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Game 8 Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Boston Bruins 1/28/2021: lines, how to watch

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Amid turmoil in the front office, the Penguins embark on their next game of the 2021 season

Pittsburgh Penguins Vs Boston Bruins At TD Garden Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (4-2-1, 9 points, 4th place in the Eastern Division) @ Boston Bruins (4-1-1, 9 points, 2nd place Eastern Division)

When: 7:00 p.m. eastern

How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, NESN in Boston, also available on ESPN+. In Canada, check SNE, SNO, SNP

Opponent Track: The Bruins head out to Washington to play the Caps on Friday and Sunday. Then Boston stays on the road to meet the Flyers in Philly on Wednesday and Friday next week.

Pens path ahead: Pittsburgh ships out of Boston and down to New York to face the Rangers on Saturday and Monday. Then the Pens have to get back to the ‘Burgh quickly to meet New Jersey on Tuesday and Thursday of next week, for the first back-to-back of the season next Mon/Tues.

Season Series: After today, there won’t be another BOS/PIT game until March 15+16 (in Pittsburgh). The Pens return to Boston for a second and final time on April 1+3 and the Bruins make their second trip to the ‘Burgh on April 25+27.

Recent History: Make it now a losing streak of 0-7-2 for the Penguins in TD Garden Arena in the last nine games. The last Pens win in Boston was November 24th, 2014. Luckily, the Pens have had almost as much success playing the Bruins IN Pittsburgh, winning the last six games played at PPG Paints Arena.

Hidden stat: The Penguins are still looking for their first road win of the season (0-2-1). They are 4-0-0 at home. They’ll need to start winning on the road being as, including tonight’s contest, six of the next eight games will be on the road for the Pens.

SBN Team Counterpart: Grab a warm mug and some Stanley Cup of Chowder over at our Boston blog.

Player Stats at a Glance

via hockeydb:

—Nick Ritchie scored a 5v3 goal on Tuesday and has been off to a good start. The 25-year old former 10th overall pick in 2014 has seen his career stagnate a bit, but is playing some of the best hockey of his career as of late.

—Boston’s other goal scorer from Tuesday, Craig Smith, has had a good start to his B’s career as well, coming over as a free agent signing this offseason.

—Charlie McAvoy played 27:34 on Tuesday and factored in with an assist on all three Boston goals.

Possible Lines

FORWARDS

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Craig Smith

Nick Ritchie - David Krejci - Charlie Coyle

Anders Bjork - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner

Trent Frederic - Par Lindholm - Jack Studnicka

DEFENSEMEN

Jeremy Lauzon / Charlie McAvoy

Matt Grzelcyk / Brandon Carlo

Jakub Zboril / Kevan Miller

—The Pens weren’t the only team to suffer injuries from Tuesday’s game. Jake DeBrusk left the game after a Sidney Crosby hip check and didn’t return and wasn’t able to practice yesterday. DeBrusk has been ruled out for tonight.

—As such, the Bruins will have to shuffle three lines. Smith jumps up to the 1RW spot (usually filled by the injured David Pastrnak) to replace DeBrusk. Charlie Coyle moves from center of the third line to right wing on the second line. Par Lindholm goes from healthy scratch into the lineup to center the fourth line.

—Matt Grzelcyk who missed the last two games practiced in full yesterday, and is expected to slot back into the lineup, which will bump Connor Clifton out of the lineup.

Expected starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak

Another injury suffered was to goalie Tuukka Rask, who appeared to tweak something in the sequence leading up to the Pens’ first goal. Rask finished the game, but did not practice yesterday and will not play tonight.

Scratches: John Moore (healthy), Connor Clifton (healthy)

IR: Ondrej Kase, David Pastrnak

Taxi Squad: Greg McKegg, Dan Vladar, Urho Vaakanainen

He said it

Kevan Miller got some love for his start this season. The veteran defender missed the entire 2019-20 season rehabbing a third major knee injury but has had a strong start to the season. Miller played 18:34 on Tuesday night, eating some heavy minutes and keeping the Penguins off the board.

