Published on February 10th, 2013 | by James Conley0
Penguins Precap 13: New Jersey Devils
For the third time in nine days, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils will square off for control of the Atlantic Division and, hot on the heels of winning streaks by both clubs, ownership of first place in the Eastern Conference.
Pittsburgh (8-4-0, 16 points) has won five of its last six following Saturday’s undisciplined loss to New Jersey (7-1-3, 17 points), which moved ahead of the Penguins with the win.
Pittsburgh, already leaning on a thin defense corps following the loss of Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen to injury, recalled D Joe Morrow ahead of Sunday’s contest as Letang was moved to injured reserve. Niskanen has begun skating in his return from an ankle injury and is entering the third week of his 2-4 week recovery period, but no clearer timetable has been set for either player’s return.
In addition to those lost to injury, Pittsburgh also lost Brian Strait to a waiver claim by the Islanders (who have since signed Strait to a three-year contract extension) and traded Ben Lovejoy to the Anaheim Ducks for a 5th-round draft pick.
With so many out, Pittsburgh has since recalled Robert Bortuzzo, Dylan Reese and now Morrow from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, in addition to selecting Simon Despres’ contract from WBS at the beginning of the season.
Pittsburgh will now have three rookie defensemen on tonight’s roster, though it’s not clear whether Morrow will play at all. Reese, who has more than 70 games in the NHL, has been good for his hometown team in his first two contests, and Bortuzzo and Despres have played increasingly impressive hockey in each appearance, logging more ice time and more important situational use with each contest.
If Morrow skates, it’s a good bet one of the regulars will be nursing some sort of minor injury. In any event, Letang’s move to IR opened a place on the roster for Morrow’s recall.
Slew Footers columnist at-large Evan Puddy Mulgrave on the matchup of the millenium:
Devils by a touchdown. Pens rookie defensemen open the floodgates on Vokoun, who will fold like a pair of Dockers. Devils get another dozen power play chances and convert on all of them. Go Devils.
Pittsburgh will need to take about a billion fewer penalty minutes in Sunday’s game to have a chance at breaking the patient, structured Devils squad, something they’ve proven capable of in winning three of their last four meetings with the Devils dating back to last season but which will prove to be a problem if the team spends half the game in special teams play.