Who: New Jersey Devils at Pittsburgh Penguins
When: 1:00 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 12:30 p.m. ET
Where: Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA
Media: TV – MSG+ (Channel listings); Radio – WFAN (660AM or 101.9FM)
Twitter: @cgriffin415 | @SNYDevils
Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)
Zubrus-Henrique-Kovalchuk Salvador-Zidlicky Brodeur
Inactives: Harrold, Matteau, Fayne
No rest for the weary: After spending Thursday night trying to contain John Tavares, the Devils will have to figure out how to at least limit the Pens’ deadly duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Making this task even more difficult is the fact the perception that Sid and Geno tend to get calls other players don’t while getting away with certain plays or penalties that others would get called for. While that may be true at times, the truth is that Sid and Geno use whatever “star pull” they have and often sucker other teams into giving them power plays, which is how they really make teams pay. The Devils did a great job of shutting down Tavares during even strength, but it became a different story once they put the Isles on the power play. It’s absolutely crucial the Devils keep their heads and don’t get suckered into stupid penalties.
Speaking of which: The penalty kill. For crying out loud, the penalty kill. This is something the Devils are usually excellent at. They were historically good while short handed last season but after six games they’re middle of the pack (T-15th) this season. It’s something the Devils know they can’t afford to let slide, for a couple reasons. One, it’s a great way to swing momentum, especially on the road. A strong penalty kill can silence a crowd and help a road team gain some confidence. Two, the Devils can’t play catch up, despite what happened Thursday night. If the Devils keep having to come back against teams, their streak of points in consecutive games will end very quickly.
Finish: Finish around the net, finish checks and finish games. After losing only six games in overtime and four in the shootout last season, all three of the Devils’ losses this season have come after regulation. While Pete DeBoer continues to be happy with the Devils racking up points early on in the season, eventually the Devils have to start finishing these games. You cannot let those extra points slip away in such a condensed schedule because eventually those lost points will catch up to you — and they’ll catch up a lot quicker than they would over a full 82-game season. In order to finish games, the Devils need to do a better job of burying their chances around the net. David Clarkson made a point of saying that after Thursday’s game and while he was probably a little too hard on himself after a tough loss, there’s truth in what he’s saying. While three of the Devils’ goals were scored around the net against the Isles, there were at least four or five chances off the top of my head that went by the wayside or the Devils waited too long to shoot. You’re not gonna convert all of them, but to borrow a phrase, you can’t score if you don’t put the puck on net.
X-factors: How will DeBoer use Jacob Josefson and Adam Henrique this game? Henrique probably isn’t ready to play more than 14 minutes (and even that might be a bit of a stretch), while Josefson has had difficult finishing when given or creating scoring chances. Opposing teams are scheming to stop Kovy and Travis Zajac and the Clarkson-Elias duo isn’t going to to combine for three or four points every night. The Devils need secondary scoring and impact plays from their two young centermen. Whatever they do, the Devils need to find a way to keep these players involved and on the ice in key offensive situations.