Morning News and Notes
The Pittsburgh Penguins head into New Jersey playing their best hockey of the season with what is perhaps their most complete team in two years.
Coming off a disappointing 4-3 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh is eyeing their first win of the season in five tries against New Jersey tonight .
Pittsburgh appeared to be on their way to a 5th straight win Thursday night but got poor goaltending from backup Brent Johnson who made 17 saves on 21 shots. Pittsburgh outshot Carolina 40-21 and jumped out to an early 2-0 first period lead on goals from Bill Guerin (18) and Jordan Staal (19) but the surging Canes would score four of the next five goals to win in overtime.
“Honestly, it was just one of those nights,” Johnson said. Pittsburgh was able to get a valuable point to move four points ahead of the Devils in the Atlantic Division.
Kennedy a better option on the 4th line?
The buzz going into the Hurricanes game was Tyler Kennedy not playing. Contrary to other reports, multiple sources indicate Kennedy remains bothered by a sore groin.
However, Kennedy is in serious danger of losing his spot on the third line. Pascal Dupuis performed admirably on the third line, creating a turnover on the fore-check and setting up Jordan Staal for a first period goal and added an assist on Matt Cooke’s second period goal to tie the game 3-3.
The Penguins third line is so good, mostly because of Jordan Staal. Dupuis is becoming more comfortable playing right wing and he’s giving the coaching staff yet another option.
Sources tell me one option the coaching staff is seriously considering is putting Kennedy on the 4th line to provide some speed on the wings and improve the 4th lines ability of controlling the puck down low in the offensive zone.
Penguins look to solve New Jersey
The Pittsburgh Penguins are 0-4 against the New Jersey Devils this season and have only been somewhat competitive in one game.
The vibe coming out of the locker room is that it is important for the Penguins to beat the Devils tonight. Defenseman Brooks Orpik talked about it on Wednesday before the Penguins departed for Carolina.
It’s a game that has a lot of importance when it comes to first place in the Atlantic division. A win by Pittsburgh gives them a 6 point advantage with one game remaining against each other and the Devils having two games in hand.
Of late, the Devils and Penguins have been two teams going in opposite directions.
The Devils made their big splash acquiring Ilya Kovalchuk in early February but the move has yet to pay significant dividends.
The Devils are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games and have been getting poor goaltending from Martin Brodeur.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has struggled mightily with the Devils transition game this season. That has been one area of concern for the coaching staff as New Jersey has been able to counter the Penguins offensively by creating turnovers in the neutral zone.
Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury will be back in net for Pittsburgh.