When: 7:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: On TV locally in Pittsburgh (AT&T Sportsnet) and in the New York area on MSG+, Sportsnet in Canada
Opponent Track: The Islanders are 1-2-1 in their last four games, and lost at home their last time out to Winnipeg by a score of 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Pens Refresh: Powered by a Hornqvist hat trick, the Pens dished out the first regulation loss Colorado’s suffered in the last 10 games on Tuesday
SBN Team Counterpart: Lighthouse Hockey
Tale of the tape
—The Islanders continue to ride the PDO wave with strong numbers in shooting % and save %. However, both are down a bit from the last time these two teams met and NYI had an unreal 94.3% 5v5 save %.
—Pittsburgh gave up 45 shots to Colorado last time out, tonight should be a chance (if played well) to bring that down, the Islanders are not a team that takes a lot of shots and usually gets out-shot on most nights.
—Special teams edge goes to the Pens with 2 top-10 units for PP and PK. The Isles haven’t had much of a power play at all so far this season, one area they definitely miss departed ex-captain John Tavares (who scored 30 points last year for NYI on the PP).
Player stats at a glance
—The biggest change since these two teams met on 11/1 is the fall in save percentage. Thomas Greiss was at .933 and Robin Lehner was at .928% for the first meeting and these numbers have regressed towards the norm a bit. So, unsurprisingly, with worse goaltending the Islanders are just 6-6-2 since they skated off with a 3-2 shootout win against Pittsburgh on that night.
—Only 3 goals on the season for Mat Barzal, but he did score “just” 22 as a rookie last year. He’s settling in as much more of a playmaker with his team-leading 18 assists.
—Josh Bailey still leads the Isles in points, but he’s just been demoted to the 3rd line. Bailey’s been slumping a little bit with just 1 goal and 2 assists in the last 8 games, so we’ll see if the line shuffling gets him going.
Advancing in stats
LHH had an interesting deep dive on Barry Trotz’s fairly unique line of thinking when it comes to shot quality. Great reading if you’re into that sort of thing:
Anders Lee and Johnny Boychuk are performing well above their expectation. This means when they are on the ice, the Islanders are getting more quality shot attempts per overall attempt than any other player on the team. The player performing the worst? Jordan Eberle. When Eberle is on the ice, the Islanders are getting 4.78% more overall attempts than their opponents, but their opponents are actually getting 2.47% more high danger chances than the Islanders. That’s a huge difference and something worth monitoring as the season progresses.
Lines (from Wednesday practice)
Anthony Beauvillier - Mat Barzal- Tom Kuhnhackl
Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Jordan Eberle
Leo Komarov - Valtteri Filppula - Josh Bailey
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy / Johnny Boychuk
Thomas Hickey / Ryan Pulock
Adam Pelech /Scott Mayfield
—That’s not a mistake, Tom freakin Kuhnhackl is skating on the top line! Why? Well, your guess is as good as mine, Kuhnhackl did have a 2 goal game back on November 13th against Vancouver but since then has no points in his last 9 games. He’s been playing 12-14 minutes a night, so it’s not a huge role, but it’s definitely something.
And now for the Pens
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Lines (based off Wednesday practice)
Jake Guentzel - - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Tanner Pearson - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Derick Brassard - Phil Kessel
Riley Sheahan - Derek Grant - Garrett Wilson
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Olli Maatta / Jamie Oleksiak
Marcus Pettersson / Jack Johnson
—Dominik Simon is officially “day to day” with a lower body injury and not expected to play tonight. Big chance for Bryan Rust to get out of his slump by playing with Crosby.
—If you think Daniel Sprong would have been used in a bigger role due to Simon’s injury, think again. The Pens have scratched Sprong to play Wilson in a 4th line role earlier this season.
—Matt Murray and Matt Cullen are back to skating before the team practices, so a bit of tangible recovery going on there.
The Road Ahead
After tonight Pittsburgh starts a three-game road trip that starts in Ottawa on Saturday night before stops against the Islanders on Monday and in Chicago next Wednesday. Yep, we get to see these Islanders 2 times in the next 5 days, how lucky.