Who: Montreal Canadiens (13-11-6, 32 points, 4th place Atlantic Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (17-9-4, 38 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh viewing area, TSN2, RDS
Opponent Track: Montreal carried an eight game losing streak from November 16-December 1st that was costly. Since then they’ve won two out of three games. They’ve had a few days off, their last game was a 2-1 win @NY Rangers on Friday. The Habs start a back-to-back set tonight, they’ll race home after the game to face Ottawa tomorrow night.
Pens path ahead: The Pens open a three game homestand tonight, getting Columbus on Thursday and Los Angeles on Saturday. Pittsburgh will then head out west for a Canadian swing of Calgary-Edmonton-Vancouver next week before a six day Christmas break.
Season Series: This is the first MTL/PIT game of the season. The Pens head to Montreal here pretty soon on Thursday January 4th. The Canadiens come back to Pittsburgh on February 14th to finish off the three-game season set.
Recent History: Last year the Pens were 1-1-1 against the Habs. Per Pens PR, Pittsburgh has points in seven of its last eight games against Montreal (6-1-1). Going back further, the Penguins are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games versus them.
SBN Team Counterpart: Our Montreal blog Habs Eyes on the Prize will have all the coverage you need from the opposite perspective.
Tale of the Tape
—Ah, yes, the wide-open, explosive high event Montreal team that bleeds goals against. Wait, what? Montreal plays a surprising game, at least to me, they play a wide-open style and control puck possession well, but interestingly enough a lot of their issues have seemed to be in net.
—The Pens’ special teams index ( PP + PK percentages) has slumped to 98. Special teams has not been special. The power play has struggled all season, but the PK dropping to mid-pack in the league has been an on-going development in the past few weeks, and not a good on.
—On the other hand, the Pens have been balanced out by Tristan Jarry inflating their 5v5 save percentage to help make up for a power play that can’t score and a penalty kill that’s been giving up more and more goals against.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Tatar has been a revelation coming over in the Pacioretty trade. The 34-year old Weber has gotten back on track after missing large chunks of the last two seasons.
—Second-year player Kotkaniemi was in what looked like a sophomore slump before being concussed earlier in the week.
—Keith Kinkaid played his way off the team, getting waived last week. The new backup, 20-year old rookie and former Team USA juniors star Cayden Primeau has rocketed up from being a 7th round draft pick in 2017 to become one of the position’s young stars. It’ll be interesting to see how that situation plays out being as starter (and 32-year old) Carey Price is in year 2 of an EIGHT year contract paying out a whopping $10.5 million a season through 2026.
Possible Lines (based on Monday practice)
Tomas Tatar - Phillip Danault - Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen - Max Domi - Joel Armia
Nick Cousins - Nick Suzuki - Jordan Weal
Matthew Peca - Nate Thompson - Riley Barber
Brett Kulak / Shea Weber
Ben Chariot / Jeff Petry
Otto Leskinen / Cale Fleury
Expected scratches: Jesper Kotkaniemi (concussion), Mike Reilly
Injured reserve: Jonathan Drouin, Paul Byron, Victor Mete
—Weber ate a puck in the last game out against the Rangers and kept on ticking, tough customer right there.
—Drouin on IR hurts the team’s skill level, but overall there’s not a ton here to suggest this is really a playoff team, or one bound to do much damage even if they make it there. 20-year old rookie Nick Suzuki is a great young player but there’s a lot still left to fill out just looking at these lines.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Monday practice)
Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Dominik Kahun- Jared McCann - Brandon Tanev
Zach Aston-Reese- - Teddy Blueger - - Dominik Simon
Alex Galchenyuk- Sam Lafferty - Stefan Noesen
John Marino / Kris Letang
Jack Johnson /Justin Schultz
Marcus Pettersson/ Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Juuso Riikola (healthy)
Injured Reserve: Sidney Crosby (core muscle surgery), Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Patric Hornqvist (lower body injury), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery)
—Ruhwedel missed practice with the illness that has affected Aston-Reese and Johnson in the last week, we’ll see on his availability later on.
Some trivia courtesy of the Pens:
- The Penguins enter tomorrow’s game with wins in three consecutive games. This is the third win streak of three or more games this season, and the third-longest active winning streak behind the Washington Capitals (6), Colorado Avalanche (6), and Calgary Flames (4).
- Chad Ruhwedel got on the board for the first time this season Saturday night in Detroit (1G-1A), making him the 24th player to score for Pittsburgh this season. The Penguins 24 unique goal scorers are most in the NHL.
- Montreal native Kris Letang has picked up 27 points (5G-22A) in 32 career games against his hometown team. He has an active three-game point streak (1G-3A) and points in five of his last six games (1G-7A) against them.
- Alex Galchenyuk spent the first six years of his career with the Montreal Canadiens, who drafted him third overall in the 2012 NHL Draft held in Pittsburgh. In 418 games with them, Galchenyuk had 255 points (108G-147A). Montreal is the last team in the NHL that Galchenyuk has yet to record a point against (0PTS in 2GP).
- John Marino picked up two more points Saturday night against the Red Wings (1G-1A), bringing his season total to 13 (3G-10A) in 28 games. He had 11 points (3G-8A) in 33 games with Harvard University last season.