PITTSBURGH, PA - The Devils players have been taking ownership over their play of late in their conversations with the media, most notably Taylor Hall yesterday who said he has to play better.
When the top guys on your roster do that, it's a good sign that they have the right mindset in place.
"It's really important," said Head Coach John Hynes. "Something that we've talked with them about is ownership. When you play well, you want to own it, and when you don't play well you want to own it, and that's something that's just accountability within our group and in the room and understanding that we've had some opportunities in recent weeks to be able to gain some traction and put multiple wins together. And we haven't been able to get over that mountain yet. There's reasons for that. We've obviously met on it and discussed it and talked about it and we got to go out and do it."
Other players are stepping up around the locker room, focusing on improving their own individual performances, which will in turn help the team.
"I mean, whenever a team is in this situation, I've always felt I could be better," said P.K. Subban. "When I've been on winning teams too, you know?
"Connor McDavid has to come to the rink and find ways to be better. For our team, every player has to come to the rink, every day wanting to be better individually first. Because that's how you're going to help the team. I think it's consistency and just trying to find ways to win. I think everybody has their individual game that they have to play. But how does that fit into a team concept for us to win? I think we're figuring a lot of those things out."
As a team, the Devils have shown they can perform well but it hasn't been consistent enough to make an impact on their win-loss column.
"At times, when we do it consistently, you see we're a tough team to play against," said Subban. "There's no doubt in my mind that this team comes out to play every night. I don't think there's been any games really this season that we've lost due to a lack of effort. So we have to continue to put that work in and keep grinding because, like I said, there's a lot of good teams in this league out of playoff spots right now that shouldn't be in everybody's eyes. So for us, we're going to continue to work and believe in the process."
BLACKWOOD IN NET
The Devils will roll with Mackenzie Blackwood between the pipes and the hope is that, as he takes over as the clear No. 1 netminder, he can bounce back from a 5-1 loss to Boston in his last outing.
"Just be consistent and get back to his game that that has allowed him to be good, which is when he's positionally been sound, has been good with rebounds and he's made timely saves when we needed them," said Hynes. "Get right back in and have the right mindset that gives him the best chance to have success. And I think if he executes those things I just addressed, that's when he gives us the best chance to win and when he gives himself the best chance to play real well."
Blackwood is 1-0-0 against the Penguins in his career, with a .974 save percentage. That performance came exactly a week ago, in a 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh at home.
The Devils will deploy the lineup we saw in practice yesterday. John Hayden and Matt Tennyson will each come out.
The lines and d-pairings are projected to be as follows:
-- Chris Wescott, NewJerseyDevils.com
DEVILS (7-9-4) at PENGUINS (11-7-4)
TV: 7:00 p.m. ET; Televised on MSG+
Tonight's game is the second of four meetings between the two teams this season.
The Devils won 2-1 last Friday when these teams met for the first time on the campaign. Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman scored in the win while Mackenzie Blackwood made 38 saves.
Last season, the Devils took three out of four from the Penguins. Travis Zajac led the way with eight points in four games while Damon Severson and Taylor Hall each had five points. Severson played four games and Hall only played two to achieve that total.
Devils team scope:
The Devils have won three of their last five games, including back-to-back wins last weekend over Pittsburgh and Minnesota but their last time out, they lost 5-1 to the Bruins.
Blake Coleman got a goal in that game and also scored last Friday against the Penguins. With five goals, he's now tied with Nikita Gusev for second on the team in goals, Kyle Palmieri has seven goals to lead the club.
New Jersey is eight points behind Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference but holds two games in hand on each team.
Penguins team scope:
For the Penguins, this is their second game in as many nights. They were in New York on Thursday night to face the Islanders and lost 4-3 in overtime.
The sit tied with the Philadelphia Flyers at 26 points. Both teams hold the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo sits three points back of them while Carolina is one point up, sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Jake Guentzel leads the Penguins in scoring with 18 points through 21 games and 10 goals. The injured Sidney Crosby is second at 17 points (in 17 games) and Jared McCann sits third with 13 points. Evgeni Malkin has 11 points (3 goals) in 10 games since returning from injury.
By the Numbers:
Six of Pittsburgh's last nine games have gone to overtime with only one of those six continuing on to a shootout. The team's record in those games is 2-0-4.
Devils have only outshot their opponent in six games this season, winning twice (2-1-3). ... Devils have had the most success against the Metropolitan Division this season, with a 3-1-0 record and the least amount of success against the Atlantic Division at 1-5-1. Pittsburgh, similarly, is 1-4-0 against the Atlantic and 3-1-3 against the Metropolitan with their lone regulation loss being against the Devils.
Devils penalty kill on the road ranks last in the NHL at 63.6% (12 goals against on 33 tries). However, Pittsburgh's power play has struggled at home. It's tied for 26th in the NHL at 14.3% with only six goals on 42 tries.
Devils -Connor Carrick (upper body) is out; Kevin Rooney (upper body) is out
Penguins - Justin Schultz (lower body) is out; Nick Bjugstad (core muscle) is out; Sidney Crosby (core muscle) is out; Kris Letang (lower body) is day-to-day