“You used a great word there in steadying,” McAvoy said in a response to a reporter’s question about Miller’s veteran presence. “He shows up and you know what you’re gonna get from him. We’re all so happy to have him back. What a story to see what he’s gone through in the last two seasons. Just the mental strength and the toughness to fight back. Not only that but to come back full circle and to have the impact that he’s been having.

“He’s so steady, he goes out and plays hard, he’s strong, he’s a leader by example and vocally. Just having him back has really meant a lot to the team. Another one of those guys that comes to the rink every day and you’re happy to see. He just has that presence about him that’s pretty contagious.

“He’s meant so much to us. Seeing him play great hockey and help our team every single night has been awesome.”

And now for the Pens..

Player stats at a glance

(via hockeydb)

—Tristan Jarry’s stats are starting to normalize and bounce back from a dreadful start. His numbers still aren’t pretty, but the average goalie save% in this wild season right now is just .905%, so he’s quickly approaching that from where he started, on the bright side.

—Nice game last time out for Zucker and Malkin to move up the team leader board. Those guys are going to have to keep it up and improve. After just four games, Kapanen has done well to work himself into game shape and be productive as well. While injuries and goaltending have been the biggest storyline for obvious reasons so far, if Kapanen continues to produce points along the way that will be a happy development for the Pens.

Lines:

Forwards

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust

Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen

Jared McCann - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev

Drew O’Connor- Mark Jankowski - Colton Sceviour

Defense

? / Kris Letang

????? (Cody Ceci in here somewhere)

P.O Joseph / Chad Ruhwedel

Scratches: Juuso Riikola (upper body injury), Marcus Pettersson (upper body injury), Evan Rodrigues, (lower body injury)

Expected starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

IR: Zach Aston-Reese, Mike Matheson

Taxi Squad: Alex D’Orio, Maxime Lagace, Sam Lafferty, Kevin Czuczman

—Heaven only knows what the defense for the Penguins will look like tonight. Neither Brian Dumoulin nor John Marino took practice yesterday, though they have not officially been ruled out for tonight. The Pens have also signed veteran defender Yannick Weber, though he has not yet been with the team.

—The Pens will have a heavy dose of Kris Letang to go along with Cody Ceci, P.O Joseph and Chad Ruhwedel, but then...who knows. Ideally one, if not both of Dumoulin/Marino will play. But...we’ll see.

—As always on game days, unfortunately enough, any moves from the practice squad today will tell the tale. Kevin Czcuczman (who hasn’t played in the NHL since 2013-14) could be called up to the active roster, if needed, and if he is, that’s a good sign that one of Dumoulin/Marino are unavailable. News on Weber may come out as well, as he is set to clear waivers at noon.

3 keys to the game:

  1. Wounded defense. Depending on the Dumoulin and Marino statuses, the Pens could be a very, very ugly picture on their blueline. And even if one or both are able to play, it is very likely they won’t be 100% healthy. The Pens are going to have to figure out a way to scrape together a strong effort with weak or weakened personnel. The minor silver lining is that without Pastrnak, Kase and DeBrusk, the Bruins aren’t at full strength on offense, even if those losses aren’t quite comparable to Pittsburgh’s situation.
  2. [The way Jerry says ‘Newman!’...] Halak! Long a Penguin bugaboo, the 35-year old goalie boasts a career record of 11-9-2 with a .918 save% and 2.60 GAA in his career against Pittsburgh, which seems so much more normal than the pain he has produced over the years. Throw in his 2010 playoff performance with Montreal and a .927 save% effort (which was a lot stingier in the games he won) and this is a rare goalie in the 2010-20 decade that puts up above average numbers against what has been a very great offensive team.
  3. Powerplay struggles. Pittsburgh was 14th in the NHL with a 20.8% power play, which seems pretty good. But the process behind the results is really ugly, and that was on full display on Tuesday against the Bruins’ #1 penalty kill.

Especially in a game where the defense needs to be protected and insulated as much as possible, the Pittsburgh power play needs to provide a big positive influence. The opposite was true on Tuesday when they went 0/6 and gave up a short handed goal. (Though, to be fair, Zucker did score shortly after a power play ended). That needs to go differently this time around.