Game 76 Preview: Your New Jersey Devils at Pittsburgh Penguins

 

New Jersey Devils vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (46-22-6, 98 points) vs. New Jersey Devils (42-27-6, 90 points)

7:00 PM E.T.

TV: MSG

Radio: WFAN 660 AM

Matchup:

This is the sixth and final matchup between two Atlantic Division teams that are both likely headed for the playoffs.  The Penguins won the first meeting in Pittsburgh, 4-1 on October 22nd, but the Devils won the next three matchups, 3-1, 3-1 and 5-2.  Their last meeting was eight days ago at Prudential Center on Devils’ retro day.  It didn’t go very well for the Devils, as the red hot Penguins dominated the home team, 5-2 and outshot New Jersey, 44-14.  With a win, the Devils would clinch the season series, but even if they lose, they’d be settling for a 3-3 split, which isn’t bad considering the dominant team the Penguins have become since they’ve gotten healthy.

Ending goal droughts:

I’m not clever enough, nor do I have the knowledge of 2000s music to continue Jaime’s musical references in the previews, so hopefully this won’t be too boring for you.  Last game, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, featured three goals from three players who badly needed to score.  Jacob Josefson scored his first of the season, which figures to do wonders for the 21-year old center, as he’s showed signs of excellent offensive skills this season, but he hasn’t been able to put it together as of yet.  Zach Parise also scored, which snapped a five game point drought for the captain.  The goal came in typical Parise fashion: jamming at the goaltender in front of the net.  Adam Henrique also scored, which ended a 17-game goal-less stretch for the Devils’ rookie center as well.  Henrique also moved back into a tie with Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the rookie scoring lead.

The Devils, as a team, did a lot of good things on Friday, but couldn’t find a way to beat a struggling Leafs team.  Still, it’s nothing to hang their heads about.  On some nights, bounces just don’t go your way, and the Devils ran into a hot goaltender in James Reimer.  Yes, the Leafs goaltender robbed the Devils of a second point.  Despite a 46-17 edge in shots on goal, the Devils couldn’t bury enough chances, and the Leafs did just that: they took advantage of their chances.

The return of the Zajac:

We’ve waited, and waited, and waited some more, but tonight is the night.  No, Zach Parise hasn’t re-signed with the Devils yet.  Travis Zajac returns to the Devils’ lineup after battling a lingering Achilles’ injury.  Zajac played in eight games earlier in the season, but he never felt 100% back in December, so he hung up the skates for a few months, and says he now feels 100% healthy.  The benefit of that to his team figures to be dramatic.  Zajac is one of the top face-off centers in the league, he’s an excellent two-way, penalty killing forward who is also capable of posting upwards of 60 points in a full season, plus he’ll give the power play a big boost.  Bottom line: if you’re a Devils fan, this is very good news, as the Devils head towards the playoffs.

The new lineup:

The return of Zajac means the Devils’ lineup gets a new look, which might be a good thing for a team that hasn’t scored many goals recently.  The Devils have slipped from 10th to 17th in terms of goals-per-game in the NHL over the past month or so.  The first move that you’ll notice is that for the first time pretty much all season, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk will not be on the same line tonight, although Kovalchuk will remain a right wing with his new linemates.  Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora have also been separated, as Elias will now center Parise’s line.  Adam Henrique is also bumped to the third line, and Jacob Josefson to the fourth line with Zajac stepping into the second line.  Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton will both likely sit tonight, as Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier will work the wings on the fourth line.  The six defensemen remain the same, with Matt Taormina being the odd man out, and Martin Brodeur will start in goal in Pittsburgh tonight.  To see the full lineup, see below.

Latest from Pens-world:

The last time we were talking about Pittsburgh, they were coming into New Jersey having won 10 straight games.  After beating the Devils to extend their streak to 11, they blew a 2-0 lead in Philadelphia, and after dominating the Flyers in a similar way to their domination of the Devils last Saturday, Scott Hartnell scored in overtime in the dying seconds of overtime to end the Penguins’ winning streak.  Of course, they bounced back to beat Winnipeg, 8-4 and Nashville, 5-1, before being involved in another 8-4 game last night in Ottawa…and Pittsburgh scored the 4, not 8.  Backup goaltender Brad Thiessen was a victim of poor Penguins defense and sloppy play all around, as the Senators pulled out a huge victory.  They’ll start their primary goaltender, All-Star Marc-Andre Fleury against the Devils tonight.  Despite last night’s loss, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are still unbelievably dominant hockey players, so the Devils will have their hands full tonight.

Penguins’ projected lineup:

Kunitz – Malkin – Neal

Sullivan – Staal – Dupuis

Cooke – Crosby – Kennedy

Tangradi – Adams – Asham

Martin – Letang

Orpik – Michalek

Engelland – Lovejoy

Fleury

Thiessen

Devils’ projected lineup:

Parise – Elias – Zubrus

Ponikarovsky – Zajac – Kovalchuk

Sykora – Henrique – Clarkson

Carter – Josefson – Bernier

Greene – Fayne

Volchenkov – Zidlicky

Salvador – Larsson

Brodeur

Hedberg

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Posted on March 25, 2012, in Game Preview, New Jersey Devils and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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