montreal Canadiens (who doesn’t) 7-1 and the St. Louis Blues 7-4 on Thursday. Nico Hischier and Michael McLeod of the clan McLeod each have three goals over the last two games.
It would be somewhat fitting that Crosby scores No. 500 against the Devils. At the Prudential Center in November 2016, the Penguins hit rock bottom. A postgame locker room argument ensued following a no-show loss, internal divisions boiled over, and the team hit rock bottom. It was a turning point in Crosby’s career. A few weeks later, Mike Sullivan became the new Penguins coach. All internal conflicts were ancient history, and two Stanley Cups followed.
Those Stanley Cups vaulted Crosby from a great player to one of the five all-time greatest players.
All-Star Tristan Jarry likely starts for the Penguins. PHN will update the story if that changes or any players are unavailable. Sullivan will address the media at 11:30 a.m.
What to Watch:
New Jersey has given the Penguins fits because they like to skate without a heavy dose of physicality. Over the past several years, New Jersey has drawn the Penguins into a perimeter free-skate.
The Penguins will have to force their way into the dirty areas.
Malkin should be back in the lineup for the first time since the All-Star break. The Penguins have not yet played a great game with Malkin in the lineup, and he returned on Jan. 11. However, their power play has surged to the top third of the league after languishing in the bottom one-third of the NHL for most of the first half.
Sullivan indicated that Kasperi Kapanen would return to Malkin’s right wing, and Brock McGinn joked on Saturday that even he has to fight the urge to become a spectator when Malkin has the puck.
It appears Radim Zohorna will get a press box seat, and Danton Heinen will take the LW beside Carter as Malkin returns.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Rickard Rakell||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jason Zucker||Jeff Carter||Danton Heinen|
|Brock McGinn||Teddy Blueger||Evan Rodrigues|
|Mike Matheson||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Mark Friedman||Chad Ruhwedel|
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
*The Penguins PK is second in the league (87.1%), and the power play has leaped to 11th (21.8%). The Devils have a solid penalty-killing unit (82.9%, 8th) but an anemic power play (17.1%, 24th).
*The Penguins are 22-3-1 when scoring first.
- Penguins INJURIES: Drew O’Connor, upper-body (11 consecutive, 14 total). Jason Zucker, lower-body (10 consecutive, 17 total). Louis Domingue, lower-body (10 consecutive, 10 total). Teddy Blueger, upper-body (7 consecutive, 8 total). Evgeni Malkin, COVID-19 (2 consecutive, 36 total)
2021-22 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 178
*Michael Chaput and Valtteri Puustinen were re-assigned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL).
*The Penguins are 10-3-1 in its last 14 games against New Jersey dating back to Feb. 19, 2019.
*The Penguins have points in eight of their last nine games against the Devils (7-1-1) and have won their last four games at the Prudential Center. The Penguins are 5-1-0 in their last six games there.
*Since Jan. 15, only Toronto’s Mitch Marner (19) has more points in the NHL than Sidney Crosby, who has 18 points (8G-10A) in 12 games.
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T Sportsnet; Radio: 105.9 The X