How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, Sportsnet, Fox Sports Florida
Opponent Track: Florida is 1-2-0 since their bye week break, losing 3-2 at home on Tuesday to St. Louis.
Pens Refresh: Pittsburgh lost their second straight game on Tuesday, dropping a 4-0 game to Carolina at home. This is the first game of a three game road trip.
Season Series: This will be the only PIT-FLA game of the season in Florida. The Pens won 5-1 in Pittsburgh on Jan. 8th, the only other meeting. Bryan Rust scored two goals in that game, Sidney Crosby, Riley Sheahan and Tanner Pearson also found the back of the net. But the story of the game (and first star) was Matt Murray who stopped 36/37 shots. After tonight, the season series ends on March 5th with a final game in Pittsburgh.
SBN Team Counterpart: Litterbox Cats
Tale of the tape
—In many ways, the Florida Panthers are the exact team you want to see after just getting shutout. They give up a ton of goals against and have some of the worst goaltending in the NHL, perhaps a perfect remedy for a team that just ran into a hot goaltender and made him look even hotter.
—That said, FLA is no pushovers and has to be respected at the other end of the ice. They take a ton of shots for, are in the upper-half of the league in goals for an also, perhaps surprisingly, sport one of the game’s elite power plays.
—Add it all up and this one seems like it should be a 4-3, 5-3 type of game, at least based on the indicators leading up to this point in the season.
Player stats at a glance
—Been a tough year for the 39-year old Roberto Luongo, whose NHL career dates all the way back to the 1999-2000 season. James Reimer stopped 31/34 in the loss vs STL last game, so it remains to be seen if they’ll give him the nod or the veteran Luongo. Bobby Lu did play the last Pens/FLA game and got totally lit up giving up four goals on 16 shots and getting pulled.
—Keith Yandle leads all NHL defensemen with 26 power play points. Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Hoffman are both at 22 PPP to rank top-15 league-wide. Hoffman’s 10 power play goals lead the team but Barkov’s 8 aren’t too far behind.
—The emergence and expected growth of Henrik Borgstrom made it easier to trade a guy like Jared McCann, who probably fell behind a bit developmentally.
Possible Lines (Wednesday practice)
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov
Mike Hoffman - Vincent Trocheck - Derick Brassard
Frank Vatrano - Henrik Borgstrom - Riley Sheahan
Jayce Hawryluk - Denis Malgin - Colton Sceviour
Keith Yandle / Aaron Eklbad
Michael Matheson / Mark Pysyk
Mackenzine Weegar / Josh Brown
—Brassard, reunited with former Ottawa teammate Hoffman, says he’s happy to play wing in Florida. And we Pens fans know he did rack up some points there so he’s probably hoping to get his stats back up a little bit and possibly get traded again to a contender or move on in free agency to the highest bidder. Brassard has no goals and one assist in his brief two game stint so far in Florida.
—Frank Vatrano, with 17 goals and 11 assists, is having a sneaky good season under-the-radar.
And now for the Pens
Check the game notes, eh bud?
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Nick Bjugstad
Bryan Rust - Matt Cullen - Phil Kessel
Dominik Simon -Jared McCann - Patric Hornqvist
Tanner Pearson - Teddy Blueger - Garrett Wilson
Marcus Pettersson / Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin / Jack Johnson
Olli Maatta / Juuso Riikola
Expected scratches: Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), Evgeni Malkin (upper body, day-to-day), Matt Murray (upper body, day-to-day)
Injured Reserve: Zach Aston-Reese (broken hand, IR), Justin Schultz (broken leg, LTIR)
—Shuffles to the forward an defensive pairs after a lifeless 4-0 loss, as to be expected.
—Defensively, it’ll be interesting to see what they have in mind. Common sense will tell you that Letang will play a lot of shifts and additional time away from Pettersson who has been a lightly-used third pair player so far. So despite natural freak outs to see Dumoulin/Johnson, could they try to extend Letang’s shifts or double shift him a bit with Dumo still? We’ve seen Mike Sullivan shield and use Johnson less after a five goal against game early in the season so perhaps that is the plan again.
—Offensively, Bjugstad with Crosby sounds fun and perhaps a long-term RW there. Reading Yohe’s recent piece no less than four Panthers (including coach Bob Boughner) mentioned how Bjugstad is better as a winger than center, an oft-repeated sentiment.
—Welcome back to the NHL Tristan Jarry. With no back-to-back situations upcoming and Casey DeSmith playing well it would seem the net ought to be DeSmith’s until Murray is back, assuming his injury isn’t too serious.
—Doesn’t look like Malkin or Schultz are going to play tonight, though both made the trip and aren’t ruled out for the entire time on the road.