When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, TSN4 and TVAS in Canada, ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Leafs are 3-3-1 in their last seven, and losers of two straight including the 5-2 beatdown you might remember from Tuesday.
Pens path ahead: It’s back to Pittsburgh for a Saturday afternoon game with Buffalo before hitting the road on a quick turnaround to meet up with the Caps in Washington on Sunday afternoon.
Season Series: The Pens won the first PIT/TOR game of the season by a commanding 6-1 back on November 16th in Pittsburgh. Add in 5-2 and the Pens have outscored TOR 11-3 in two games this season.
SBN Team Counterpart: Our friends at Pension Plan Puppets will have you covered from the Leafs’ perspective
Tale of the tape
—Last game held up very much to season trends for Toronto. They shot the puck a bunch, they allowed a lot of goals. Their stars got on the board and their penalty kill was absolutely awful. All of that reflect in the season story above.
—The special teams battle in the two PIT/TOR games this season have all been decisive wins for the Pens, and a big reason why they’re 2-0 in the games. The Pittsburgh power play is a perfect 4/4. Perhaps even more impressively considering there was a long 5v3 on Tuesday, the Pens’ PK is a perfect 6/6 against Toronto.
—The Pens’ power play in general has been a total rocket ship going up, up, up. They were tied-17th best just three weeks ago, now 8th in the league. That Sidney Crosby guy — pretty good!
Player Stats at a Glance
—Same as last time, we’ll see how this one goes in a new venue and Toronto getting the matchups. It felt like the Crosby line did really well going up against Matthews, will we see more of that head-to-head today?
—Turning 37 this summer and set to be a free agent, this could be the last time Spezza plays against the Penguins. The No. 2 overall pick back in 2001 has 938 points in 1114 career NHL games. He’s played and produced better this season than his last two seasons with Dallas, so perhaps this won’t be the end of the road. But you always have to wonder at this time of year with the league always skewing younger and younger if his career will continue beyond this season. Spezza has always performed well against Pittsburgh with 52 career points (19G+33A) in 47 total games over the years, to go along with 13 points (3G+10A) in 18 playoff games spanning three series all with Ottawa (2007, 2008, 2013).
Possible Lines (based on Wednesday practice)
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitchell Marner
William Nylander - John Tavares - Alex Kerfoot
Pierre Engvall -Frederik Gauthier - Kasperi Kapanen
Kyle Clifford - Jason Spezza - Egor Korshkov
Jake Muzzin / Justin Holl
Martin Marincin / Tyson Barrie
Rasmus Sandin / Travis Dermott
Expected starting goalie: Frederik Andersen
Expected Scratches: Timothy Liljegren (healthy), Dmytro Timashov
Injured Reserve: Andreas Johnsson, Morgan Rielly, Cody Ceci, Ilya Mikheyev
—Coach Sheldon Keefe already announced yesterday that it will be Andersen back in the net tonight at home. An interesting decision, considering while Andersen certainly was hung out to dry on Tuesday against the Pens, he didn’t look very sharp either. With Toronto’s hold on third place in the Atlantic (and the last playoff spot considering the Metro heavy Wild Card spots) getting very tenuous, this could be a potential rallying point for the season. Or a mis-step.
—Denis Malgin was acquired yesterday, not sure how or if he slots in for this game right off the bat.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Wednesday practice)
Jason Zucker - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Jared McCann - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brandon Tanev - Teddy Blueger - Patric Hornqvist
Dominik Kahun - Andrew Agozzino - Sam Lafferty
Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Justin Schultz
Juuso Riikola / Chad Ruhwedel
Possible starting goalie: Matt Murray
Expected scratches: Zach Aston-Reese (lower body injury), Anthony Angello (healthy), Zach Trotman (healthy)
Injured Reserve: Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery), Jake Guentzel (shoulder), John Marino (cheek surgery)
—Going on the road, the Pens called up Trotman to give an extra body on defense. Given that they had a forward in Malkin drop out of the lineup in pre-game warmups last game, Trotman will at least protect against the team in numbers should a defenseman unexpectedly miss tonight’s game.
—After missing the game on Tuesday for being sick, Evgeni Malkin was back at practice on Wednesday and traveled with the team, so let’s hope he should be good to go!
—Hornqvist has been the hottest Penguin not named Crosby lately with five points (2G+3A) in his last three games. And eight points (3G+5A) in his last eight games.
—If the goalie rotation holds, it’ll be Matt Murray playing tonight. No official word yet, but also no reason to believe the Pens won’t stray from the
Crosby’s three assists on Tuesday pushed him to 798 career helpers, meaning another career milestone is right around the corner for number 87. Crosby will be the 32nd player in NHL history to cross the 800 assist barrier.