Who: Anaheim Ducks (3-0-0) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (1-2-0)
When: 7:00 p.m.
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, something called PRIME in California (idk)
Opponent Track: Tonight is game two of a four game road swing for Anaheim. They’ll jump over Columbus for a game tomorrow night. They won game one of their trip Tuesday night in Detroit 3-1.
Pens path ahead: This concludes a four game home-stand to start the season, which the Pens need to win to salvage .500. Pittsburgh leaves tomorrow for Minnesota, who they play on Saturday night, then they’ll hop over the border quickly to play in Winnipeg for the only Sunday 7 p.m. EST start time of the season.
Season Series: The Pens don’t make their California trip until late February, so we won’t see another PIT/ANA matchup until Friday February 28.
Recent history: Pittsburgh went 1-1 vs Anaheim in 2018-19, which was a step up from going 0-2 in 2017-18.
SBN Team Counterpart: It’s Anaheim Calling for all your Duck related news
Tale of the Tape
With a few games of data, the chart returns!
—Anaheim is 0-for-6 on the young season on the power play. The Pens’ PK percentage is bad at 66.7 percent, but they’ve only been shorthanded three times in the first three games, so there’s not a lot to read into there, besides the fact Pittsburgh has done well to stay out of the box so far.
—Anaheim’s PK at 7-for-7 is perfect. They’ve played lots of special teams time in the opening week!
—As for the rest of the stats: John Gibson is very good. Never forget.
—The Pens’ shooting stats in terms of shots for and Corsi percentage is very impressive, a lot of it inflated by a third period last game vs. WIN where Pittsburgh won a 28-3 Corsi period, 14-2 in shots on goal as Winnipeg sat back playing defense and the Pens were pushing to score. That’s skewing the sample for now but will normalize out a bit as more comes in.
Player Stats at a Glance
—The story so far is John Gibson (as it usually is for the Ducks). He’s given up one goal in each of the three games and has stopped the rest. That’s a good way to go a sneaky 3-0 to start the season when the goalie is basically a brick wall.
—Anaheim has scored eight goals, no one has more than one. Surprisingly enough ex-Penguin Derek Grant has a goal and an assist through three games.
—Again, John Gibson...very, very good.
Possible Lines (based on Wednesday practice)
Devin Shore - Ryan Getzlaf - Ondrej Kase
Rickard Rakell - Isac Lundestrom - Jakob Silfverberg
Max Jones - Adam Henrique - Troy Terry
Nick Ritchie - Derek Grant - Carter Rowney
Hampus Lindholm / Josh Manson
Brendan Guhle / Cam Fowler
Jacob Larsson/ Michael Del Zotto
Expected scratches: Maxime Comtois, Korbanian Holzer, Nicolas Deslauriers
Injured reserve: Ryan Kesler, Patrick Eaves, Sam Steel
—Lundestrom is an interesting player to keep an eye on, given his spot in the lineup currently centering an all-Swedish second line. The 2018 first round pick (20th overall) is still 19-years old. He played 15 games in the NHL last season (0 goals, 2 assists), a season he split between the Swedish league, the AHL and NHL.
Ducks Stay Scrappy
Anaheim had to overcome giving up the first goal on the road last game against Detroit. They battled back and won the game 3-1. As The Athletic’s Eric Stephens wrote, the team battled and enjoyed going through the adversity.
Now, this win didn’t come against St. Louis or Vegas or Nashville or any of the other would-be beasts of the Western Conference. But these players needed to see how they would react when scuffling to find their game and situations were going against them. And it became a talking point, with Ryan Getzlaf delivering the message. Their response was definitive.
“This definitely strengthens the group,” said Jakob Silfverberg, who delivered the coup de grace with a successful snap shot. “And I think it was Getzy that said it. I don’t know if it was first or second intermission, but (he said), ‘Hey, let’s not panic. This is the first time that we faced a little bit of adversity this year. This is going to be a great lesson. Let’s just go out there and play. Let’s do the little things right. You can’t start looking at the big picture. You can’t start looking at the score or who’s going to score. Just go out there and do all the little things right. Things will take care of itself.’”
The Ducks are one of six teams with unblemished marks one week into the season. Last season, they were also 3-0-0, with victories over the same three teams. But they couldn’t maintain their 5-1-1 start and were under .500 by the end of October.
Yes, they’ve got plenty of heavy lifting ahead. But to return the Red Wings’ big serve with their own winners is a promising sign.
“We talk about never being out of the fight,” Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. “There’s no use looking at your skates and feeling sorry for yourself if you’re down by a goal or two. You just got to stay in the fight and keep playing.”
And now for the Pens..
Check the game notes, eh bud?
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Potential Lines (Based on Wednesday’s practice)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Dominik Kahun - Jared McCann - Brandon Tanev
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Sam Lafferty
Adam Johnson - Andrew Agozzino
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Justin Schultz
Jack Johnson/ Erik Gudbranson
Expected scratches: Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), Juuso Riikola (healthy)
Injured: Bryan Rust (broken hand, LTIR), Evgeni Malkin (lower body injury, IR) Nick Bjugstad (lower body injury, IR), Alex Galchenyuk (lower body injury, IR), Patric Hornqvist (lower body injury)
—We know by virtue of going on IR that Alex Galchenyuk is out for tonight’s game. NHL.com’s Wes Crosby has reported Hornqvist is out for this game, though the team hasn’t as of yet. Still, if Hornqvist can’t go the team will be forced to go with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen, because without Hornqvist they only have 11 healthy forwards after only recalling one player yesterday in Adam Johnson. They can’t recall another unless they put someone else on IR or demote a Riikola/Ruhwedel type, which they’ve been unwilling to do, for unknown reasons.
—If Hornqvist is also on the shelf, that makes five of the top nine forwards out (and arguably five of the top seven best forwards on the team out). That would make $27.5 million in salary on the injured list, which is about 1⁄3 of the salary cap total. Impossible to build depth around putting a competitive lineup out for that circumstance.
—Which is why a guy like Kahun, who has been almost invisible through three games ends up on the second line. Aston-Reese likely would have been looking at getting benched last game for turning the puck over to the middle of the ice leading to a goal, but due to injury he’s getting regular minutes. These are the type of guys you would like to see step out and do something positive. The time will never be better!
Key to the game, as told by a quote from The Wire
(The Wire is a great show and my favorite show, so I’m going to see how long into the season I can use a quote that ties to the preview of a game)
“It’s all about self-preservation, Jimmy. Something you never learned.” — Sgt. Jay Landsman
The Penguins apparently didn’t learn much about self-preservation which all these injuries racking up at every turn. The forward lines are pretty bleak at this point, with more skill stacked up on the injured list than available to play tonight. That’s tough, but the NHL schedule is unforgiving and will grind on. And this is only Game 4.
The Pens need to dig deep and find some a way to persevere through this tough time. On paper, not a lot looks right — and they’ll be shooting on the league’s hottest goalie, and arguably it’s most skilled goalie too. It’s a daunting task, but one they’ll have to face head on anyways.