Pittsburgh Penguins Back In Action Against New Jersey


The Pittsburgh Penguins have not played since Sunday evening, when they beat the Eastern Conference Champion Washington Capitals. Tonight, they’ll face-off against the New Jersey Devils at home.

The Pens have won an impressive six straight games coming into tonight’s contest. At one point they landed themselves in second place within the Metropolitan Division. The New York Rangers have since re-taken that sole position, however the Pens have two games at hand on the Rangers. With ten games remaining on their regular season schedule, Pittsburgh is squarely in the playoff hunt, currently holding the third Metropolitan Division spot.

The visiting New Jersey Devils aren’t out of the playoff equation just yet. They are still in the hunt for the Wild Card, sitting six points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the final position. A win tonight against Pittsburgh would help propel them further into contention.

New Jersey has been without All-Star goaltender Cory Schneider for the team’s past seven games as he deals with a knee injury. He’ll remain sidelined for this evening’s game in Pittsburgh. Primary backup Keith Kinkaid, who has played well in Schneider’s absence will also be sitting as the Devils start propsect Scott Wedgewood. The netminder earned a victory in his first NHL start on Sunday when the Devils defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets by a score of 2-1. Wedgewood turned away 27 shots in that win.  

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Also missing for the New Jersey Devils will be goal-scoring forward Mike Cammalleri. It was recently announced that Cammalleri would miss the remainder of the 2016 NHL season, after having been sidelined since January 26 with a hand injury. That news obviously further hampers the Devils’ playoff hopes for this season.

The Pens have defeated the Devils at home in Pittsburgh five consecutive times. Most recently they beat New Jersey by a score of 2-0 on January 26.

Looking to win their seventh consecutive game and further pad their playoff hopes, the Pens are dealing with some injuries of their own. Brian Dumoulin, hurt in the Pens’ victory over the Capitals on Sunday will be a game-time decision. It’s possible that forward Beau Bennett rejoins the team tonight. Bennett was hurt on a hit from T.J. Oshie in mid-December and then again in late January. According to a recent report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bennett’s status will come just before tonight’s game as well, ” ‘Beau was very similar, he had a good practice. The reports came back that he felt strong,’ Sullivan said. ‘We’ll see how he responds [Thursday], and we’ll probably make a game time decision with that as well.’ ”  

The Pens have also obviously been without Evgeni Malkin recently, and will be for several more weeks. It hasn’t seem to hampered their performance however. They are 5-0 without Geno in the lineup this month, and in total this year they are 10-4-1 without him.

A large reason why the Pens have been able to win in Geno’s absence is the play of Sidney Crosby. He leads the NHL in points in the month of March. He’s been a leader at both ends of the ice, helping to reduce the impact of Malkin being injured. As well, the young guys have stepped up. Tom Kuhnhackl had a career-game against the league’s best in the Washington Capitals. And once again, veteran Matt Cullen has stepped up to the plate.

Head Coach Mike Sullivan has these guys pushing. With ten games remaining in the regular season they know that they can’t take their foot off the accelerator. Securing a Metropolitan Division playoff spot is the goal, rather than picking up one of the two Wild Card openings.