Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (29-13-5, 63 points, 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division) @ Detroit Red Wings (12-32-3, 27 points, last place Atlantic Division, last place Eastern Conference, last place, NHL)
When: 7:30 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh viewing area, Fox Sports Detroit, NHL Network nationally in America, Sportsnet in Canada
Opponent Track: The hapless Red Wings are actually 2-4-0 in 2020, which isn’t so terrible (even if one win was a shootout). But they’ve lost their last two games, outscored by a combined total of 13-3 the last two times out which is confirmed #NotGood. They’ve had a few days off to stew on a 8-2 shellacking @NYI on Tuesday night in their last game.
Key Stat: Detroit’s 32 regulation losses are already 9+ more than any other team in the conference. The season’s barely halfway over.
Pens path ahead: The Pens have a pretty quick turnaround to play the Bruins again in Pittsburgh for a Sunday 12:30 matinee NBC game. Then the Pens go into the bye week break with a bang, playing @Philadelphia next Tuesday.
Season Series: Pittsburgh’s already won in Detroit this year, taking a 5-3 contest on December 7th. The Wings make their lone trip to the ‘Burgh this season on Sunday February 16th.
Recent History: The Pens are only 5-5-0 vs. DET in the last 10 games, which isn’t great considering the Wings haven’t been a playoff team in a few years now. But Pittsburgh is 3-1-0 dating back to the start of the 2018-19 season.
SBN Team Counterpart: If you wanna see just how cold in the D it is, hit up Winging it in Motown.
Tale of the tape
—Just, what can you say about the Wings? They’re outright the worst team in the league in four categories we track and very close in several more. They probably would be worse in shot-based metrics if other teams didn’t observe score effects and let up once they were pummeling them. Scoring barely 2 goals per game while averaging giving up almost 4. All season long. Oof.
—The Pens’ save percentage has been falling a lot lately, that was up in the top ten when Tristan Jarry was really playing dominant earlier in the season.
Player Stats at a Glance
—If there’s any consolation to this season, it’s at least the top six scorers in the season so far came into the year age 25 or under. That’s probably more a function of how disappointing (if not unexpectedly so) that the expensive aging veterans have been this season, but hey, gotta start somewhere.
—Filip Hronek and Robby Fabbri specifically might be the two young pieces that have proven themselves favorably this season, along with a flash or two from high pick Filip Zadina.
—Jonathan Bernier had been playing pretty well, since December 1 he’s had a .921 save% and has been doing well to hold DRW in the games as best he could. Well, he’s hurt now because Detroit isn’t allowed to have nice things anymore. The rest of those goalies, oh man.
Possible Lines (based on last game)
Tyler Bertuzzi - Dylan Larkin - Robby Fabbri
Adam Erne - Valtteri Filppula - Filip Zadina
Darren Helm - Frans Nielsen - Luke Glendening
Justin Abdelkader - Christoffer Ehn - Givani Smith
Patrik Nemeth / Mike Green
Madison Bowey / Filip Hronek
Brian Lashoff / Alex Biega
Expected Scratches: Brendan Perlini, Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley
Injured Reserve: Danny Dekeyser, Jonathan Bernier, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Anthanasiou, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen
—Exempting Ehn and Smith, the other four members of the bottom-six draw a combined salary cap hit of $15.5 million. And they’re all signed through at least the end of the 2020-21 season too. They’re all in their 30’s and have 15 combined goals in 154 man-games. It’s the epitome of awful.
—It’s kind of sad to check on CapFriendly and see the last vestiges of the glory days sitting on LTIR in the unofficially retired but totally done Zetterberg and Franzen. (Well, there’s still Ericsson too, but he’s an often healthy scratch with only nine games played this year). This is the last year of Franzen’s contract, he hasn’t played in almost five years! Also if you dig deep, Stephen Weiss is still on the books for a contract buyout next season, he hasn’t played since 2015 either. It’s just a lot of yuck.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Thursday game)
Jared McCann - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Dominik Kahun - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Alex Galchenyuk - Andrew Agozzino - Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Juuso Riikola / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Kevin Czuczman (healthy), Sam Lafferty (healthy)
Injured Reserve: Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery), Jake Guentzel (shoulder), Justin Schultz (lower body injury)
—Big chance for Matt Murray? Tristan Jarry wasn’t necessarily bad in last night’s loss to Boston, but maybe he did open the door a bit for Murray. Certainly he left it cracked open a little after being so great earlier in the year. If Murray can string together a really solid performance today against a very bad team, do the Pens turn back to him on Sunday afternoon? He could make a case to at least consider that and maybe the long path back to reclaiming his starting job, but it would take a great showing tonight to start it off.