PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins and the New Jersey Devils, who beat Monday’s NHL deadline by each making a splashy deal over the weekend, meet Tuesday night in a Metropolitan Division clash at PPG Paints Arena.
Pittsburgh (36-23-4), third in the division, acquired Derick Brassard from Ottawa, giving the Penguins a formidable lineup at center. On deadline day, they made only a swap of minor league centers.
It’s not clear whether Brassard will be available Tuesday. He was awaiting immigration clearance as of late Monday.
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New Jersey (32-22-8), in the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, traded for speedy center Michael Grabner. The Devils didn’t stop there, acquiring forward Patrick Maroon on deadline day from Edmonton for New Jersey’s 2019 third-round draft pick and the rights to forward J.D. Dudek.
New Jersey general manager Ray Shero said he is hopeful Maroon will arrive and be available Tuesday night.
“We’re a better team (Monday) than we were a couple days ago,” Shero said.
The Penguins thought the Devils were pretty good a couple days ago after getting Grabner, who is expected to play Tuesday.
The Penguins reportedly also eyed Grabner, who has skill but whose biggest attribute might be his speed.
“He’s a guy who’s really dangerous,” Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. “Turnovers — you mismanage the puck and he’s a guy who can be gone (up ice) pretty quickly. He’s someone to be aware of.
“A lot of guys on their team can skate. They play a fast game. Very similar to the way we like to play, so it should be a good matchup.”
In the teams’ only meeting so far, New Jersey topped Pittsburgh 3-1 on Feb. 3 in Newark, N.J. They also play twice in late March.
Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, the Metropolitan Division looks just as tight as it has all season, if not tighter. It’s not clear who might win the division and which teams might not make the playoffs.
So matchups like Tuesday’ become all the more critical.
New Jersey is four points behind Pittsburgh with a game in hand.
“It’s always tight,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “That division is, like, crazy. We know (the order) is going to be decided in, like, the last two games of the year.
“For other teams that are ahead, you don’t know who’s going to be in the same spot. You just have to try to play your best hockey to the end, and hopefully you get into the playoffs in a top-ranking spot and you get to face the team you want.”
Maroon puts his new team in the same category.
“While watching TSN, New Jersey wasn’t one of the teams rumored I could go to,” he told the Devils’ website. “Once I heard I was going to the Devils, I got really excited. They are really good. Really young. Really skilled. They have a team that can make a push.”