When: 10:00pm Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, ESPN+, NBC Sports California
Opponent Track: Unlike the other two slumping California teams, the Sharks are playing very well right now. They’re 6-0-0 in the calendar year 2019 and 8-1-0 dating back to the Christmas break. SJ last played at home beating Ottawa 4-1 and have recent wins over Vegas and Tampa in this winning streak. (This is also like the third game in a row Ottawa plays a team immediately before Pittsburgh. And they usually lose!)
Pens Refresh: The west swing has a 1-1-0 record so far, with the Pens inability to beat last-place teams continuing last time out on Saturday with a 5-2 loss to lowly Los Angeles.
Season series: First meeting of the season. SJ makes their annual trip to Pittsburgh next month on Thursday February 21st to complete the two-game set.
SBN Team Counterpart: Fear the Fin
Tale of the tape
—San Jose looks like the perfect team, aside from one critical weakness. First, the good is SJ is the finest Corsi team in the league so far this year. They control the puck and shots better than anyone. They’re also very solid on special teams with top-7 units on both side’s of the penalty battles.
—But then you get to goaltending and it’s been a real issue with the league’s worst even strength performance. And defense doesn’t look really to blame, the save % of SJ goalies at 5v5 on scoring chances against is .844% which is 27th in the league per NST. On high danger shots against it’s a .794%, which is 28th. Not great but it’s not like it’s been just slam dunks against.
—But that makes the Sharks all the scarier that they haven’t gotten any goaltending at all, are a bottom-10 PDO team in the league this season but still possess an incredible offense that can rack up the wins. If they ever get a hot-streak of goaltending, say at the right time like playoff time, this is as dangerous a team as there is in the whole league.
Player stats at a glance
—Brent Burns has put up 75, 76 and 67 points in the last three seasons. He’s on pace for 90 this year. 90!
—Erik Karlsson has come to life too. After starting the season with just 15 points (2g+13a) in the first 27 games. That’s really slow for him. He’s settled in as the year has gone on with 26 points (1g+25a) in the last 18 games.
—Joe Pavelski’s 26 goals this season almost feel like an after-thought back east. It’s tied for ninth most in the league though.
—22-year old Swiss player Timo Meier is living up to his high first round draft status from 2015. His 23 assists and 41 points are already career-highs and he’s having a breakout year in his second full NHL season.
—As touched on above, Martin Jones with a .898 ES save%, which is only 47th out of 50 goalies with 15+ games this season. Backup Aaron Dell hasn’t provided any relief, he’s 45th place at .900%.
—Jones does have a .915 save% while killing penalties which is 5th best out of 50. Weirdly enough only Jones, Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper and Minnesota’s Devin Dubnyk are actually better while they’re short-handed at stopping pucks. Pretty rare to see a goalie do better in such a circumstance
Lines (from Saturday game)
Lukas Radil - Logan Couture - Timo Meier
Marcus Sorensen - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Evander Kane - Tomas Hertl - Joonas Donskoi
Melker Karlsson - Barclay Goodrow - Kevin Labanc
Radim Simek / Brent Burns
Brandon Dillon / Erik Karlsson
Tim Heed / Justin Braun
Defensive defenseman extraordinaire Marc-Edouard Vlasic is out with injury.
—Very good balance to these lines, the talent spread across the top-nine means it coul be a challenging night for the Pens’ second and third defense pairs. Letang isn’t going to be able and stay out there all night, so good offensive players are going to be matched up across the Pittsburgh lower lines at some point.
—The Sharks are pretty good on the salary cap (they can add $7m worth of salaries at the deadline per capfriendly) but don’t have a first round pick already in 2019 or 2020 due to earlier trades. Still, if you see them upgrade their left wing by maybe getting Mats Zuccarello from NY or something and wow this team would be as stacked as anyone. That’s just thinking out loud but an initial thought when checking out the lines and roster.
And now for the Pens
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Lines (based off Monday practice)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Tanner Pearson - Evgeni Malkin - Dominik Simon
Riley Sheahan - Derick Brassard - Phil Kessel
Garrett Wilson - Matt Cullen - Derek Grant
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Olli Maatta / Jamie Oleksiak
Marcus Pettersson / Jack Johnson
Expected scratches: Juuso Riikola (healthy), Chad Ruhwedel (healthy)
Injured: Patric Hornqvist (concussion), Zach Aston-Reese (broken hand, IR)
—No real changes expected for Pittsburgh based off the way they practiced.
—It was good to see Justin Schultz on the ice in a no-contact injury as his efforts to rehab and return seem to advance with every day