Pittsburgh Vs. New Jersey NHL Handicapping Preview

Ray MonohanContributor IMarch 17, 2010

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 12:  Marc - Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in action against  the New Jersey Devils during their game on March 12, 2010 at The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Team records:

Pittsburgh: 41-23-5
New Jersey: 41-24-3

Tonight, 7:05p.m. ET
Sportsbook odds: Penguins +120, Devils -140


The Pittsburgh Penguins will visit the New Jersey Devils for the second time in six days on Wednesday night in what is the marquee matchup during a light night on the NHL schedule. The Devils defeated the Pens 3-1 last Thursday and a victory on Wednesday will pull them into a second place tie in the Eastern Conference with those same Penguins.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are arguably the hottest team since the Olympic break going 5-1-1 in their seven games. It’s no surprise that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Makin have carried the offensive load for the Pens. Boasting the fifth ranked offense, the Penguins have finally been getting some production from the inexplicably poor power play which is still near the bottom of the NHL at 17%. Pittsburgh has six goals in the seven games since the break.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ strong play since the Olympic break is the reason for their second place standing in the Eastern Conference and their first place position in the Atlantic Division. Their goal will be to contain newcomer Ilya Kovalchuk who was the difference in their last meeting with one goal and one assist. It is the last meeting of the season between the two teams and the Penguins should have absolutely no trouble getting up for this game.

The New Jersey Devils will be looking for a season sweep of the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The Devils have won the last five meetings between the teams and are 37-17 in their last 54 meetings overall. The Devils went into the Olympic break with a lead over the Pens in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference but a 4-3 record has allowed the Pens to overtake them.

The Devils are never going to be an offensive machine, but the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk has really helped their cause. He, Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner and Patrik Elias give the Devils four legitimate scoring threats – something that they have not had in recent memory.

However, this team is still reliant on the good play of goaltender martin Brodeur. With a no-name defensive squad, the Devils are forced to rely on their Hall of Fame goalie to steal games, something that Brodeur is very used to. When he struggles (as he did just before and just after the Olympics), the team struggles as well. BRODEUR IS THE TEAM and his importance is evidenced by his 158 saves on the 161 shots that he has faced against the Pens this season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins need this game to eliminate the air of invincibility that the Devils have over them. They also need this game in order to maintain their lead in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. This will be a highly contested game. I like the Penguins to break the spell and finally get a win against the seemingly untouchable Devils.

NHL Betting Trends:

New Jersey is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing Pittsburgh
New Jersey is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games at home
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Pittsburgh’s last 6 games when playing on the road against New Jersey
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Pittsburgh’s last 5 games when playing New Jersey
Pittsburgh is 5-2 SU in its last 7 games
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Pittsburgh’s last 7 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of New Jersey’s last 6 games when playing at home against Pittsburgh
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of New Jersey’s last 5 games when playing Pittsburgh

Penguins vs Devils Free Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins +140

This Article Also Appears On The Cappers Picks NHL Handicapping Blog