Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (6-3-0, 12 points, tied-2nd place Metropolitan Division) @ Florida Panthers (3-2-3, 9 points, tied-5th place Atlantic Division)
When: 7:00 p.m.
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, Fox Sports Florida for the home market, ESPN+
Opponent Track: A lot of tight games - four of the last five games Florida has played has required extra time. The Panthers are 2-0-3 in this stretch, losing shootouts two weekends ago to Buffalo and NYI, then defeated New Jersey last Monday in regulation. They were off for three days until this past weekend where they lost to Colorado in OT on Friday and then lost on the road Saturday to Nashville in a shootout.
Pens path ahead: The Pens make the quick jump to the other side of Florida to play Tampa tomorrow, then have a few days off until they play in Texas on Saturday night. Pittsburgh returns home to play rival Philadelphia a week for tonight.
Season Series: FLA/PIT will see each other three times this year. The Cats come to Pittsburgh in January 5th and the Pens make a second trip down to sunny FLA on February 8th (which will be a much more favorable trip out of Pittsburgh weather-wise compared to this one).
Recent history: The Pens were 2-0-1 vs Florida last year, though the only loss did come in their lone visit @FLA dropping a 3-2 OT game...The Pens have had a lot of success against Florida lately, boasting a 11-1-3 record in the last 15 matchups.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out our pals at Litterbox Hockey for the perspective from the other side
Tale of the Tape
—If you like lots of goals being scored, the 2019-20 Florida Panthers are for you. They’re averaging near 7 goals per game being scored in their contests so far. More are going into their own net than they would have thought/hoped, but that’s life right now.
—The Pens’ power play is just 1-for-11 in the last three games, and they’ve dropped to the bottom-half of the league as a result. Pop a few in and this outlook will change in a hurry, but a time like this is where the loss of players like Malkin and Galchenyuk really stands out.
—Also down is the Pens’ 5v5 shooting which was well into double digits in the Colorado game and slowly going down as guys like Lafferty, Adam Johnson and Blandisi have dried up in scoring over the last few days. Not that they would be expected to be productive forever, but the expected regression down towards the team’s truer lesser skill level has also been going on at 5v5 the last 7-10 days.
—In cruel irony, Florida looks a lot like last year. A pretty good Corsi process and a team capable of shooting pucks a lot and scoring goals...But way too lax defensively and one that gets league-worse (or close to it) goaltending. Signing Bobrovsky that must be a big surprise.
Player Stats at a Glance
—It’s been an interesting start to the season. Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov only have combined for one goal so far (they do have a boatload of assists though). Still, Barkov scored 35 goals last year, seeing him without one by this point of the season does stand out.
—So, um the Sergei Bobrovsky signing. Not off to the greatest of starts. Long deal and it’s only the start of the season but that’s probably not the way the team or player thought the free agent’s beginning would go. Considering how badly Bob plays against the Pens, compared to everyone else (just a 15-16-5 record, playoffs included with a save% nearing .900%) it wouldn’t be a terribly bad idea to use 22-year old Samuel Montembeault, who is off to a nice start. I don’t think the Panthers are worried about that, so we’ll see.
—Other free agent signing Brett Connolly has fit in well though. That could prove to be a nice depth boost for the Panthers.
Possible Lines (based on Monday practice)
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov
Mike Hoffman - Brian Boyle - Brett Connolly
Frank Vatrano - Denis Malgin - Jayce Hawryluk
Dryden Hunt - Noel Acciari - Colton Sceviour
MacKenzie Weegar / Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson / Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle / Mark Pysyk
Expected scratches: Josh Brown, Vincent Trocheck (injured, questionable)
Injured reserve: none
—Barkov left the game injured, but was ruled good to go for tonight by coach Joel Quenneville yesterday. It was said though that Trocheck is questionable to play tonight, and wasn’t used on a normal line in practice, suggesting perhaps he won’t play against his hometown team.
—Brian Boyle will be making his Panther debut tonight. The veteran was signed recently to a one-year deal worth $940,000. To make space for Boyle to join, youngster and former first round pick Henrik Borgstrom was assigned back to the AHL. Boyle skated in Trocheck’s usual 2C spot yesterday, just his first practice with the team.
And now for the Pens..
That fudge unreal bud?
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Potential Lines (Based on Monday’s practice)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Dominik Kahun - Jared McCann - Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Adam Johnson - Joseph Blandisi - Sam Lafferty
John Marino / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Justin Schultz
Jack Johnson or Juuso Riikola / Erik Gudbranson
Expected scratches: Chad Ruhwedel (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), Brian Dumoulin (lower body injury, IR)
—The big blow from yesterday was hearing from Mike Sullivan that Brian Dumoulin is day-to-day with an injury that will sideline him for at least the two Florida games this week. The Pens put Dumo on the IR, which they might as well since players only have to stay out seven days (retroactive to when hurt). This basically means they can pull Bjugstad off IR whenever he is healthy and put him in the game lineup without having to send down anyone else.
—And it definitely will be Bjugstad and Rust as the closest of the forwards to get off the IR — Rust possibly as soon as he’s eligible to be removed from LTIR for Saturday’s game against Dallas. Bjugstad isn’t constrained by that and donned a contact jersey for the last portion of practice, so he likely is nearing a return from the injured heap quickly.
—Long story short, if you’re guys on the fourth line like Lafferty, A. Johnson or Blandisi, particularly the latter two, the clock is ticking. Loudly. A return to health by the big guys is going to necessitate roster moves to stay under the 23-man limit and salary cap. The time to stand out and make a name to stay has to be looming in their minds.