When: 10:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh viewing area, AT&T Rocky Mountains out west, ESPN+, Sportsnet in Canada
Opponent Track: After losing the first game back from Christmas break, Vegas has snapped off four straight wins, including a 5-4 OT win over fellow first place St. Louis Blues at home on Saturday. The Knights should definitely have the rest edge, they’ve been inactive since Saturday, the Pens have played a game and flown cross-country since then.
Pens path ahead: The Pens are at least get a rare two-day break after today, playing next in Denver on Friday night to face the Avs. Then it’ll be down see Arizona on Sunday. Then the Pens return to Pittsburgh to meet Minnesota in the ‘Burgh next Tuesday a week from tonight.
Season Series: The Golden Knights already took their trip to Pittsburgh this season, defeating the Pens 3-0 way back on October 19th. Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves to shut out the Pens in that game.
Recent History: Pittsburgh has never won in Vegas, though this is only their third appearance (0-2-0). Overall the PIT/VGK series all time the Pens are just 2-3-0.
SBN Team Counterpart: It’s Knights on Ice for the Vegas perspective on this game, be sure to check it out!
Tale of the tape
—Vegas is an interesting team. They don’t shoot the puck exceptionally well at 5v5 but they overcome that with volume shooting and putting a lot of puck on net, as well as a pretty good power play.
—In net, Marc-Andre Fleury has about average save% numbers (true to career form) but his backups have been a step worse, which has led to overall not-great netminding for Vegas either. But since they do control shot share pretty well, they’re narrowly outscoring their opposition overall.
—The Pens’ power play (true to season form) has been slumping again as of late. Luckily though, the penalty kill has been on an upward trend in the past week.
Player Stats at a Glance
—While Vegas did have a great expansion draft to start out their franchise, it’s also worth pointing out that they’ve acted decisively to add front-line NHL talent through trades. Now their top two players this season (Pacioretty and Stone) are such players added through trade.
—Stephenson has produced points decently enough since coming over in a trade last month from Washington to reunite him with the GM who drafted him. At the cost of only a 5th round pick in 2021, that could be a nice value add if he sticks as an NHL player for a while.
Possible Lines (based on Monday practice)
Jonathan Marchessault - William Karlsson - Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty - Chandler Stephenson - Mark Stone
William Carrier - Paul Stastny - Alex Tuch
Tomas Nosek - Nicolas Roy - Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb / Nate Schmidt
Nick Holden / Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague / Deryk Engelland
Expected Scratches: Cody Eakin (day-to-day injury), Cody Glass (week-to-week injury), John Merrill (healthy)
Injured Reserve: none
—The talented young Glass just went down and will be an unfortunate loss for Vegas.
No All-Star game for Fleury
Despite being named to his fifth career all-star game, Marc-Andre Fleury has decided to not attend this year. As Knights on Ice put it:
“Altogether, talking with [president of hockey operations] George [McPhee] and [general manager Kelly [McCrimmon] and family, I thought it was the best route to go for myself and the team,” Fleury said after Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues. “Spend a little time with the family, too.”
Fleury, who turned 35 on Nov. 28, was selected for the game as the Golden Knights’ lone representative when the rosters were released on Monday. By him skipping, Vancouver Canucks goalie Jakob Markstrom will take his place.
Fleury had contemplated skipping the game when he spoke Monday, but did not fully commit to making the decision. By rule, Fleury will be suspended one game; either the one before the All-Star break (Jan. 21 against the Boston Bruins) or following the break (Jan. 31 against the Carolina Hurricanes). Vegas plays the Nashville Predators on Feb. 1, so that Hurricanes game might be it.
“Don’t get me wrong, I like going, I think it’s a lot of fun,” Fleury said. “I love to hang out with the players there. It’s a huge honor to be a part of it. I’m sorry to the fans I disappointed for not going. I thought about it.”
Fleury is about to get a week-and-a-half of rest, which for the Golden Knights’ pursuit of a Pacific Division title and a strong finish for the rest of the regular season, it’s a decision that makes sense.
Fleury made 27 saves Saturday for his third consecutive victory, giving him 457 in his career. He’s one behind New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist for fifth place all-time.
“Mentally, physically,” Fleury added, “it was just the right thing.”
Sadly Fleury’s father, Andre, passed away a couple of months ago in late November so the break will probably do him well to have some time for himself prior to the stretch run and playoffs.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Saturday’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 -Andrew Agozzino
Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Juuso Riikola / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: 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)
—Crosby is traveling with the team on the three game road trip, a promising sign since injured players well away from playing don’t typically make the travel group. He hasn’t had a contact practice so won’t play tonight, for Crosby it’s more important to watch what happens later on this week at practice as he may gear up further later.
—Di Pauli was sent back to the AHL after two low TOI appearances in the NHL (and being on ice for two goals against last game, even if it wasn’t a direct responsibility of his). In his place comes Agozzino, who himself played one early regular season NHL game, made a defensive mistake that cost a goal against and hasn’t been back since despite the glut of injuries. With 31 points in 35 AHL games, Agozzino is Wilkes-Barre’s current leading scorer this season.
Per Pens PR:
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan sits at 199 career wins as a head coach with Pittsburgh. He’s looking to become just the third head coach in franchise history to win 200 games with the club:
Head Coach Games Wins
Dan Bylsma 401 252
Ed Johnston 516 232
Mike Sullivan 342 199
Michel Therrien 272 135
Scotty Bowman 164 95
Sullivan’s career .639 points percentage with Pittsburgh is second-best in team history (Dan Bylsma, .668). Amazingly enough, Sullivan has a .655 points percentage this season with Pittsburgh (55 of a possible 84 points) and has helped guide the Penguins to the 4th-best record in the NHL even with 173 man-games lost, including Sidney Crosby (25 games), Patric Hornqvist (18 games), Brian Dumoulin (19 games), Bryan Rust (14 games), Evgeni Malkin (13 games) and Jake Guentzel (3 games, shoulder surgery).
Milestone watch of the game
With one more assist, Evgeni Malkin (639) will tie Jaromir Jagr (640) for third place all-time assists with the Pens. Only Sidney Crosby (782) and Mario Lemieux (1,033) have more. Pretty interesting season as Malkin starts chopping down a few of Jagr’s Pittsburgh franchise marks with a few more in the upcoming future as well as Geno will soon take over third place in most major offensive categories in team history.