It has not been a good refire to the 2022-23 NHL season for the Pittsburgh Penguins (19-10-6). After the NHL holiday break, the Penguins completed what coach Mike Sullivan termed “maybe the worst game of the season,” and 24 hours later, the Penguins blew a 4-0 lead to the Detroit Red Wings in a 5-4 OT loss. They have lost four of their last five games.
The Penguins will face the formerly Metro Division-leading New Jersey Devils (22-11-2) on Friday night at PPG Paints Arena. As Dave Molinari notes, the game has a bigger feel and will tell us a lot about the Penguins.
The puck drops just after 7 p.m.
The Penguins looked like world-beaters against Detroit in the first period on Wednesday. They scored four goals, including a pair of power-play goals by the second unit. Jason Zucker had two goals, Kasperi Kapanen had two assists, and Jeff Carter had two points (1-1-2).
However, the Penguins inexplicably “stopped playing.”
The sour mood earned after the Tuesday loss to New York was compounded. Acknowledging that no one was happy, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin offered, “we know the fans hate us right now.”
That was an exaggeration, but there are seeds of restlessness.
The New Jersey Devils began the season by winning 12 of their first 15 games. The team, which has a pair of recent first-overall picks, was a giant leap forward.
However, New Jersey is 1-7-1 in their last nine, including a pair of losses before and after the holiday break to the Boston Bruins.
The Metro standings are jumbled. The Penguins trail the third-place Washington Capitals by one point but have three games in hand. The Penguins are tied at 44 points with the New York Rangers, who are the first team out of the playoff seeds. However, the Penguins also have two games in hand on New York.
A big Penguins’ problem on Friday will be the blue line which is beset by injury. Jeff Petry remains on LTIR. Chad Ruhwedel suffered an injury on Tuesday in the first period against New York. He did not practice on Thursday. Kris Letang is out with a lower-body injury. So, 22-year-old Ty Smith figures to make his Penguins’ debut and do so against his former team.
Smith has grown a beard since training camp. He’s also been working on hockey since being assigned to the WBS Penguins.
“I hope I’m a little better,” he joked with PHN.
Josh Archibald and Ryan Poehling are on IR, but Poehling is close to a return. He is a game-time decision. Sullivan confirmed Letang, Ruhwedel, and Josh Archibald are out.
Update: Penguins activated Ryan Poehling late Friday afternoon.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
Defense (Guess Work):
Expected Devils Lines, per PuckPedia.com:
Penguins Power Play: 24.3%, 11th
Penguins Penalty Kill: 83.9%, 3rd
Devils Power Play: 19.8%, 24th
Devils Penalty Kill: 81.3%, 9th
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
In the last 11 games played versus the Devils, the Penguins are 8-2-1.
The Penguins are 10-3-4 at home.
Bryan Rust’s 13 points (4-9-13) in 12 December games is tied with Evgeni Malkin (3-10-13) for the team lead.
Danton Heinen and Kasperi Kapanen each have 99 career assists.
Evgeni Malkin comes into tonight’s game one point shy of surpassing Sergei Fedorov for the second-most points in NHL history among Russian-born players.
Kasperi Kapanen has 10 points (4-6-10) in 12 games in December.
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T SportsNet; Radio: 105.9 The X
Bet Against Dan and Make Money! We’re 9-3 in our last six games (we make two picks per game). You can use the promos for the Penguins game, the Pitt vs. UCLA bowl game, or the Steelers on Sunday night.
Get a 100% Match from BetRivers Sportsbook.
Here are the bets we like. Young and fast teams that aren’t overly physical seem to give the Penguins problems. The Penguins typically rise to meet adversity, but three RHDs are injured. It seems too much. We’re going to take the Devils and the Over (6.5).