When: 10:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh viewing area, CBC in Canada
Opponent Track: Vancouver broke a three game losing streak by defeating Vegas at home on Thursday night when Chris Tanev (yep, Brandon’s brother) scored in OT.
Pens path ahead: Christmas break starts after this and lasts until next Friday.
Season Series: The Pens downed the Canucks in a very high tempo game by the score of 8-6 on November 27th in a wild game. Malkin was a 2G+3A night. Guentzel had 2G+2A of his own and Guentzel had 1G+3A. This will be the last regular season PIT/VAN game of the season.
Recent History: Pittsburgh is 6-2-1 in the last nine overall games against Vancouver.
SBN Team Counterpart: Hit up our friends at Nucks Misconduct to check into the Van city perspective.
Tale of the Tape
(league rankings and Pens’ stats are as of Friday)
—Vancouver isn’t really THAT dissimilar from Edmonton. A couple of great skilled players and a lot of filler. Decent at 5v5 but excellent on the power play.
Player Stats at a Glance
—The Canucks have a bit to build around. Elias Pettersson is a star, Brock Boeser isn’t far behind and neither is Bo Horvat and Quinn Hughes with points this season. All are 24-years old or younger.
—With goalie Thatcher Demko now injured, it’s going to be all about how far Jacob Markstrom can carry Vancouver for the time being. His .914 save% is slightly above league average but he’s only won 10 of his 24 games so far this season, indicating a bit of bad luck and situationally unfair play. The goaltending isn’t quite the reason overall that Vancouver isn’t going well.
Nucks searching for answers
Over at Nucks Misconduct they had an interesting blogger roundtable about all sorts of current topics for their team. One thing that stood out to me is the answers they’re clearly looking for to bring in more talent and get back to the playoffs.
In the past 12 months, Benning has acquired Josh Leivo, Tanner Pearson, J.T. Miller and Micheal Ferland to try and solve the top six dilemma. In my mind, he’s already made his play to bolster the top-six no matter what he says. I’m curious to see him try and get creative. However, if he really wanted to add a player in the top six, he shouldn’t have hamstrung himself with contracts like Brandon Sutter, Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Tim Schaller, Baertschi, Tyler Myers...need I say more?
This wasn’t without cost, Miller’s price was a future first round pick, but Vancouver has done a bit better than a team like Edmonton at actually surrounding their young core (Pettersson, Boeser, Horvat) with more talent that they can work with.
Possible Lines (based on Thursday game)
J.T. Miller - Elias Pettersson - Brock Boeser
Tanner Pearson - Bo Horvat - Josh Leivo
Antoine Roussel - Adam Gaudette - Jake Virtanen
Tyler Motte - Jay Beagle - Tim Schaller
Jordie Benn / Christopher Tanev
Quinn Hughes / Tyler Myers
Oscar Fantenberg / Troy Stecher
Expected scratches: Loui Eriksson, Jalen Chatfield
Injured: Brandon Sutter (undisclosed), Thatcher Demko (concussion), Micheal Ferland (upper body), Alexander Edler (upper body), Tyler Graovac (lower body)
—A pretty balanced lineup. The ‘Nucks are a bit banged up too now as we approach about mid-season but keep an eye on their third line too with Gaudette and Virtanen as players that can get on the board, especially since they should be matched up a lot against the Pens’ lower line defense. That will be a big challenge to play them to a draw and hope Pittsburgh’s top line can make a difference.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Friday game)
Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Dominik Kahun- Jared McCann - Zach Aston-Reese
Alex Galchenyuk - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Dominik Simon - Joseph Blandisi - Sam Lafferty
Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Juuso Riikola / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Justin Schultz (lower body injury)
Injured Reserve: Sidney Crosby (core muscle surgery), Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Patric Hornqvist (lower body injury), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery)
—Aston-Reese had two assists vs Edmonton, he only had three all season coming into the game last night. He had a very strong game and is in an elevated role now with all the injuries.
—McCann also scored his first goal in 10 games last night. The Pens will need a guy like him to keep pitching in and help take some of the pressure off the stars.
—Will we see the return of Matt Murray to the crease tonight? It makes sense on a b-2-b situation. Murray hasn’t played a game in two full weeks since the 12/7 game vs. Detroit, which is his only game action in the month of December so far with the red hot Tristan Jarry earning more and more starts these past two months.