The Penguins enter this matchup with a three-game point streak but they enter in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division standings with just 22 points in 18 games. Meanwhile, the Devils are trying to fight their way out of last place after compiling an Eastern Conference-low 14 points and a 5-8-4 overall record so far this season. Can the Devils pull off the upset against the shorthanded Penguins on Friday night?
Crosby out for at least six weeksThe Penguins snapped a two-game winning streak but salvaged a point in a tough 3-2 overtime loss against the upstart New York Rangers. Justin Schultz and Jared McCann scored second-period goals to help Pittsburgh battle back from a 2-0 deficit but Kaap Kakko’s game-winner in overtime left them with just one point on the night. Matt Murray allowed three goals in 27 shots but it wasn’t enough to keep the Penguins’ streak alive.
It might not be time to hit the panic button but there is certainly some cause for concern in Pittsburgh after the Penguins’ slow start to the season. Pittsburgh has made a habit of getting behind early in games. They ave conceded the first goal in 12 of their first 18 contests, including each of their last five contests. The Penguins are 5-1 when scoring first but just 5-5-2 when they don’t.
To make matters worse, captain Sidney Crosby will be out at least six weeks following core muscle surgery, according to TSN. Crosby, 32, had been dealing with a sports hernia since training camp but left the team’s win against the Blackhawks on Saturday with what was originally described as a lower-body injury. Prior to getting hurt, Crosby was the team’s leading scorer with 12 assists and 17 points in 17 games. The Penguins are also missing top defenseman Kris Letang and top-six forward Patric Hornqvist.
Murray is expected to be back between the pipes for the Penguins in New Jersey on Friday. The 25-year-old is 9-3-2 with a 2.39 GAA and .914 save percentage in 15 starts. He’s allowed three goals or less in each of his last 10 games and Pittsburgh has compiled at least a point in six of his last seven starts. He’s been a little more vulnerable away from home though, posting a 3-1-1 record with a 2.92 GAA and .886 save percentage in six road games. Murray struggled mightily in three starts against New Jersey last season, going 1-2-0 with a 4.88 GAA and .863 save percentage in those matchups.
Devils collapse in third period vs. SenatorsThe Devils completed collapsed in the third period of their game against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, allowing three goals in the final frame to turn a 2-1 lead into a 4-2 loss. Wayne Simmonds and Will Butcher both scored in the first period while Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 21 of 24 shots on the night.
There could be some changes on the way after the disappointing loss. The Devils come into this game ranked 28th in the league in goals per game at just 2.56 per contest and they have converted on only 12.9 percent of their opportunities with the man advantage, which also ranks 28th in the NHL. Defensively, New Jersey has killed off only 74.1 percent of their total penalties for the season (27th in the NHL) while allowing 3.65 goals per game (29th in the NHL).
It’s about time the team makes Blackwood its starting goaltender. One of the few bright spots for the Devils this season, the 22-year-old goaltender has maintained above-average number since earning his first win of the season and sports a 3-1-1 record in games in which he’s faced at least 31 shots.
Blackwood is scheduled to patrol the crease for the Devils on Friday night. The 22-year-old is 5-4-3 with a 2.94 GAA and .895 save percentage in 12 games (11 starts) but he’s been playing better as of late, allowing three goals or less in five of his last six starts. Blackwood has been a tick better a home (2.62 GAA) compared to on the road (3.35 GAA) so far this season. This will be his first career start against the Penguins.
- Penguins are 6-2 in their last 8 games playing on 2 days rest.
- Penguins are 6-2 in their last 8 vs. Metropolitan.
- Devils are 7-19 in their last 26 vs. Metropolitan.
- Devils are 25-61 in their last 86 Friday games.
- Devils are 0-4 in their last 4 home games.