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Game 56 Preview: Montreal Canadiens @ Pittsburgh Penguins 2/14/2020: lines, how to watch

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It’s a Valentine’s Day hockey night in Pittsburgh as the Habs come to town to face the Pens

Montreal Canadiens v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Who: Montreal Canadiens (27-25-7, 61 points, 5th place Atlantic Division) Pittsburgh Penguins (34-15-6, 74 points, 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division)

When: 7:00 p.m. eastern

How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, TSN2 and RDS in Canada, ESPN+

Opponent Track: The Habs won a third straight game in OT on Saturday night at home against Toronto (which is about as good as it gets for them) and then, well, that was as good as it got and might end up being a season high point. MTL followed that by losing 3-2 to Arizona at home, then fell 4-1 to rival Boston on the road on Wednesday night and now see their playoff chances fall to basically nothing.

Item to know: Tonight is French Language night for the Pens, and 2009 Stanley Cup champion Max Talbot will be in the house to make announcements for the game in French. Like everything else about Talbot, this should be a lot of fun and likely contain some mischief along the way.

Pens path ahead: The Pens will be back in action this weekend by hosting Detroit on Sunday afternoon then finish off the home-stand with Toronto coming to the ‘Burgh on Tuesday Feb 18th, followed by another matchup with the Leafs north of the border next Thursday.

Season Series: This is the last MTL/PIT game of the season, the Pens won in Montreal 3-2 in overtime on January 4th courtesy of a Brandon Tanev goal. The Canadiens won 4-1 back on December 10th.

Recent History: The Pens have done well against MTL going 7-2-1 overall in the last 10 matchups and 9-3-1 in the last 13.

SBN Team Counterpart: Our friends at Habs Eyes on the Prize have you covered for all the Montreal talk you could ever want. They have a preview of this game published as well.

Tale of the tape

—Montreal kinda middle of the road to meh in just about every category we track...Except for shots on goal and Corsi, where they shine. This is a team that clearly has been coached to shoot at all available chances and pepper the net with a high volume of shots. Unfortunately for them they haven’t been able to score very often on the high quantity they take.

Player Stats at a Glance

via hockeydb:

—After missing most of the season with a wrist injury, Drouin has been back for just three games, failing to record a point so far in his return.

—Youngster Nick Suzuki has been a bright spot recently with nine points (3G+6A) in Montreal’s nine games after the All-Star break.

Max Domi has been slumping though recently with just one goal (and five assists) in 19 games in calendar 2020.

—Working on a theory that nothing good happens for an NHL team that has to use 4+ goalies in the course of a season (especially less than 60 games into said season).

Possible Lines (based on Wednesday game)

Forwards

Tomas Tatar - Philip Danault - Brendan Gallagher

Ilya Kovalchuk - Nick Suzuki - Joel Armia

Jonathan Drouin - Max Domi - Artturi Lehkonen

Nick Cousins - Nate Thompson - Jake Evans

Defense

Ben Chariot / Victor Mete

Brett Kulak / Jeff Petry

Marco Scandella / Xavier Ouellet

—As mentioned above, the top two lines have been generating points at even strength as of late with Tatar, Gallagher, Kovalchuk and Suzuki being the most dangerous weapons. The bottom six has been contributing very little with just five combined goals in the last nine games.

Expected starting goalie: Carey Price

Expected Scratches: Dale Weise, Jordan Weal, Christian Folin

Injured Reserve: Shea Weber (ankle/foot), Paul Byron

—Despite Price being one of the most talented goalies in the league, the Pens haven’t had a lot of trouble touching Montreal up for goals. Pittsburgh has scored 4+ goals in six of the last 10 games against the Habs.

—Tough break losing Weber again who was having a nice season. There was some initial reported concern that his longterm “future could be in question” over an injury to his already surgically repaired foot/ankle area which sounded very scary. But it might have been a bullet dodged as the official prognosis was out 4-6 weeks and his season might not be over yet. Still, for a team whose hopes are already on life support, losing the captain for at least most the stretch run is another big blow.

And now for the Pens..

Infographic

Potential Lines (based on Thursday practice)

Forwards:

Jason Zucker - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon

Jared McCann - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust

Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev

Sam Lafferty - Andrew Agozzino - Patric Hornqvist

Defense:

Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson / Justin Schultz

Juuso Riikola / Chad Ruhwedel

Expected starting goalie: ?

Expected scratches: Dominik Kahun (concussion), Anthony Angello (healthy), John Marino (cheek surgery)

Injured Reserve: Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery), Jake Guentzel (shoulder)

—If the goalie rotation holds, it’ll be Tristan Jarry’s turn in the crease tonight, but we’ll see how it goes. Overall it feels like both Pens goalies have been performing pretty well in the last couple of weeks so either way it seems like coach Mike Sullivan has a good option to use.

—Dominik Kahun skated with the team in a non-contact jersey in practice yesterday, a wonderful positive step forward for him in his concussion protocol recovery. He won’t be playing this weekend, but it does seem like if he keeps progressing that Kahun could be back in the game lineup before too much longer, fingers crossed.

Big money Gene

Somewhat quietly, Evgeni Malkin has continued to be one of the best players on the ice in a very consistent basis in Pens’ games this season. The team’s PR gives us this:

Evgeni Malkin found the scoresheet again on Tuesday night with his 18th goal of the season, extending his point streak to five games (3G-5A). With a point tonight, Malkin can equal his season-long point streak of six games, set from Dec. 17-30, 2019 (3G-8A). Malkin had points in nine-straight games that he dressed for from Dec. 6-30 (5G-11A), but it was an unofficial streak due to him missing two games on Dec. 12 and 14. He is currently one of 12 players in the NHL with an active point streak of five or more games.

Malkin is also two goals shy of reaching his seventh-consecutive, and 12th season overall, with 20-plus goals. He’s looking to join teammate Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemeiux as the only players in franchise history with 12 20-plus goal seasons with Pittsburgh:

Player Seasons w/20+ goals

Sidney Crosby 12

Mario Lemieux 12

Evgeni Malkin 11

Jaromir Jagr 11

Rick Kehoe 9

Jean Pronovost 9