Who: Vancouver Canucks (12-9-3, 28 points, 3rd place Pacific division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (13-7-4, 30 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, Sportsnet in Canada
Opponent Track: This is game five of a two week, six game road trip for Vancouver. They’re 2-2-0 so far on the trip, first losing 6-1 to Dallas last Tuesday, then beating Nashville 6-3 a week ago, then winning (shootout) against the Capitals on Saturday 2-1, then losing to Philadelphia 2-1 the last game out on Monday night. Scoring has been a problem for them, other than the six goal explosion in Nashville they’ve only scored 1 goal per game in in game action in the other three games (with a shootout goal tacking on the extra).
Pens path ahead: The Pens go on a quick road trip after this with games in Columbus on Friday night then a quick turnaround to play in St. Louis on Saturday night. Then Pittsburgh gets three days off before hosting St. Louis next Wednesday.
Season Series: The Pens’ western Canadian road trip is coming up in a few weeks, they’ll play their annual game in Vancouver on Saturday December 21st this season, which will be a tough one being the third game in five days on the CGY-EDM-VAN swing, the last two on a back-to-back.
Recent history: Pittsburgh has performed pretty well against the Canucks in recent years, they were 1-0-1 against Vancouver in 2018-19 and are 5-2-1 overall in the last eight PIT/VAN matchups.
SBN Team Counterpart: Hit up our friends at Nucks Misconduct — they’re big Brandon Sutter fans!
Tale of the Tape
—The Canucks have, perhaps somewhat quietly, been building into a solid looking team. They’re definitely over-performing many preseason expectations so far, and a look into these advanced metrics show that it is no illusion, Vancouver has been playing very well and is a consistently above-average one in all the metrics that we track, short of a fickle shooting percentage that could positively regress and make them even more dangerous.
—Vancouver has a very solid power play, fueled by young gunners Elias Pettersson (4th currently in NHL with 15 PPP) and defenseman Quinn Hughes (right behind him in 5th currently league-wide with 13 PPP). The rest of the first-team PP (Horvat, Boeser and Miller) all are in double digit power play points. By contrast, the Pens’ PPP leader so far is Guentzel with a mere 5.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Pettersson is one of the league’s more electric and skilled players, fun to watch operate but incredibly dangerous.
—There was a bit of consternation when VAN gave up a first round pick to acquire Miller this summer, but it’s tough to say anything bad about that trade right now 25 games into the season.
—Pearson has sure had an interesting past 12 months, going from LA to Pittsburgh last November, then the Pens flipped him to Vancouver in February. Pearson didn’t find a lot of traction in Pittsburgh, but it looks like he’s done well in Vancouver scoring 12 goals and 24 points in 44 total games with VAN since getting there. He certainly is money better spent for them than what they traded in Erik Gudbranson.
—It feels like a million years since Sutter was a Penguin, doesn’t it?
Possible Lines (based on Monday game)
Tanner Pearson - Elias Pettersson - Brock Boeser
J.T. Miller - Bo Horvat - Zack MacEwen
Tim Schaller - Adam Gaudette - Josh Leivo
Loui Eriksson - Tyler Graovac - Jake Virtanen
Alexander Edler / Tyler Myers
Quinn Hughes / Chris Tanev
Jordie Benn / Troy Stecher
Expected scratches: Jay Beagle, Nikolay Goldobin, Oscar Fantenberg
Injured reserve: Brandon Sutter, Micheal Ferland, Tyler Motte, Antoine Roussel
—Hand up, I’ve never heard of a “Zack MacEwen”. The 23-year old Prince Edward Islander is an undrafted player that has three games in the NHL this season. He’s listed at 6’4, 210 and did score 52 points in 69 games with AHL Utica last year so I guess we’ll see what he can do in a fairly prominent role tonight if he plays the same line as last game.
—Beagle could be close to returning from injury and would slot into the 4C role at Graovac’s expense if he’s ready to go.
Nucks not getting much 5-on-5
While their power play has been aces and red hot, Vancouver has been pretty weak lately at 5v5. This was an interesting round-table talk at Nucks Misconduct that went out prior to the Tuesday game where Vancouver....scored one 5v5 goal and lost 2-1 in regulation to the Flyers, so yeah, they haven’t solved those problems yet.
Should we be concerned at the lack of five on five scoring by the Canucks?
Beggsy - I wasn’t too concerned because the underlying numbers were showing that the Canucks were really just a victim of bad puck luck. However, they were absolutely dreadful at five on five against Dallas and Nashville. It’s not time to freak out yet but if the Canucks really are going to gain five of six points over the next three games (to make my optimistic road trip prediction come true), then they’re gonna need more goals at even-strength.
jimmi - The faeries were playing the 5-on-5 game. They won. Once the faery roster is depleted, the Nucks 5-on-5 game will bounce back. Until then, I’m fine with 5 power-play goals every second game. In fact, I’m comfortable with 5 Nucks PP goals every game.
westy99 - 5 on 5 scoring for the Nucks begins with a strong breakout. They had it at the start of the year and then ran into some neutral zone traps. They are going to have to adjust or get ready to lose some games when the PP goes cold.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Tuesday practice)
Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Alex Galchenyuk - Jared McCann-Brandon Tanev
Dominik Kahun -Sam Lafferty - Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Dominik Simon
Brian Dumoulin/ Kris Letang
Jack Johnson / John Marino
Marcus Pettersson / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Juuso Riikola (healthy), Zach Trotman (healthy)
Injured: Sidney Crosby (hernia surgery, IR), , Nick Bjugstad (lower body injury, IR), Justin Schultz (lower body injury)
—Based on practice yesterday it looks like the Pens might rotate Ruhwedel in and scratch Trotman tonight, but we’ll see if they go through with that.
—The other change was swapping Lafferty and Simon, Simon hasn’t played much center in the NHL and hasn’t always looked the smoothest there in the past few games. Lafferty has more North American pro experience playing center, it’ll be interesting to see if they try using him there for a bit.
Some Pens’ trivia courtesy of Pens PR:
- Pittsburgh has points in 11 of its last 13 games (7-2-4). Eight of the 13 games have gone to overtime.
- Last season, Evgeni Malkin led Pittsburgh in scoring against the Canucks, registering four points (2G-2A) in two games. He has 14 points (8G-6A) in 16 career games versus Vancouver.
- Pittsburgh winger Brandon Tanev takes on his older brother, Christopher Tanev, and alternate captain of the Vancouver Canucks, for the ninth time in his career. Thus far, Brandon and his team are 7-1-0 all-time in the head-to-head matchup between the brothers.
- Jake Guentzel has points in all six of his career games against the Canucks (6G-3A). Here at PPG Paints Arena, he has four goals in three games.
- Guentzel is also currently on a five game home goal scoring streak (Nov. 9 - present). Guentzel has feasted at home, he leads the Penguins in goals (8), points (13), power-play goals (2) and shots (47). He’s picked up points in 11 of the team’s 14 home games thus far
- Goaltender Matt Murray is 2-2-0 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his career against the Canucks. Both of his wins were shutouts, as Vancover is the only team that Murray has blanked twice in the regular season in his career.
- After starting out the season with 2 points in the first 11 games, forward Domink Kahun has been super-productive scoring 12 points (6G-GA) in the last 12 games played.