NEWARK, NJ - The Devils come into tonight's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins with two teams moving in different directions. The Devils are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and the Penguins are 2-8-0 as they fight to stay above the playoff cutline in the competitive Metropolitan Division.
The team will make one, maybe two roster moves from Saturday night's successful squad which defeated the New York Rangers 6-4 in Madison Square Garden. A change happening for sure is Matt Tennyson coming in to replace Fredrik Claesson, who is out due to injury.
"Anytime you can play in the NHL it's a good thing. I'm just looking to not change anything. I don't try to get too high or too low, just play my game as always," said Tennyson, who was recalled from Binghamton this morning where he had a goal and nine points in 25 games this season. Tennyson will play with Connor Carrick.
"I think we might have played one or two games together. Everybody that's here is here for a reason. We'll make it work and try to find some chemistry. We'll look forward to getting some chemistry and keeping it simple."
Coach Nasreddine said he felt comfortable putting Tennyson into the lineup after he had played 19 games with the NHL Devils earlier this season.
The other potential lineup change will be Janne Kuokkanen, who may play but the coach did not confirm if he would, stating it's a gametime decision.
Acquired at the trade deadline from Carolina in exchange for Sami Vatanen, the forward is ready if called upon.
"It's been a really great time since I got here. A lot of new faces but everyone has been really nice to me," he said. "I'm just going to be ready when it happens and try to help the team as well as I can."
Kuokkanen has played 11 career NHL games but none since last season, when he suited up for seven with the Hurricanes.
"It's been almost a year when I last played in this League. You're a little nervous at the start but hopefully it gets better after that," Kuokkanen stated.
Based on the lines run for practice on Monday, the lineup for tonight could potentially be:
Pittsburgh has struggled, having lost their last two games and only won two of their last 10 with a six-game losing streak as part of that stretch. Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine cautioned his team to think that things might be easier as a result of the struggles of their opponent.
"I know they're having a tough stretch here but these guys know how to get at it," he said. "They're near the top of the standings for a reason. It's a new game for both teams so we expect their best."
-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (28-28-12) vs. PENGUINS (39-23-6)
TV: 7:00 PM ET; Televised on MSG+
Tonight's game is the third of four meetings between the two teams this season.
The two clubs met twice in November, with the Devils winning 2-1 at home and the Penguins winning 4-1 a week later back in Pittsburgh.
The three Devils goals were scored by Travis Zajac, Taylor Hall and Blake Coleman. Four different Penguins registered a goal while Alex Galchenyuk and Sam Lafferty each led the Pens with two points (both assists).
Devils team scope:
The Devils are coming off two of their biggest wins of the season, beating the St. Louis Blues 4-2 after the Blues skated in on an eight-game winning streak and then topped the Rangers at Madison Square Garden 6-4 in a game where the Rangers would have pulled into a playoff spot with a win.
New Jersey has the sixth-best record in the NHL since Christmas. In 33 games, which is almost a half-season sample set, they have 17 wins and 41 points. Over a full season, that's a 102 point pace. The only teams ahead of them in the standings are: Columbus (43 points), Colorado (43), Philadelphia (44), Boston (47) and Tampa Bay (54).
Penguins team scope:
The Penguins have struggled as of late and have seen their hold on a playoff spot start to dissipate. They have 84 points, still five clear of a playoff position, but have won only two of their last 10 games (2-8-0) which included a six-game losing streak. More recently, they lost both of their games this past weekend, to Washington 5-2 and Carolina 6-2.
Evgeni Malkin leads the team with 71 points in 54 games. Sidney Crosby has only played 40 games but he has 47 points to rank third on the club.
By the Numbers:
Tonight's game is the third of 10 straight games that the Penguins have against the Metropolitan Division. They've played 16 games against the Metro this season and have a record of 7-6-3.
Pittsburgh hasn't allowed a power play goal in four straight games and have only been shorthanded 187 times this season which is the sixth-fewest total in the NHL. Sidney Crosby has 33 goals and 72 points in 65 career games against the Devils while Malkin has 54 points in 58 games. Crosby is first among all active NHL players in points against the Devils and Malkin is third. Washington's Alex Ovechkin has 64 points in 57 career games against New Jersey to rank second among all active players. Only 10 players in NHL history have scored more goals against the Devils than Crosby's 33.
Devils -Will Butcher (lower body) is on IR
Penguins - Jake Guentzel (shoulder) is on IR; Zach Aston-Reese (lower body) is day-to-day; Dominik Simon (upper body) is day-to-day; Anthony Angello (upper body) is day-to-day