When: 7:00 p.m. eastern.
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, Fox Sports West, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Much like all the lowly opponents last week, the Pens aren’t running into a hopeless, helpless bunch. Ottawa went 2-1-1 last week, and has won their last two games, including a 4-3 shootout home win over Detroit on Saturday night.
Pens path ahead: Today begins a tough stretch of 16 games in 29 days in March for the Pens. It will be filled with a ton of division games, but the month gets started with two Atlantic games (this one vs. OTT then Thursday @BUF) before rolling off 10 straight Metropolitan Division which starts this weekend at home where the Pens host Washington on Saturday afternoon and meet Carolina for the first time all season on Sunday.
Season Series: This is only the second Pens and Sens game of the year. Pittsburgh won 5-2 at home on December 30th (you may remember this as the cursed game Jake Guentzel destroyed his shoulder after scoring). The Pens will make their lone trip of the whole season to Ottawa on Game 82 on April 4th.
Recent history: The Pens can lean on a strong history vs. the Sens. Pittsburgh is 15-3-4 in the last 22 games dating back to January 2013. Pittsburgh has also won eight straight home games against OTT and are 10-0-1 in the last 11.
SBN Team Counterpart: Our friends at Silver Seven Sens will have you covered from the Ottawa perspective
Tale of the tape
—Will the rather generous Ottawa defense be a help to cure what ails the Pens? Pittsburgh’s shooting% has been tanking lately but the Sens are a team that gives up shots and goals by the barrel full. This really shouldn’t be a game where the Pens score two or less goals.
—And yet, in the last month (12 games) the Pens are only averaging 2.33 goals/game. Ottawa’s giving up 3.36 in the same span, so it’s not like they’re playing well defensively. This is a game where the Pens star players have to step it up and help things get on track. Sidney Crosby knows and acknowledged that
Crosby: "You try to just take it a game at a time. I think we've done some pretty good things over the course of these games that we haven't won, but not enough. We've got to find a way to get over that hump and get that first one under our belt and build from there." -MC— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) March 2, 2020
This should be that type of “Get over the hump” or get back on track type of game for the Pens’ offense.
Player Stats at a Glance
—The trade deadline hit hard and saw the subtraction of leading scorer Jean-Gabriel Pageau, as well as important depth in Vladislav Namestnikov and Tyler Ennis. Immediate replacements weren’t offered in the trade return.
—But the team is now seriously young and ready to be rebuilt around Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot and whatever prime pieces come of two likely high first round picks in this summer’s draft.
—But one of the Sens’ oldest players is their best right now with Artem Anisimov notching two goals last game, and one more in the shootout as well.
Possible Lines (based on Monday practice)
Brady Tkachuk - Artem Anisimov - Bobby Ryan
Anthony Duclair - Chris Tierney - Connor Brown
Nicholas Paul - Colin White - Jayce Hawryluk
Rudolfs Balcers - Matthew Peca - Mikkel Boedker
Thomas Chabot / Ron Hainsey
Mike Reilly / Nikita Zaitsev
Andreas Englund / Christian Jaros
Expected starting goalie: Craig Anderson
Expected Scratches: Scott Sabourin
Injured Reserve: Mark Borowiecki, Anders Nilsson
—While Pittsburgh is celebrating some returns, the Sens will have few of their own. White and Duclair were unable to play last game but both are expected back today. That’s two of the better players on the team.
An old face pops up
Ottawa has recently called up a player originally drafted by Pittsburgh.
It’s an interesting decision being as Gustavsson, 21 in his second full North American season, has worst stats than the other two goalies in Belleville this season. Gustavsson has not yet made his NHL debut. It has already been announced that Anderson will start, Marcus Hogberg had to leave the Sens for “personal reasons” so Gustavsson is needed to serve as the backup for this game. He of course was involved in the ill-fated trade that brought Derick Brassard to the Pens.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Monday practice)
Jason Zucker - Sidney Crosby - Conor Sheary
Patrick Marleau - Evgeni Malkin -Bryan Rust
Evan Rodrigues - Jared McCann - Patric Hornqvist
Brandon Tanev - Teddy Blueger - Sam Lafferty
Brian Dumoulin/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Jack Johnson / Justin Schultz
Possible starting goalie: Matt Murray
Expected scratches: Zach Aston-Reese (lower body injury), Juuso Riikola (healthy), Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), Dominik Simon (injured)
Injured Reserve: Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Jake Guentzel (shoulder)
—Finally, some help on the back-end as the Penguins get badly needed reinforcements. It has already been announced Bjugstad won’t be among them (yet) for tonight be he too is taking positive strides. One not so lucky is Dom Simon, who will be out “week to week” with an injury suffered in San Jose.
It’s March, let’s do this
The Pens have long been a team that heats up as winter fades away and the NHL season gets to the stretch run. Here’s some great info from the Pens’ dynamite PR team:
The Penguins begin a slate of 16 games (8 home, 8 road) in the month of March tonight, a month that has treated Pittsburgh well historically. Last season, the Penguins used the month of March to propel themselves in a playoff position, going 10-3-3 for 23 points, a league high (tied).
Since the 2005-06 season, the Penguins have the best record of any team in March with a record of 134-55-23 for 291 points in 212 games. Going back further to the 1984-85 season, the Penguins have a league-high 582 points in March.
Below are the NHL’s best teams in March since the 2005-06 season:
Pittsburgh 134-55-23 (291 PTS)
Anaheim 124-60-20 (268 PTS)
San Jose 118-69-23 (259 PTS)
Washington 114-66-27 (255 PTS)
Boston 112-76-29 (253 PTS)
When the calendar flips over to March, Sidney Crosby has sprung into another gear. Since his rookie season in ’05-06, Crosby’s 228 points (78G-150A) in 181 games in March leads the NHL. More recently, since the 2013-14 season, Crosby is the only player with 100 points in the month:
Player GP G A PTS
Sidney Crosby 93 41 67 108
Blake Wheeler 89 32 59 91
Connor McDavid 58 32 58 90
Anze Kopitar 89 34 55 89
Claude Giroux 87 25 62 87