Penguins vs. Devils, Game 55: Lines, Notes & How to Watch
The Pittsburgh Penguins played some of their best hockey of the season Friday night on Long Island.
They just didn’t play quite enough of it.
After dominating the New York Islanders for 39-plus minutes at UBS Arena and building a 4-2 lead, the Penguins gave up three unanswered goals — beginning with a game-altering one just 27.1 seconds before the second intermission — in what became a deflating 5-4 defeat.
So, instead of giving themselves a bit of a cushion in the fight for a wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they absorbed a potentially devastating loss. Not only because of the points they surrendered, but because of the psychological damage that kind of setback can inflict.
It won’t take long to find out how the Penguins will react to that loss, because they will face New Jersey at PPG Paints Arena at 5:38 p.m. — yes, 5:38 p.m. — today in a game that will be a test of their intangibles as much as it will be of their talent.
If the Penguins marinate in the misery spawned by the Islanders game rather than focusing on the challenge immediately before them, they might find themselves in the early stages of a downward spiral that could keep them out of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Righting themselves against the Devils won’t be easy, and wouldn’t be even under more favorable circumstances.
New Jersey is 2-0 against them this season, and sits a full 12 points ahead of the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division.
The Devils are young, fast, skilled and rested, having been off Friday.
They also are on something of a roll.
Even after a 4-2 loss in St. Louis Thursday, New Jersey is 11-2-2 in its past 15 games and it should get a lift from the return of Jack Hughes, who missed the past four games because of an unspecified upper-body injury. He leads them in scoring with 35 goals and 32 assists in 50 games, including three goals and an assist in those two previous games against the Penguins.
The Pittsburgh Penguins called off their game-day skate, which is standard practice when playing on consecutive days. Mike Sullivan is scheduled to meet with reporters about two hours before the game, at which time he is expected to identify his starting goaltender and provide any pertinent injury updates.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
Expected New Jersey Devils Lines
Penguins power play: 40 for 186, 21.5%, 17th
Penguins penalty-kill: 34 for 174, 80.5%, 14th
Devils power play: 33 for 158, 20.9%, 19th
Devils penalty-kill: 32 for 165, 80.6%, 12th (tie)
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
Despite being 0-1-1 this season, the Penguins are 8-3-2 in their past 13 games against the Devils.
Sidney Crosby needs three points to become the 14th player in NHL history to record 70 or more in 13 seasons. He also has 39 career goals against the Devils, sixth-most of any opponent in that franchise’s history.
Twenty-one of Jake Guentzel’s 27 assists this season have been primary ones.
Chad Ruhwedel’s next game will be his 300th in the NHL.
The Devils, 20-4-3 in away games, needed just 26 games to record 20 victories on the road, breaking the previous NHL record of 27. The franchise record for away victories in a season is 28, set in 1998-99.
Former Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman John Marino will face his old team for the first time since being traded last summer, having missed the first two because of an unspecified injury. He has four goals and seven assists in 37 games this season.
The Devils are 22-0-2 when leading at the second intermission.
New Jersey goalie Vitek Vanecek is 11-0-1 in his past 12 decisions.
The Devils have 35 victories after 54 games for just the third time in franchise history.
Six of New Jersey defenseman Dougie Hamilton’s 15 goals have been game-winners.
How to Watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 105.9 the X