When: 1:00 p.m. eastern, first day game of the season!
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, Sportsnet in Canada
Opponent Track: After starting the season at a shocking 8-1-0 record, the Oil have been falling back to earth in the last two weeks, going only 2-3-1 in their last six games. Today marks the last game of a three game road trip for them, they lost 3-1 in Detroit on Tuesday to open the trip east, then rebounded to beat Columbus 4-1 on Wednesday in their last game.
Pens path ahead: This is a very lax stretch of the schedule, the Pens only play 6 games in a 19 day stretch from October 27th - November 14th. After this afternoon game they’re off until a Monday night game in Boston and then don’t play again until Thursday night @NYI before returning to the ‘Burgh to welcome Chicago next Saturday night on November 9th.
Season Series: Pittsburgh’s trip to Western Canada is the week before Christmas, they’ll be in Edmonton on Friday December 20th to close out the regular season series.
Recent history: The Pens have absolutely owned the Oilers, going 10-0-2 since the last lockout against their western conference foes. Pittsburgh has won the last 7 meetings between the two dating back to an EDM shootout win in 2015. The Pens haven’t lost in regulation to Edmonton since December 12th, 2007 and haven’t lost at home In regulation to EDM since Crosby’s rookie year on January 10th, 2006.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out our pals at Copper n Blue for the perspective from the other side
Tale of the Tape
(note: league ranks do not include Friday night’s games)
—As you can see, only 9 teams across the league are giving up 2.6 goals per game or less. 12 teams are giving up 3.29 or more! Shoutout Matt Murray.
—It’s still early in the season but the Pens big game against Philly took them from 14th place in 5v5 shooting (8.58%) and popped up to 8th (9.73%) in just a single game. That’s astounding.
—Overall, the Oilers aren’t really that impressive on paper. Compared to last year (just 2.79 Goals For/game to 3.30 Goals Against/game) they’ve made big improvements, especially obviously defensively shaving almost a whole goal per game away, be it early. As we saw last year with Trotz in NYI a good defensive coach can really help whip a bad team into shape there, and Dave Tippett certainly has done so there, with basically the same personnel (and not even the benefit of stellar goalie play).
—Certainly one impressive area is the Edmonton power play. Those guys are good and can whip the puck around and have been big time difference makers.
Player Stats at a Glance
—The Oilers are still as they have been: a few REALLY good players and then a wasteland. As of Friday, Leon Draisaitl’s 25 points were leading the league in scoring, and tied for the most in goals. Connor McDavid is right behind him with 23 points. A resurgent James Neal is right there with the league leading goal scorers like it’s 2011 all over again.
—But behind those three? Not much. Draisaitl/McDavid/Neal have combined to score 70% (29 out of 41) of all the goals the team has scored. Draisaitl and McDavid have points in well over 50% of the team’s total goals. That is not very healthy, and it’s not really because the stars are over-doing it, it’s the support players. Basically half of the roster is a wasteland of forwards with 0, 1 or 2 points on the season in 11 or 12 games. It’s pretty depressing.
—And, just to drive the point home, Edmonton has 25 5v5 GF this season and 25 GA so far. Draisaitl has been on ice for 18 GF to just 8 GA, McDavid is almost identical at 17/7. That means with the first line NOT on the ice, the team is at 7 Goals For to 18 Goals Against. Yikes.
Possible Lines (based on Friday practice)
Leon Draisaitl - Connor McDavid - Zach Kassian
Jujhar Khaira - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Sam Gagner
James Neal - Gaeten Haas - Alex Chiasson
Markus Granlund - Riley Sheahan - Patrick Russell
Darnell Nurse / Ethan Bear
Oscar Klefbom / Joel Persson
Kris Russell / Matthew Benning
Expected scratches: Tomas Jurco, Colby Cave, Brandon Manning
Injured reserve: Adam Larsson, Kyle Brodziak, Josh Archibald, Joakim Nygard
—Alex Chiasson is a prime example of the needed support. Last year he rode a 17.9% shooting % to a career-high 22 goal, 38 point campaign. This year, no goals and one assist in 11 games. He’s not getting enough shots either, just 13 (1.18/game) this year. That number was 1.68 last year.
—Zack Kassian has had a breakout star to the season riding shotgun with the big boys. They’ll need that to continue and him to keep up.
—The defense takes a hit with the injury to Larsson, but woof. Not looking great even if he was involved.
And now for the Pens..
That fudge unreal bud?
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Potential Lines (Based on Friday practice)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Alex Galchenyuk - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist
Jared McCann - Nick Bjugstad - Bryan Rust
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Brian Dumoulin/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Justin Schultz
Jack Johnson / John Marino
Expected scratches: Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), Juuso Riikola (healthy), Dominik Kahun (healthy)
Injured: NONE! First time all year the injury list is empty!
—Based on practice alignments yesterday, it looks like Kahun goes from a three point game to a healthy scratch. Brutal for him. But this is the fourth line that the Pens have wanted and been using together for a while and McCann+Bjugstad was the key to the preseason third line.
—Dumoulin and Letang better have eaten their Wheaties this morning, they’re going to get a heavy dose of the best talent around. At home the Pens must manage who is on the ice vs. McDavid at all times and not let the visitors catch the rookie and the anchor out there against EDM’s top line.