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Preview: Penguins at Devils

Pittsburgh can clinch second place in Metropolitan; Miles Wood, Jacob Josefson return for New Jersey

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

PENGUINS (49-19-11) at DEVILS (28-37-14)

7 p.m. ET; SN360, MSG+, ROOT, NHL.TV


Penguins team scope

The Pittsburgh Penguins are three points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for second place in the Metropolitan Division and can clinch second place with a win of any kind against the New Jersey Devils and a loss of any kind by the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. That would give the Penguins home ice advantage against the Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Defenseman Kris Letang will miss the postseason because of neck surgery to repair a herniated disc. "It goes without saying that Kris Letang is a hard guy to replace; he's an elite player," coach Mike Sullivan said. "He certainly does a lot for this team. But we have found ways to have success in his absence here for quite some time now this season and we're going to have to continue to do that. It's not going to be any one player that's going to replace him, it's got to be a collective effort." Center Evgeni Malkin will miss his 11th straight game with an upper-body injury; he practiced on Wednesday and was at the morning skate on Thursday wearing a non-contact jersey. "He joined the practice so that's a step for him and encouraging," Sullivan said. "We've taken a cautious approach with him. I think he's played a fair amount of games (63) this year so we're not overly concerned that he's got to knock the rust off. We feel very strongly he can step right in and be an impact player for us." Goaltender Matt Murray will make his fourth straight start for the Penguins, who have won three in a row. Murray is 3-0-0 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .905 save percentage in three games against the Devils in his career.


Devils team scope

Devils forwards Miles Wood and Jacob Josefson are each expected to return to the lineup. Wood missed a 1-0 overtime win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday with an upper-body injury. Josefson has missed the past 17 games with an upper-body injury. Goaltender Cory Schneider is expected to make his 58th start. He is 3-7-1 with a 2.36 GAA and .921 save percentage in 11 games against Pittsburgh. Defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who won the Stanley Cup with Penguins last season, said Pittsburgh has the depth to overcome the loss of Letang. "Kris is a special player because he adds a dimension to a team that you can't make up for," Lovejoy said. "They will be fine without him, though. There's plenty of talent in that room, both on offense, defense and in goal. Letang is incredibly gifted and he is better in the 33rd minute on the ice than he is in the first."


Penguins projected lineup

Jake Guentzel -- Sidney Crosby -- Conor Sheary

Bryan Rust -- Nick Bonino -- Phil Kessel

Tom Kuhnhackl -- Matt Cullen -- Patric Hornqvist

Scott Wilson -- Carter Rowney -- Josh Archibald

Brian Dumoulin -- Ron Hainsey

Ian Cole -- Justin Schultz

Trevor Daley -- Chad Ruhwedel

Matt Murray

Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratched: Cameron Gaunce, Mark Streit

Injured: Evgeni Malkin (upper body), Olli Maatta (hand), Kris Letang (upper body), Carl Hagelin (lower body), Tom Sestito (upper body), Chris Kunitz (lower body)


Devils projected lineup

Adam Henrique -- Travis Zajac -- Kyle Palmieri

Taylor Hall -- Pavel Zacha -- Michael Cammalleri

Beau Bennett -- Jacob Josefson -- Stefan Noesen

Miles Wood -- Blake Coleman -- Ben Thomson

Andy Greene -- Ben Lovejoy

John Moore -- Damon Severson

Jon Merrill -- Michael Kapla

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Scratched: Steven Santini, Joseph Blandisi

Injured: Devante Smith-Pelly (lower body)

Suspended: Dalton Prout


Status report

Daley, who has missed the past 20 games with a knee injury, was paired with Ruhwedel at the morning skate and will be a game-time decision. ... Devils coach John Hynes said he will confirm his forward lineup after the pregame skate. ... Prout will serve the final game of a two-game suspension.


Who's hot

Murray has a 1.95 GAA and .944 save percentage during a three-game win streak. ... Crosby has four points (one goal, three assists) in his past three games. ... Guentzel has a goal in three straight games and has four points (three goals, one assist) in that span.

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