When: 6:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh viewing area, Fox Sports Arizona
Opponent Track: Arizona has been shutout the last two games they’ve played (falling 4-0 Thursday @Tampa, then 3-0 Friday @Carolina). Overall they’re just 4-4-0 since the Christmas break ended and have slipped back into the pack of the Pacific division.
Pens path ahead: The Pens go back home to meet Minnesota on Tuesday before heading back out on the road for back-to-backs in Boston and Detroit next Thursday and Friday.
Season Series: The Coyotes have already made their trip to Pittsburgh this year, losing 2-0 last month on what basically was Phil Kessel appreciation night in the ‘Burgh. Tristan Jarry recorded 33 saves for the shutout, Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Tanev (EN) scored goals.
Recent History: The Pens have won five straight matchups against Arizona, and are 9-1-1 in the last 11 PIT/AZ matchups.
SBN Team Counterpart: Hit up our friends at Five For Howling for all the Coyote news and notes you could ever want.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Since acquiring Taylor Hall, if you were wondering, Phil Kessel has eight points (2G+6A) in 12 games. That’s a big improvement over the 15 points in 35 games Kessel had to start the season. But it’s been Nick Schmaltz (1g+11a) and Clayton Keller (5G+4A) who have been the most prolific scorers on the team.
—Darcy Kuemper is likely out until the All-Star break, which is a tough break indeed considering he was in the conversation of the Vezina early in the year. Luckily for Arizona though, their other goalies have not had all that much of a drop off. Just last game, Antti Raanta left the game with an injury as well, leaving only Adin Hill and the recently recalled Ivan Prosvetov from AHL Tuscon. The 6’5” 175 pound 20-year-old Prosvetov has an 11-3-0 record with a 2.38 goals against average and a .931 save percentage in 15 AHL games this season, he has yet to play an NHL game.
Possible Lines (based on Friday game)
Taylor Hall - Christan Dvorak - Conor Garland
Clayton Keller - Carl Soderberg - Nick Schmaltz
Lawson Crouse - Derek Stepan - Phil Kessel
Vinny Hinostroza - Brad Richardson - Michael Grabner
Oliver Ekman-Larsson / Jason Demers
Jacob Chychrun / Alex Goligoski
Jordan Oesterle / Ilya Lyubushkin
Scratches: Christian Fischer, Antti Raanta (lower body injury)
Injured Reserve: Darcy Kuemper (lower body), Niklas Hjalmarsson (leg) Barrett Hayton (upper body)
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Saturday practice)
Dominik Kahun - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Jared McCann - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Dominik Simon / Alex Galchenyuk - Andrew Agozzino - Sam Lafferty
Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Juuso Riikola / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Kevin Czuczman (healthy), Joseph Blandisi (healthy)
Injured Reserve: Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery), Jake Guentzel (shoulder), Justin Schultz (lower body injury)
—Welcome back, Sidney Crosby? Sure seemed that way based on the way he practiced yesterday. No one was ruling out Crosby playing today, a big departure from the past. It feels like Crosby is very close but we’ll see what that means for today.
Bryan Rust gettin’ it done
Is Bryan Rust moving from “supporting player” category into “full blown star”? The Trib’s Seth Rorabaugh tackles that question with Rust’s increased profile and contributions to the Pens’ season:
“Obviously, there are those guys in the league that are going to control the play who are stars and can make things kind of happen on the ice,” Rust said. “Then there are guys that contribute and help those guys.”
Has Rust crossed that threshold?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t really thought about it. I’m just trying to take this year day by day.”
Rust is one good game away from breaking through that mystical barrier of 20 goals, which can can serve as a “graduation” in being regarded as a “goal-scorer” instead of a “contributor.”
Does he have an eye on that figure?
“No,” Rust said, before walking that back. “I try not to.”
“But it’s obviously something that creeps up in the back of your mind. I’m just trying to continue to help this team win.”