Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (24-11-5, 53 points, 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division) @ Montreal Canadiens (18-17-6, 42 points, 6th place Atlantic Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh viewing area, NHL Network for the rest of America, Sportsnet/TVAS in Canada
Opponent Track: Montreal has been hitting the skids, they’ve lost four straight regulation games since Christmas break, including a 2-1 game at home on Thursday vs. Tampa for their last game.
Pens path ahead: The schedule for the Pens really stinks from now up until their All-Star break/bye week that starts on January 22nd. After this is a quick trip back to Pittsburgh for a game tomorrow against Florida. After that the team has to fly all the way to Vegas on Monday and prep to meet the Golden Knights on Tuesday in a very fast turnaround. Then there’s the only two day off period until 1/22 on Wednesday and Thursday before playing in Denver on Friday night and @Arizona next Sunday.
Season Series: The Habs won 4-1 in Montreal on December 10th for the first meeting of the year between the two teams. After tonight, there’s only one more PIT/MTL game which will be in Pittsburgh on February 14th.
Recent History: Pittsburgh is 6-2-1 against Montreal in the last nine games, but only 1-2-1 in the last four since the start of the 2018-19 season.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Habs Eyes on the Prize for everything about the Habs.
Tale of the Tape
(note: league rankings do not include last night’s games)
—Montreal is a really weird team. They’re good at controlling the shot share, and league-best at generating shots, leading to making them a great Corsi team. Yet, they leak a ton of goals against and have a poor penalty kill, so they’re not a playoff team.
—And if ever there was a team that did NOT need Ilya Kovalchuk, it would be this year’s Montreal. They’re already better than he is in 2020 at the things he’s good at (offense) and he’s bound to make them worse where they are already weak (anything involving not shooting the puck).
Player Stats at a Glance
—Max Domi has been one of the hottest Habs with 13 points (6G+7A) in the last 10 games. Domi just had a six game goal scoring streak broken last game against TB.
—Montreal is sure to miss Brendan Gallagher, out indefinitely with a concussion suffered earlier in the week.
—Remember when Ryan Poehling burst onto the NHL scene last year recording a hat trick in his first game last season at the tail end of the year fresh off of being signed from the NCAA? Well this year has been a rude awakening for the youngster who has split it between AHL and NHL and not recorded a point in 14 NHL games this campaign.
—Keith Kinkaid is back in the minors, youngster Charlie Lindgren is currently serving as backup to Carey Price.
Possible Lines (based on last game)
Tomas Tatar - Phillip Danault - Nick Cousins
Artturi Lehkonen - Max Domi - Nick Suzuki
Ryan Poehling - Jesper Kotaniemi - Jordan Weal
Lukas Vejdemo - Nate Thompson - Dale Weise
Ben Chariot / Shea Weber
Brett Kulak / Jeff Petry
Victor Mete / Cale Fleury
Expected Scratches: Christian Folin
Injured Reserve: Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Paul Byron, Joel Armia, Matthew Peca
—We’ll see if either new player acquired, Kovalchuk or defenseman Marco Scandella (acquired in a trade Thursday from Buffalo) will be in the lineup and how they will fitt in.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Thursday game)
Alex Galchenyuk - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Dominik Simon- Jared McCann -Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Dominik Kahun - Joseph Blandisi - Sam Lafferty
Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Juuso Riikola / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Justin Schultz (lower body injury), Kevin Czuczman (healthy), Jake Guentzel (shoulder), Thomas Di Pauli (healthy), Kevin Czuczman (healthy)
Injured Reserve: Sidney Crosby (core muscle surgery), Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery)
—The Pens made a rare, but not unheard of move to willingly leave a goalie behind. Tristan Jarry didn’t travel with the team north of the border. He’s fine, but with a quick turnaround to a 5 PM start tomorrow, why have him fly to Montreal on Friday, sit the bench on Saturday and then fly back late and then have to be ready to play on a Sunday? It’s just a lot easier logistically to let Jarry stay back in Pittsburgh yesterday and today, avoid the travel and weird hours so he can prep like normal for a start tomorrow.
—As a result, Casey DeSmith is up from the AHL for his first day in the NHL. It remains unknown who is playing, but most expect Matt Murray to be in net tonight. Jarry can be re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre within the next 30 days if he doesn’t dress for 10 games without waivers, so barring the unexpected, he’ll probably be back in the minors very quickly, just basically being used as insurance tonight.
—Di Pauli was called up in case of emergency too, since the team doesn’t have any extra healthy forwards. So Di Pauli will take warmups, but probably not play barring someone getting hurt between now and first puck drop.