The Penguins face the third place Devils in another divisional showdown.
Friday night was one to immediately forget for the Penguins. They dominated the New York Islanders, held them to just 28 shots, yet lost 5-4. They turned in perhaps their most thorough performance of the season and still couldn't win.
Point blank: the Pittsburgh Penguins are in trouble.
It will not get easier on the second half of this back-to-back as the third-place New Jersey Devils come to town in yet another Metropolitan Divison matchup with direct implications on playoff positioning. It doesn't help that the Devils have taken charge of the season series with the Penguins in 2022-23. New Jersey has an undefeated 2-0 record against Pittsburgh this year and is outscoring them by a margin of 2:1.
The Pens faced a morale-busting defeat less than 24 hours ago and now have to flip a switch into "go mode" once more to face one of the best teams in the league. The Devils boast dynamic young stars like Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Dougie Hamilton.
New Jersey's netminder Vitek Vanecek isn't a pushover either. Vanecek’s the sixth-best goalie in the league this year. He has 23 wins while putting together a .916 save percentage and 2.31 goals against average.
This is a make-or-break moment for the Penguins. If they win they'll prove there still might be something to this team. A loss and they'll be back to having few answers for several growing problems and even fewer remedies as the coach Mike Sullivan seems out of ideas, GM Ron Hextall is unwilling or unable to make changes, and there is a group of sharks swirling around them as the toughest teams in the league reside in their division. Teams that all seem to be getting better by adding more talent via trades while the Pens stand pat.
This Saturday's late afternoon tilt is an immensely high-stakes affair. We have to watch to see if the Penguins can bluff their contender status to win the pot or will fold once again.
Pens Game #55: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New Jersey Devils
Date: February 18, 2023
Time: 5:30 PM (ET)
Place: Pittsburgh, PA
Venue: PPG Paints Arena
Penguins Broadcast: AT&T Sportsnet
Devils Broadcast: MSG
Online Stream: ESPN+
Penguins Radio: 105.9 The X/Penguins Radio Network
Devils Radio: Devils Hockey Net
Records- PIT: 27-18-9, NJD: 35-14-5
Last 10- PIT: 5-3-2, NJD: 6-2-2
Streaks- PIT: 1 Loss, NJD: 1 Loss
Standings- PIT: 16th, NJD: 3rd
Points- PIT: 63, NJD: 75
Season Series- 2-0 NJD
Series Goals For- PIT: 3, NJD: 6
Team Analytics Comparison:
Projected starting goalies-
-DUSTIN TOKARSKI- #40
Bio Info: 6' 0", 198 lbs. DOB: 9/16/1989 (33). From: Humboldt, SK.
Drafted: 2010- Rd 5, Pk 122 (TBL). Experience: 9th Season.
Record: 1-1-0, 3.20 GAA, .893 SV%
Career vs. NJD: 0-0-2, 1.87 GAA, .930 SV%
-VITEK VANECEK- #41
[New Jersey Devils]
Bio Info: 6' 0", 165 lbs. DOB: 1/9/1996 (26). From: Havlickuv Brod, Czechia.
Drafted: 2014- Rd 2, Pk 39 (WSH). Experience: 3rd Season.
Record: 23-5-3, 2.31 GAA, .916 SV%
Career vs. PIT: 5-1-3, 2.72 GAA, .908 SV%
Goalie Tristan Jarry (upper body) skated yesterday by himself by the team was very non-committal on if he'll play today. They'll hold a gameday skate at 10 AM which should provide some more information on his status and playing viability. If Jarry can't play expect third-stringer tender Dustin Tokarski to make his fourth appearance of the year for the Pens after Casey DeSmith took last night's game in Long Island.
-Mark Friedman (D): upper body, undisclosed.
-Tristan Jarry (G): upper body, day-to-day.
-Ryan Poehling (D): upper body, undisclosed.
-Jan Rutta (D): LTIR, upper body, day-to-day.
The projected Penguins lines for Saturday, February 18, 2023, vs. the New Jersey Devils:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Drew O’Connor - Teddy Blueger - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson - Jeff Petry
P. O. Joseph - Chad Ruhwedel
PP1: Malkin, Crosby, Guentzel, Rakell, Letang
PP2: Carter, Rust, Zucker, Kapanen, Petry
PK1: Carter, Rust, Dumoulin, Petry
PK2: Blueger, McGinn, Ruhwedel, Pettersson
The biggest note for the Devils is that superstar forward Jack Hughes will return from injury today, just the luck the Penguins need in this tough divisional game. Hughes is New Jersey's team leader in goals and points. He's among the Top 10 point scorers in the league.
-2022-23 Team Leaders vs. PIT-
Goals: Jack Hughes- 3.
Assists: Dawson Mercer, Dougie Hamilton- 2.
Points: Dougie Hamilton, Jack Hughes- 4.
Plus/Minus: Dawson Mercer- +2.
PIM: Erik Haula- 4.
Shots: Dougie Hamilton- 11.
Hits: Kevin Bahl- 6.
Blocks: Brendan Smith- 5.
Takeaways: Erik Haula, Jack Hughes- 2.
FO%: Michael McLeod- 78.3%.
-Jonathan Bernier (G): LTIR, hip surgery, out indefinitely.
-Brendan Smith (D): undisclosed, day-to-day.
For The Penguins: Rickard Rakell. Rakell is rocking in the past week. He has three goals and five points in just the last two games. Before this breakthrough, the sniper only had one goal in his last seven games. It's the perfect time for Rickard to hit the gas and the Penguins definitely need his contributions with their recent difficulties.
For The Devils: Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton has six points in his last five games although he's reached a three-game scoring drought he's still our pick for "One To Watch" because he's been red hot against the Pens this year. He leads the Devils in assists, points, and shots against the Pens this season. Hamilton's been strong defensively and generating production when playing Pittsburgh. Dougie's a dual threat that should be tracked closely by the Penguins, otherwise recent history says he'll inflict some pain.