When: 7:30 p.m. ET
How to Watch: On TV locally in Pittsburgh (AT&T Sportsnet), and on NESN in Boston. Also Sportsnet 60 in Canada
Opponent Track: The banged up Bruins are at home for the first time in five games, having gone 1-1-2 on a road trip that saw a loss in Colorado, an OT loss in Dallas, a 2-1 win in Arizona and a 3-2 OT loss in their last game on Tuesday night in Detroit.
Pens Refresh: Hey, they won last game!
SBN Team Counterpart: Stanley Cup of Chowder
Tale of the Tape
—Kinda wild that 20ish games into the season that only 3 NHL teams have a sub-2.60 goals/allowed per game rate. Boston is one of them (Nashville’s 2.23 GA/game leads the league).
—But otherwise the Bruins are unspectacular as a puck possession team. They allow more shots than they take overall, but receive excellent goaltending and have made the most of power play opportunities with one of the best groups in the league there.
—The Pens’ 5v5 shooting percentage was tops in the league than dipped to about 10th place and recently is on the upswing again getting back close to the magical 10% number. Both of Pittsburgh’s special teams units are comfortably among top-10 in the league but as always they need to limit the number of shots allowed and hope for better goaltending.
Player stats at a glance
—It’s a shame Patrice Bergeron (rib and sternoclavicular injury suffered last week) is out at least another 3+ weeks. Bergeron was on pace to shatter his career highs in assists (48) and points (73) at the fairly ripe NHL age of 33. The line with Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak is certainly one of the most dangerous in the entire league.
—After that line, the B’s are searching for more secondary scoring, just like their opponents tonight. David Krejci is solid an Jake Debrusk is emerging but they’re probably looking for more production out of no shortage of talented young forwards like Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, Noel Acciari and the recently demoted to AHL Ryan Donato.
—Jaroslav Halak has been the story of the Bruins’ season so far, posting the NHL’s 2nd highest save percentage to date (min. 10 games) after coming over as a free agent. Tuukka Rask had some sort of personal issue that briefly caused him to leave the team, but he’s been pretty good since returning stopping 60/64 shots (.938%) in the last two games he has played.
—Halak has been an “all or nothing” type of late; in four of his last six starts he’s given up 1 goal in each game. But those other two starts he gave up 5 and 6 goals. Feast of famine a bit for him as of late.
Lines (from their last game on Tuesday)
Anders Bjork - David Krejci - David Pastranak
Brad Marchand - Joakim Nordstrom - Jake Debrusk
Danton Heinen - Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson - Noel Accari
Chris Wagner - Sean Kuraly - David Backes
Matt Grzelcyk / Kevan Miller
Torey Krug / Connor Clifton
Jeremy Lauzon / Steven Kampfer
—That defense, woof! The B’s have fought through a ton of injuries in addition to Bergeron leaving a large hole in the middle of the lineup, you’ve got captain Zdeno Chara out several more weeks with a knee injury. Young stud Charlie McAvoy has been limited to just seven games all season (SCoc says he might be getting close to coming back from a concussion, though), John Moore is hurt, Brandon Carlo is hurt, even rookie former 1st round pick Urho Vaakanainen got hurt when he got called up as an injury replacement.
—The strategy last game was to split Pasta and Marchand to try and find two capable scoring lines. They only scored 2 goals (on Detroit no less) so it remains to be seen if those two are reunited for this game or if they hope spreading the talent still yields better results. Personally, if I were them, I’d keep the talent spread that way the Brian Dumoulin/Kris Letang pair can’t easily check both Pasta and Marchand.
And now for the Pens
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Lines (based off Thursday practice)
Jake Guentzel - - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Tanner Pearson - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Dominik Simon - Derick Brassard - Zach Aston-Reese
Bryan Rust- Riley Sheahan - Daniel Sprong
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Olli Maatta / Juuso Riikola
Jack Johnson / Jamie Oleksiak Chad Ruhwedel (rotating)
—Derek Grant wasn’t at practice yesterday, if he’s out today than Sprong should be back in. If Grant is able to play, Sprong is likely the scratch again and the 4th line will be reworked a bit to have Rust back on the right side.
—No real other changes from the big win, based on practice it would seem like Riikola is OK from the big hit he took last game and going to play again. This means one of Oleksiak or Ruhwedel will be the odd man out if that is the case.
The Road Ahead
This marks the first back-to-back of the season, Pittsburgh returns home to PPG Paints Arena on tomorrow night for a game against the first place Columbus Blue Jackets.
Next week marks another western road trip with games at Winnipeg (Tuesday) and Colorado (Wednesday). Given how the team played on their last Western road trip through Calgary-Edmonton-Vancouver, this may be a great thing.
Then the Pens return home on Saturday December 1st for a home game against the rival Flyers - and a game most/all the staff members of this blog will be at. Details about pre-game drinks to come!