When: 9:30 p.m. ET
How to Watch: On TV nationally on NBCSN, locally in Pittsburgh the game will still be shown on the normal (AT&T Sportsnet)
Opponent Track: Colorado enters tonight’s game on a 5 game winning streak. And, since November 11th they are 7-0-1 in their last 8 games, so they’ve been in fine form. Last night they played in Nashville, beating the first place Predators 3-2.
Pens Refresh: Pittsburgh is now on a bit of a streak themselves after coming back to beat Winnipeg 4-3 last night. The Pens are winners of their last 2 games and 3-0-2 in the last 5 overall.
SBN Team Counterpart: Mile High Hockey
Tale of the Tape
—After cooling Patrik Laine and the red hot Winnipeg power play last night, the Penguins will see a very similar team with a very similar challenge tonight against Colorado. That power play number at 32.1% is off the charts good (remember the Pens’ set a 20-year best PP mark last year with a 26.2% rate).
—Colorado in general is a scary team offensively with the most goals in the league, and not needing a quantity of shots to get it done. This suggests we’re dealing with a team of skill players that can shoot and score with a high percentage of their shots.
—As usual, what separates Pittsburgh from a team that’s well above .500 right now is in the net. Despite giving up a lot of shots against, the Avs have received some very solid goaltending.
Player stats at a glance
—When you talk Colorado, you talk top-of-the-league individual talent. No one in the league has more than 33 points so far this season....Except for Mikko Rantanen’s 40 and Nathan MacKinnon’s 37. To put up those sorts of numbers in this day and age through just 24 games is really absurdly good.
—Rantanen has 11 points (3g+8a) in the current five game winning streak. He’s scored a steady 2 points in each of the last four games.
—MacKinnon is almost a copycat, also with 11 points (5g+6a) in the last five games, and he has also scored 2 points in the last four games. Last night he scored 2 goals in the 3-2 win.
—Beyond those two, Alex Kerfoot is not having a sophomore slump this season with 18 points in 24 games.
—After scoring just 14 and 37 points the past two seasons (playing 80 and 77 games, respectively), 33-year old Carl Soderberg is surprisingly having a big bounceback season, already notching 7 goals and 9 assists in the 2018-19 campaign.
—Old friend Ian Cole looks like he is settling in nicely as the Avs’ #4 defenseman. Cole is playing just north of 20 minutes per night, with 4th highest at even strength (16 mins) and a team-high 3:44 per game while short-handed.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost - Alex Kerfoot - Colin Wilson
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert
Sven Andrighetto - JT Compher - Gabriel Bourque
Sam Girard / Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov / Ian Cole
Patrik Nemeth / Mark Barberio
—Semyon Varlamov played and played well last night stopping 36/38 Nashville shots. One would think that means it’s backup Phillipp Grubauer’s turn against Pittsburgh tonight.
Cole Harbour’s favorite sons
MacKinnon’s hot streak is a bit reminiscent of the run Auston Matthews was on early in the season and when the Pens and Maple Leafs collided for the first time this season. Of course, it was Toronto so the town that’s now wondering if Mitch Marner is a hall-of-famer was wondering back then if Matthews was better than Sidney Crosby. Crosby held an edge in shots 7-0 head-to-head against Matthews, forcing the Leafs to run from the matchup.
Crosby and MacKinnon, as you may have heard one time or 1000 times, are from the same village of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. They both were #1 overall picks. They are friends who train together in the offseason and make fun commercials.
MacKinnon at age 23 is in his scoring prime. He just put up 97 points last season, 5th highest in the league and outscoring Crosby for the first time ever. Mac’s up 12 points on Sid so far this year, so he likely will be outscoring him again this season.
Bu for one head-to-head matchup, lets see how Crosby responds. Sid was the better player than Matthews in their meeting this year, and Sid was the better player than Connor McDavid too. The young stars will score more points and are eventually getting more of the spotlight, but Crosby as the old lion can still hang with them on any given night and tonight will be another interesting battle.
And now for the Pens
Lines (based off Tuesday game)
Jake Guentzel - - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Tanner Pearson - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Zach Aston-Reese - Derick Brassard - Bryan Rust
Riley Sheahan - Derek Grant - Garrett Wilson
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Olli Maatta / Juuso Riikola
Jack Johnson / Jamie Oleksiak
—Nice to see the bottom-six finally get going a bit with goals last night from Sheahan, ZAR and Grant. A few of those were bad goaltending, but hey, we’ll take it any way it happens these days.
—Grant in particular scored 12 goals and 24 points last season in the NHL. You’d never know it from watching him this year as a totally forgettable player, but there’s some ability to generate points in this league in him. It’s highly doubtful he’s putting up the same numbers this season, but if he can get some confidence and get back on the scoresheet again that would do wonders for this team.
—Also, as Jesse points out, a tip of the cap to Letang last night
This pass by Letang is the reason Aston-Reese scores that goal. Look at this thing. Absolutely unreal. Letang is feeling it right now. pic.twitter.com/J13P2Fn0eg— Jesse Marshall (@jmarshfof) November 28, 2018
The Road Ahead
After finishing up the back-to-back mini-western swing tonight, the Pens will return back home tomorrow (no practice as it will be a travel day). They get back to work on Friday morning at UPMC Lemieux to prep for Saturday’s game against the unraveling Flyers.
Speaking of, most the staff writers will be at that game so hopefully it’s a good one. Hit us up on twitter or here for more pre (and possibly post) game plans!