Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (39-24-11; 89 points, 3rd place in Metropolitan division) @ Nashville Predators (42-27-5; 89 points, 2nd place in Central division)
When: 8:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, Fox Sports Tennessee
Opponent Track: Nashville comes into tonight’s game winners of three straight games, outscoring the competition by a total of 10-3. Their last game was a 3-0 win over Toronto on Tuesday night. Newcomers Boyle and Simmonds scored goals and Forsberg tacked on the ENG. Pekka Rinne only had to make 22 saves to earn the shutout.
Pens Refresh: Have dropped three straight games now (0-1-2), the Pens blew a late third period lead in Carolina, then lost the game in a shootout.
Season Series: In the first 74 games of Pittsburgh’s season so far, they’ve played exactly 0 against Nashville in 2018-19. Crazy! The two teams meet tonight, and then again eight days from now in Pittsburgh to wrap up a quick late-season season-series worth of the two out-of-conference games.
SBN Team Counterpart: On the Forecheck
Tale of the Tape
—Nashville is, to be expected, a solidly built team from an analytical perspective. They have top-10 league-wide rankings in Corsi For%, 5v5 save%, shots for, shots against and goalis against.
—One big standout is just how bad their power play is though, and at home it’s just a 12.8% rate of scoring. In part because of this, Nashville isn’t in the top half of the league in scoring goals. The Pens’ road PK, by the way, is 86.3%, second best in the NHL.
—Matt Murray continues to push the Pens up towards a 93% save percentage at 5v5 as the Pens also keep allowing more and more shots against.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Nashville is a balanced team, but not many standout stars but a ton of spread production and no one to really focus on, because multiple lines are deep and dangerous.
—They’ve also been through the ringer injury-wise with players like Forsberg, Arvidsson, Turris and Subban missing significant time this season, some of it overlapping.
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Mikael Granlund - Nick Bonino - Wayne Simmonds
Calle Jarnkrok - Colton Sissons - Craig Smith
Brian Boyle - Kyle Turris - Rocco Grimaldi
Roman Josi / Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm / P.K. Subban
Matt Irwin / Yannick Weber
Injuries: Zac Rinaldo, Dan Hamhuis
—Turris just returned last game from another injury and figures to ramp up a bit.
The First line - over the last eight games, Arvidsson (5g+3a) is a point-per-game player; Forsberg has seven points in his last seven games (5g+2a) and Johansen has seven in his last eight (0g+7a). They’re almost like the perfect archetype of a line too from the old video games- you have the pass first playmaking center, the slick dangling sniper winger and the more physical, net-front winger.
Smith - There’s a lot of talk about the league’s “under-rated players” and pretty cliche over-used answers (Backstrom, Barkov, etc). But a true under-the-radar pick would be Craig Smith. One more goal this season gives Smith his fifth career 20 goal campaign and the 29-year old has carved out a sneaky good niche middle-six career. Smith has five points (3g+2a) in the last six games.
Team Defense: During this three game winning streak the Preds have yielded 22, 26 and 26 shots on goal against (24.6 per game). By comparison, the Pens have given up 38 and 39 shots in their last two games (with the third game being a non-competitive big loss).
Ellis - five assists in the last eight games, and for the season his 53.40% Scoring Chances For% leads regular defensemen on the team. Some of his teammates (Subban, Josi) get more attention, but Ellis is right there with them in terms of talent and performance. In fact....
Subban - no even strength points in the last nine games, and only two PP points (1g+1a). Team worst +/- of -5 over that stretch too, for what it’s worth. He’s still playing almost 25 minutes a night in a sample since March 1, but perhaps surprisingly his production is way down recently and all season
Trade deadline additions - Simmonds and Granlund have only two goals (and four assists) in their combined 17 games in a Nashville sweater. Simmonds did just score last game, so perhaps this is turning around, but the new guys have started a bit slow.
And now for the Penguins...
Check the game notes, eh bud?
Jake Guentzel- Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jared McCann - Teddy Blueger - Phil Kessel
Dominik Simon - Nick Bjugstad - Patric Hornqvist
Adam Johnson - Matt Cullen- Garrett Wilson
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Jack Johnson / Justin Schultz
Marcus Pettersson / Erik Gudbranson
Expected scratches: Zach Trotman (healthy), Chad Ruhwedel (upper), Zach Aston-Reese (hip), Evgeni Malkin (rib)
Injured Reserve: Olli Maatta (upper body)
—Another travel day yesterday for the Pens, with this hectic schedule there’s been no time for off-day practices. So we’ll have to see if they stick with Rust up top, but really other than Crosby/Guentzel the team is searching for something to provide offense in the absence of Malkin.
—Welcome to the NHL, Adam Johnson! I wouldn’t expect too much out of him, if only because if it’s a tight competitive game he’s likely to get about 4-6 minutes to play in it, but it will be interesting to see if he can add a jolt of fresh energy and blood to the lineup. This time of year it’s never a bad idea to inject some excitement with a young player getting his NHL debut.