Pitchforked Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Pittsburgh Penguins


85. Final. . 92.

The New Jersey Devils conclude their short two-game road trip tonight in Pittsburgh as they take on the division rival Penguins at Consol Energy Center. The first game of the trip was Saturday night when the Devils took on the Ottawa Senators. Jaromir Jagr, the former Penguin, was the hero of the game as he scored a power play goal late in overtime to give the Devils a much needed victory. After starting the season with three straight wins, the Devils were reeling a bit as they lost four straight including two after regulation. The Devils currently hold a record of 4-2-2 (10 points), good enough for second in the Metropolitan Division while the Penguins are fifth in the division with a record of 4-2-1 (9 points).

The Devils will go with the same lineup as they did on Saturday night except for one glaring omission – Mike Cammalleri. Cammalleri didn’t accompany the team to Pittsburgh and it is unclear just how much time he will miss. This leaves a huge hole on the top line that Dainius Zubrus will have to try and fill. Losing Cammalleri for any period of time is not ideal as he was the big offseason addition the Devils made to beef up their offense. So far that move has paid off as Cammalleri leads the team in goals with five and is tied for second in overall points with seven behind Adam Henrique’s eight. Hopefully he’ll be able to play on Thursday against Winnipeg, but the Devils will need to make up for his absence tonight.

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With Cammalleri on the shelf and Martin Havlat currently on IR, there’s an open spot in the top 9 so the Devils called up Reid Boucher yesterday from their AHL affiliate Albany. Boucher practiced with Henrique and Michael Ryder who he had success with in preseason and it appears that line will be together tonight. In 23 games with the Devils last season, Boucher scored two goals and had five assists, but he played very well for his first taste of NHL action. He was able to play two games against Pittsburgh as well although he didn’t record a point and was a -1. Since it’s Boucher’s season debut, expect his energy level to be high and playing with Henrique should allow him to provide much needed offense.

Last season the Devils were 2-2-0 against the Penguins winning both home games and losing both on the road. Cory Schneider, tonight’s starting goalie for New Jersey, was 0-2-0 with a 3.02 GAA and a .864 SV%. It’s only two games but he needs to be better, much better, than that. The Penguins are a powerful offensive team led by Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz who both had a goal and two assists against the Devils last season. Then, of course, there’s Evgeni Malkin who is a tremendous talent who can beat you in a variety of ways. Schneider will have to be flawless tonight if the Devils want to fly home with a pair of points.

As far as the Devils go, Jaromir Jagr led the team with three points (two goals and an assist) against the Peguins last year. Without Cammalleri, the Devils need Jagr to step up and lead the offense. Surprisingly, Dainius Zubrus was tied with Jagr in points against Pittsburgh last season which bodes well for the top line of Zubrus, Travis Zajac and Jagr tonight. The Devils will rely heavily on that line to not only provide offense, but shut down the top scorers for the Penguins as well.

It’s going to be a tough test for the New Jersey Devils, but they have the ability to play with anyone. If they play their game, they should come away with a victory. Let’s just hope they can get out to an early lead and build on it instead of falling apart in the third. Stay tuned to Pucks and Pitchforks for the Brick City Breakdown following tonight’s action.