Happy St. Paddy’s Day! The New Jersey Devils (26-31-12) will look to win two in a row tonight when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins (43-17-9) in their fourth of five meetings this season. The Devils lost the first game in a shootout in Pittsburgh and it was quite the heartbreaking loss. The Devils had a 3-2 lead going into the third on goals from Michael Cammalleri (2) and Vern Fiddler but you can’t leave Sidney Crosby, arguably the best hockey player in the world, open like that. He scores with 14 seconds left in regulation to tie the game and Kris Letang scored the lone goal in the shootout to seal the win for the Pens. Jake Guentzel and Tom Kuhnhackl had the other regulation goals for the Pens. Keith Kinkaid did start this game and made 46 saves on 49 shots faced (.939 save percentage); Matt Murray made 27 saves on 30 shots faced (.900 save %).
New Jersey also lost their second matchup, 4-1; Kyle Palmieri scored the lone Devils goal; Crosby, Eric Fehr, Curtis Ruhwedel, and Patric Hornqvist scored for Pittsburgh. Cory Schneider made 35 saves on 39 shots faced (.897 save %); Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves on 24 shots against (.958 save %).
They also dropped the third meeting, 5-2; P.A. Parenteau and Adam Henrique scored goals for the Devils, giving them a 2-1 lead, but Evgeni Malkin, Justin Schultz, Carl Hagelin, Bryan Rust, and of course, Sidney Crosby, scored for the Pens. Fleury made 21 saves on 23 shots against (.913 save %); Schneider stopped 24 shots on 28 against (.857 save %).
A goaltending decision has not yet been made for the Devils. Kinkaid started last night and replaced Schneider Saturday night against Arizona. He may get the nod again tonight. Murray started against the Flyers and made 24 saves on 28 shots against (.857 save %) but Fleury could get the nod tonight.
Michael Cammalleri (shoulder), Jacob Josefson (upper body), and Devante Smith-Pelly (lower body) will be out again tonight; Cammalleri and Josefson have started skating on their own again but Smith-Pelly has not. Blake Coleman was also out last night with an upper body injury and John Quenneville, recently recalled from Albany (AHL), took his place. Joseph Blandisi and Beau Bennett are both on three-game point streaks. Palmieri has eight goals and five assists in his last 11 games.
Sidney Crosby has scored a goal in all three match-ups against the Devils this season; no other Pens player has scored more than one. The Pens are also riddled with injuries, especially in the back end: Bryan Rust (arm), Ron Hainsey (upper body), Patric Hornqvist (concussion), Kris Letang (upper body), Carl Hagelin (lower body), Trevor Daley (knee), and Olli Maataa (hand) are all out for Pittsburgh. Hagelin and Hornqvist have been healthy scratches but Hornqvist is a game-time decision. Malkin will be out tonight with an upper body injury. Hainsey is week-to-week. Defenseman Derrick Pouliot was recalled from Wilkes-Barre (AHL) this morning. But with as many injuries as they have, they’re still a very, very strong team. If the Devils can muster as much offense as they have the last few games (ten goals in two games!), winning tonight is a possibility.
Unsurprisingly, the Devils have lost as many games (in regulation, overtime, and shootout) as the Penguins have won games all season long. You don’t need statistics or analytics to tell you just how good the Pens really are. They have lost two straight, in a shootout to Calgary and a 4-0 shutout to Philadelphia on Wednesday, but they won all five of their games before that. New Jersey also played the Flyers in their last game, defeating them 6-2 last night, but they had lost 10 straight games before that. Both Adam Henrique and Taylor Hall scored twice last night, and Palmieri and Joseph Blandisi tallied goals as well.
The Devils’ power play has been hot and cold all season long; they sit 20th in the NHL with an 18.1% success rate. The Penguins have the 3rd best power play in the league at 22.5%, behind only Toronto and Buffalo. New Jersey has the advantage when it comes to killing penalties at 80.8% (15th); Pittsburgh sits at 20th at 80.2%. The Devils have gone 2 for 11 on the man advantage against the Pens this season; the Pens have gone 2 for 10.
If you don’t already have St. Paddy’s Day plans, tune in to watch the Devils tonight when puck drops at 7PM. But there’s also a ton of other hockey on tonight as well. The New York Riveters (NWHL) take on the Buffalo Beauts in the semifinals of the Isobel Cup Playoffs; their game will be streamed live on ABCNews.com or the ABC News App; it’s free so tune in at 7:30PM and support women’s hockey! Additionally, the Albany Devils (AHL) take on the Springfield Thunderbirds at 7PM, and the Mississauga Steelheads (OHL) take on the Barrie Colts at 7PM as well. I’m just going to have three separate tabs open while the TV plays the Devils game.