Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (12-10-5) @ Ottawa Senators (12-14-3)
I had this long preview typed up and then the draft cleared. Oof, tough one to come back through, so here’s an abbreviated and half-assed effort for your Saturday afternoon.
The Ottawa Senators are on a two-game losing streak, dropping both ends of a home-and-home this week with the Montreal Canadiens. Both were by an identical 5-2 score.
Ottawa does have a pretty strong 9-5-2 home record though, including a Saturday night win over the Pens 6-4 a couple of weeks ago.
-Matt Duchene was on pace for a 96 point season, which would have crushed his career-high of 70. Good time for that in a contract season for him. However he suffered an injury and appears to be out for a while.
-The young core appears to be emerging in Ottawa with guys like White, Tkachuk and Chabot all playing big roles and doing pretty well in them.
-The reliance on 37-year old Craig Anderson continues. He’s currently 2nd in the NHL (behind old friend Marc-Andre Fleury) in total minutes played. Anderson has held up pretty well with a .909 save% on the season which doesn’t sound that great but with a GAA hovering in the 3.5-3.6 range, the Sens defense has led him to be totally shelled and Anderson has done an admirable job to even give the team a chance to keep their heads above water.
Brady Tkachuk - Colin White - Mark Stone
Mikkel Boedker - Chris Tierney - Drake Batherson
Ryan Dzingel - Zach Smith - Marcus Paajarvi
Max McCormick - Nicholas Paul - Tom Pyatt
Thomas Chabot / Dylan Demelo
Maxime Lajoie / Cody Ceci
Ben Harpur / Christian Jaros
And for the Pens..
Patric Hornqvist took the morning skate and even appeared in his customary spot on the top power play unit, however after the practice coach Mike Sullivan ruled Hornqvist out for tonight’s game and declared him officially day-to-day with an upper body injury. Hopefully Hornqvist is close to coming back.
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Phil Kessel
Tanner Pearson - Evgeni Malkin - Riley Sheahan
Bryan Rust - Derick Brassard - Zach Aston-Reese
Garrett Wilson - Derek Grant - Jean-Sebastien Dea
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Olli Maatta / Jamie Oleksiak
Marcus Pettersson / Jack Johnson
—The absence of Hornqvist will likely necessitate a lot of shuffling and mixing and matching of forwards throughout the night. It’s never too comforting to see Sheahan playing on a line with Malkin, but the big guy does have 3 goals in the last 5 games, so his form has seen him put the puck in the net a little bit lately, which is more than you can say for any other potential player to stick on the spot.
—Casey DeSmith will be in the net for another game for Pittsburgh. Makes sense as he’s getting into a groove and on a bit of a winning streak.
—Obviously the fun and focus will be to see how long Crosby and Kessel are kept together and just what they can do for an encore to last game where they generated a bunch of chances and each scored an even strength goal in the short time they were united.