When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, Fox Sports Tennessee, NHL Network nationally
Opponent Track: These teams, you’ll remember, just met eight days ago in Nashvegas. The Preds had their three-game winning streak broken by a 2-1 (shootout) win for Pittsburgh. They followed that up with a disappointing 5-0 blowout loss at the hands of their division rivals Winnipeg on Saturday, but then rebounded with a 1-0 win over Minnesota on Monday. So like the Pens, the Preds have had quite a few days off here this week.
Pens Refresh: Pittsburgh was on a three-game losing streak last week when they went to Nashville, but that shootout Pens win helped them turn things around being as they won Saturday night 3-2 in Dallas and then took a 5-2 win in New York over the Rangers on Monday.
Season Series: This is the second and final game, with the Pens looking for a quick season-sweep. But this game is certainly important for Nashville, it’s two points behind those division-leading Jets. Similarly, the Pens are jockeying for playoff positioning with the New York Islanders and Carolina.
SBN Team Counterpart: On the Forecheck
Tale of the Tape
—Much as mentioned last week, Nashville is one of the better teams in the league at controlling the shot share. Add in some really good goaltending, and you’ve got one of the best defensive teams in the league.
—Speaking of, how cool is it that only three teams in the league have a sub-2.60 GAA this year? Five years ago (I just picked five years ago since it’s a nice round number), it was 15 teams under 2.60. Goals are up, up, up and the league is dramatically different in a short period of time. Even in 2015-16, there were only 10 teams allowing 2.80-plus goals per game. This year, that number is doubled with 20 teams.
—One area Nashville has struggled has been scoring and star-power though. Its goals for isn’t special, and its power play is abysmal. Surely losing Forsberg and Arvidsson for a combined 42-man games lost this season doesn’t help, but I’d think in a perfect world Nashville would want to add one more productive top-six forward to give its very good team that extra boost.
Player Stats at a Glance
—It’s all I can do not to mock Wayne Simmonds’ lack of an impact for fear he will smack me in the head and call it a clean hit to the chest. In his defense, usually by the end of March he’s used to the season winding down.
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Mikael Granlund - Kyle Turris - Colton Sissons
Calle Jarnkrok - Nick Bonino - Craig Smith
Brian Boyle - Frederick Gaudreau - Wayne Simmonds
Roman Josi / Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm / P.K. Subban
Dan Hamhuis / Dante Fabbro
Scratches: Rocco Grimaldi, Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber
Injuries: Zac Rinaldo
—This is a whole new projected third pair from the game last week, which will be interesting to see how the usage goes. Against the Pens, Irwin only played 6:53. Weber didn’t get much more TOI at 7:14. So basically the Preds were going with four defensemen about as much as an NHL team possibly can (the big guys got 24:51, 25:20, 25:36, and 29:06). Obviously, at this time of year, a team has to ride their best players, but Nashville has never been shy at all by completely hiding away their third pair.
—Then again, it’s probably not going to be all that different. Fabbro, if he plays, will be making his career NHL debut. The Boston University product (who has been compared favorably to Charlie MacAvoy) decided to turn pro after his junior season just ended, signing with Nashville. It’s tough to imagine he’ll be thrown into the fire with a 15-minute, regular shift type of game.
Johansen — Scored the lone goal of the game on Monday in Nashville’s 1-0 win. It was a short-handed goal too.
Juuse Saros — The backup goalie recorded a 29-save shutout last game. Do the Preds go back to him tonight? They do have a back-to-back situation with a game tomorrow (against another out-of-conference foe in Columbus), so it would make sense for him to play one of the next two days. Then again Pekka Rinne (32 saves on 33 shots) certainly wasn’t the problem in the loss last week to Pittsburgh.
Update: Uh oh, Saros is sick
By my calculations, Pekka Rinne is 0-6-0 with a 5.15 GAA and .822 save percentage in his career at PPG Paints Arena https://t.co/4T9G8JPFui— Jonathan Bombulie (@BombulieTrib) March 29, 2019
Can we say just about everyone else? - In the last three games, the Preds scored the one shorthanded goal by Ryan Johansen, got shutout, and then Ryan Ellis scored the bad angle shot on Matt Murray. That’s not a lot of offense recently to hang their hats on.
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
Olli Maatta / Brian Dumoulin
Jack Johnson / Justin Schultz
Marcus Pettersson / Erik Gudbranson
Expected scratches: Zach Trotman (healthy), Kris Letang (upper), Chad Ruhwedel (upper), Zach Aston-Reese (hip), Evgeni Malkin (rib)
—All signs are pointing to Maatta playing in his first game since February 11. And this doesn’t seem like a coincidence; it’s five games before the start of playoffs. Maatta has had some time to heal but now, if he’s going to be an option for the playoffs, he needs to get back into the games now to build up his stamina and get in “game shape.”
—Letang didn’t skate yesterday, again, and while there are reports this isn’t serious, it’s got to be pretty close to a small panic to again be dealing with another injury keeping him off the ice this time of year.
update: Letang back on the ice Friday morning. Small panic downgraded into complete optimism!