The Penguins and Devils meet tonight in the final game before the All-Star break with both teams separated by just two points. Pittsburgh has two games in hand on New Jersey.
Every game is important at this point of the season and for the Penguins a win tonight will have them going into the break on a three game winning streak for the first time since the start of November and one point out of third place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Penguins have done an excellent job of picking up points at home, 5-0-2 in their last seven games, and the stars have been a big reason why. Sidney Crosby has a six game home goal scoring streak and Crosby’s seven goals in the month of January are tied for 2nd in the NHL. Kris Letang with 28 points in his last 26 games, leads all NHL defensemen with 13 points in the month of January.
Evgeni Malkin is coming off his first hat trick in almost four years.
The Devils have been a team all season that you wait for them to start to fade but it hasn’t happened yet. They come into tonight’s game on a four game winning streak with wins over Arizona, Calgary, Winnipeg and Ottawa.
The Devils embarrassed the Penguins in November with a dominant 4-0 win that started the process of the Penguins examining Mike Johnston’s future with the club and despite New Jersey right in the mix for playoff contention, I don’t get the sense anyone in that Penguin locker room looks at New Jersey just yet as a serious threat to keep the Penguins out of a playoff spot.
This game tonight is more important for New Jersey from that standpoint.
If they can come in to Pittsburgh with an impressive win, it could be one of those statement games for New Jersey that they’re not going anywhere.
For Pittsburgh a solid win keeps the narrative going that they’re starting to turn the corner while a loss will keep that pause and wonders of whether they’re on a treadmill to nowhere.
SHERO FINDS VALUE
Ray Shero’s first year as GM has seen Shero hit big on value signings and trades.
Lee Stempniak entered training camp on a tryout and has gone out to be a more productive player than Phil Kessel. Stempniak is second on the team with 14 goals and 36 points. He carries a cap hit of $850,000.
Kyle Palmeri a promising player about to hit his prime was acquired for draft picks has 20 goals with a cap hit of $1.4 million.
Bobby Farnham claimed on waivers has 7 even strength goals, more even strength goals than Nick Bonino and Eric Fehr have combined.
STATS TO KNOW
*Pittsburgh is 10-2 in their last 12 home games vs the Devils
*Corey Schneider has shutouts in his past two starts vs the Penguins but is 0-4-0 with a 3.30 GAA and .867 save percentage in four career starts at Consol Energy Center.
*Chris Kunitz will be held out of the lineup for the second straight game. Matt Cullen will take Kunitz’ spot again with Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist
*Beau Bennett has been placed on injured reserve. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"