Who: Florida Panthers (21-15-5, 47 points, 4th place Atlantic Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (24-11-5, 55 points, 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division)
When: 5:00 p.m. eastern (very weird start time...and a big part of the reason why the Pens left Tristan Jarry in Pittsburgh. Rest/recovery/preparation for this game it’s much better to not have to be on the team charter that gets in late at night, for an earlier than normal start)
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh viewing area,
Opponent Track: The Panthers played a matinee game in Buffalo yesterday, so they’ll also be on the second part of a back-to-back situation. Overall the Panthers are 3-1-0 since the Christmas break.
Pens path ahead: A tough stretch doesn’t get easier, the Pens fly west tomorrow and will play Vegas on Tuesday night. Then they get to Denver to plays the Avs on Friday night and head to the desert to face Arizona next Sunday.
Season Series: Florida defeated the Pens by a score of 4-2 way back on October 22nd near the start of the season. This is the Panthers’ only trip of the season to the ‘Burgh. The Pens go back down to sunny F-L-A next month to complete the 2019-20 matchups.
Recent History: The Pens are 11-2-3 in the last 16 games against Florida.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Litterbox Cats for our friends down in Florida.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Before yesterday (more below) it looked like Sergei Bobrovsky was on the verge of turning his slow season start around. Bob’s save percentage improved from a .873% save percentage in the month of October to .896% in November to .917% in December, performing better as he gets more acclimated to his new team.
—With 167 points in 196 games since coming back to the NHL from the KHL at the start of the 2017-18 season, has anyone produced as much with as little fanfare as Evgenii Dadonov? Quietly he’s been very productive.
Possible Lines (based on last game)
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Mike Hoffman
Brett Connolly - Vincent Trocheck - Noel Acciari
Colton Sceviour - Dominic Toninato - Evgenii Dadonov
Frank Vatrano - Brian Boyle - Mark Pysyk
Keith Yandle / Aaron Ekblad
Riley Stillman / Anton Stralman
Mike Matheson / Josh Brown
Expected Scratches: Denis Malgin, Jayce Hawryluk, Mackenzie Weegar
Injured Reserve: none
—Sergei Bobrovsky started yesterday but got a quick hook after allowing three goals on the first seven shots he saw. It remains to be seen which goalie Florida uses today, but I suppose it’s to Pittsburgh’s advantage that the Panthers had to use both their goalies yesterday and neither should be coming in fully rested.
—Backup Chris Driedger stopped all 11 shots he faced yesterday and played 32:20, maybe they turn back to him for today?
Huberdeau getting it done
Remember how Tristan Jarry was the NHL’s second star of the month in December? Well Florida forward Jonathan Huberdeau was No. 1. From panthers.com:
In addition to being named to the 2020 NHL All-Star Game - the first nod of his career - the 26-year-old was also recently honored as the league’s “Player of the Month” for December. In 13 contests last month, he was tied for the league-lead in points with 22 (six goals, 16 assists).
Overall, he currently paces the Panthers in goals (17), assists (38) and points (55).
”It’s cool,” Huberdeau said of his latest accolade. “Obviously I had a really good month. The points were coming in. It’s good to get rewarded. It’s cool, but now I’m just thinking about the team. It’s fun to have that honor, but now it’s over. We need another good month.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on yesterday’s game)
Dominik Kahun - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Dominik Simon- Jared McCann -Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Alex Galchenyuk - Joseph Blandisi - Thomas Di Pauli
Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Juuso Riikola / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Kevin Czuczman (healthy), Kevin Czuczman (healthy), Sam Lafferty (ill)
Injured Reserve: Sidney Crosby (core muscle surgery), Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery), Jake Guentzel (shoulder), Justin Schultz (lower body injury)
—Lafferty couldn’t play yesterday due to illness, we’ll see if he can answer the bell today or if the team sticks with Di Pauli, who played just 4:16 last night vs MTL in his NHL debut. Based on that low TOI, Di Pauli obviously hasn’t built up a lot of trust equity from the coach, so if Lafferty is well enough to play, he surely is going to be back in there.
—By the end of the game Galchenyuk was relegated back to the fourth line and with a comment about how the Malkin line performed better with Kahun on it.
Sullivan on moving Kahun up: "We didn't think Malkin's line was getting consistent zone time. We didn't feel like the line was the threat we expect of them. We tried Dom Kahun and when we made that switch we really liked it." -SK— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) January 5, 2020
Sullivan would reiterate a point he’s made several times that he has no issue with the effort or desire that Galchenyuk is playing with, but results-wise it just hasn’t worked out very well for him this season.