When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, Fox Sports Florida
Opponent Track: The Panthers are just 1-2-1 since the All-Star breaking, including getting clobbered 7-2 by Vegas at home on Thursday night. Vince Trocheck called it “embarrassing” and it truly was, so FLA will certainly be looking to bounce back after some flat performances as of late.
Item to know: The Pens have only given up a total of two goals while short-handed in the last seven games, while killing off 21 penalties in that span (91.3%).
Pens path ahead: The Pens’ fun in the sun this week in Florida ends today as they’ll get back home to open up a four game home-stand over the next week+ starting with Tampa on Tuesday. Then it’s Montreal on Friday, Detroit on next Sunday afternoon and Toronto the following Tuesday Feb 18th.
Season Series: It’s not pretty! The Pens need to win tonight to avoid their first season sweep at the hand of Florida since the very dark days of the 2003-04 season. Pittsburgh lost 4-2 in Florida on October 22nd, then the Pens also fell 4-1 in Pittsburgh on January 5th.
Recent History: Pittsburgh is 4-2-3 in the last nine @Florida, even though they did lose here last time in October.
SBN Team Counterpart: check out Littterbox Cats.
Tale of the tape
—The 6.83 goals/game and 65.8 shots/game total average in Panthers’ games makes them one of the most wide-open teams in the whole league. They’re very, very run ‘n gun. They’ll score a lot, but they’ll also give up almost as much.
—That carries over to a very strong power play and a very generous penalty kill, and also great shooting and poor goaltending.
—As mentioned above, it’s a good thing the Pens’ PK is performing well, because the power play sure is tanking at 0-for-11 in the last two games.
—Overall, as shown below, the Pens are very much tanking big time at 5v5 in the last 25 games.
The Penguins have been on a bullet path towards being bad in the last 25 games, and it’s pretty jarring how the arrow is falling directly towards BAD. Another reminder how necessary Brian Dumoulin is! Unfortunately for the Pens, being without Marino in at least the short-term and thrusting Schultz into a bigger role is probably only going to continue the downward trend.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Huberdeau stands heads and shoulders above all his teammates as far as it comes to producing points.
—What does FLA do with Hoffman and Dadonov, both UFA at season end? Can they re-sign? Lose as free agents? Seems to be necessary keep situations.
—Sergei Bobrovsky had appeared to turn his slow season-start around with a .917 save% in 10 games in the month of December. But he’s followed that up with only a .903 save% in 10 games in January_February, putting him right back to under league-average, despite all his skill and ability. Goalies, man.
Possible Lines (based on Friday practice)
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov
Brett Connolly - Vincent Trocheck - Noel Acciari
Frank Vatrano - Dominic Toninato - Mike Hoffman
Jayce Hawryluk - Colton Sceviour - Denis Malgin
Keith “Sonk” Yandle / Aaron Ekblad
Riley Stillman / Anton Stralman
Mike Matheson / Josh Brown
Expected starting goalie: Sergei Bobrovsky
Expected Scratch: Mark Pysyk, Brian Boyle, MacKenzie Weegar
Injured Reserve: Chris Driedger
—Barkov has missed a couple days but was deemed by Coach Quenneville as playing tonight. Lucky Pens!
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (projection)
Jared McCann - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Bryan Rust - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Alex Galchenyuk - Sam Lafferty - Anthony Angello
Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Justin Schultz
Juuso Riikola / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected starting goalie: ?
Expected scratches: Dominik Kahun (concussion), Andrew Agozzino (healthy), John Marino (injury)
Injured Reserve: Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery), Jake Guentzel (shoulder)
—Friday in practice marked another “maintenance day” for Rust, who at least is well enough to make the games. Almost time for limited participation season in daily practices due to bumps and bruises.
—Well, that’s one way for Riikola to get back in the lineup. Overall the top four defense still looks decent enough on paper, but the Pens definitely need Schultz to start stepping up and earning his position on the team after a weak and injured season.
—After a loss last game out, it sort of makes sense to go back to Tristan Jarry in net, especially with a couple days break coming up. If Sullivan does start riding Matt Murray that might be a sign he’s trying to work Murray into being his No. 1 type of goalie, but all season long they’ve leaned on Jarry and there’s no reason not to here, but as always, stay tuned..
New year, same Malkin
Evgeni Malkin has been one of the league’s top player since the calendar changed to 2020. Per Pens PR:
Evgeni Malkin factored into both goals on Thursday night, as he scored his 17th goal of the season in the first period and assisted on his team-leading 39th helper in the third period. Malkin leads the team with 17 multi-point games and has matched his total from 2018-19 although playing in 28 games less. In the NHL, Malkin is tied with Jack Eichel for the 12th most multi-point games.
Malkin has six points (2G-4A) in his last three games and 16 points (5G-11A) in his last 10 games. Since January 1, Malkin’s 18 points (6G-12A) are tied for the fourth-most points in that span:
Nikita Kucherov 24
Steven Stamkos 22
Leon Draisaitl 21
Evgeni Malkin 18
J.T. Miller 18