Just what we need. A game that doesn’t matter against the New Jersey Devils. As if Devils games aren’t painful enough to get through as is. The Devils are out of the playoff picture and the Penguins sit atop the east. The Penguins don’t even have the Presidents Trophy to fight for at this point after the Chicago Blackhawks clinched that on Wednesday night.
While the games are meaningless, the Penguins do seem to be using them to transition some of their injured stars back into the lineup. Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup on Tuesday against Buffalo and notched an assist on Jarome Iginla’s power play goal in the third period.
The problem with the Penguins’ strategy is that over the past couple years, they do not have the ability to be healthy. Add one man to the lineup, lose another. That’s what happened when Brooks Orpik got hurt in the first period of the game against the Sabres and did not return. His status for this game is uncertain but logic points to him not playing.
Much like the Sabres, the Penguins have struggled against the Devils this year. The Devils have taken two of the first three match-ups between these two teams this season despite finding themselves in the bottom half of the standings in the eastern conference. And while the Devils are out of the playoff hunt, they have been on a hot streak recently. They have won three out of their last four games and have had a lot of success against the Pens over the past couple of years at the Prudential Center.
Marc-Andre Fleury has already been named the starter for the final two games of the regular season which means that barring anything crazy, Tomas Vokoun’s work is done for the season. The extra tune up for Fleury probably isn’t a bad idea. The month of April hasn’t treated him too well. Especially his past two starts. Not all of that has been his fault. The defense hasn’t been great lately. That being said, he is going to need to be on top of his game going into the playoffs. And most importantly, who’s excited for his playoff beard?
This preview sucks. There just isn’t much riding on this game. The only difference between this and week seventeen of an NFL season is that the Penguins are actually trying to get their star players into the lineup rather than rest them. Ottawa, the Rangers, and Winnipeg all play tomorrow night as well. Quite frankly, those games are probably of more interest.