The Pittsburgh Penguins (30-14-3) have a chance to sweep their three-game set against the increasingly hapless New Jersey Devils (14-26-6) on Saturday. The Penguins won the first two games of the set and scored 12 goals in the process, though we’ll ignore giving up six in the opener on Tuesday.
The puck drops at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins can claim first place in the East Division with a win and a New York Islanders win over the Washington Capitals.
New Jersey has fallen hard and fast. They’re now just one point ahead of the Buffalo Sabres for the worst record in the NHL. In the last 16 games, New Jersey is a woeful 2-12-2.
Lead defenseman P.K. Subban is also in the COVID protocol.
The Penguins are galloping towards the finish line like a thoroughbred. They have won three of their last four games and are just one point behind the first-place Washington Capitals in the MassMutual East Division.
It’s a sprint to the finish, and the Penguins know it, even if they downplay it.
“We’re right there. I don’t think we want to look too far ahead, though. I think we’re just taking that game at a time,” Sidney Crosby said. “The important thing is to win games, to get points. And if that’s the case, then that’s the case. But I think we’re just we’re trying to make sure that we play well here and see where that puts us.”
The Penguins are 6-1-1 in their last eight games, and Kasperi Kapanen returned to the lineup with great impact on Thursday, too.
The Penguins injury updates got a boost on Friday when Brandon Tanev skated with the taxi squad.
Pittsburgh Penguins and head coach Mike Sullivan will turn to backup Casey DeSmith in the front-end of a weekend back-to-back setup. This season, DeSmith is 10-6-0 with a .911 save percentage and a 2.44 GAA.
New Jersey goalie Scott Wedgewood finished the game in relief of Aaron Dell, but it may not matter who is in the net. Or who starts because we may see both. New Jersey has allowed four goals or more in nine of their last 11 games.
It’s an abbreviated preview with the afternoon game. Don’t forget to check out the odds and free bets available today.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines & Special Teams
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jared McCann||Jeff Carter||Freddy Gaudreau|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brandon Tanev|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Mike Matheson||Cody Ceci|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
Expected New Jersey Devils Lines
|Janne Kuokkanen||Jack Hughes||Yegor Sherangovich|
|Andreas Johnsson||Nico Hischier||Marian Studenic|
|Miles Wood||Michael MCleod||Nathan Bastian|
|Nolan Foote||Mikhail Maltsev||Nick Merkley|
|Ryan Murray||Damon Severson|
|Wil Butcher||P.K. Subban|
|Jonas Siegenthaler||Matt Tenison|
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||23.7%, 4th NHL||77.4%, 27th NHL|
|New York Islanders||18.8%, 21st NHL||83.7%, 6th NHL|
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
Position, Player (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)
F Evgeni Malkin (17 consecutive, 17 total)
F Brandon Tanev (8 consecutive, 14 total)
F Frederick Gaudreau (4 consecutive, 4 total)
2020-21 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 243
*The Penguins have points in six consecutive games against the Devils (5-0-1)
*The Penguins have earned points in 14 of their last 17 games overall (12-3-2)
*Today, the Penguins begin their eighth of nine sets of back-to-back games this season. Thus far, the Penguins are 10-3-1 in back-to-backs (7-0-0 the first night; 3-3-1 the second night).
*The Penguins’ 51 goals-for in the first period are most in the NHL. Sidney Crosby leads the Penguins with six first-period tallies. Crosby scored in the opening minute of a game on Thursday for the 13th time and tied with Mark Messier for the most in NHL history.
*With one more goal, Sidney Crosby will have the most 20-goal seasons in Pittsburgh Penguins franchise history. His 13th 20-goal season will surpass Evgeni Malkin and Mario Lemieux.
*Bryan Rust has points in nine consecutive games (6-8-14) against the Devils.
How to Watch, 12:30 p.m.:
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL Network
Radio: 105.9 The X