Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (5-6-4, 14 points, 7th place Metropolitan division) @ Montreal Canadiens (4-12-2, 10 points, 7th place Atlantic division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet locally in Pittsburgh, TSN2 and RDS for the away broadcast, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Montreal has lost their last three games (0-2-1) on a three-game road trip, and are just 1-4-2 in their previous seven. So neither team is coming into this game playing much winning hockey as of late. In those seven games, Montreal has scored exactly 2 goals six times and lost all six of those games (the lone exception, an offensive “outburst” of four goals last week against Calgary in a win). Overall Montreal’s 2.11 goals/game is just 31st in the league this season; generating offense has been a huge issue for the Canadiens.
Pens path ahead: Pittsburgh stays north of the border for a while, going to Toronto for a Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. The Pens then jump west for the yearly trip to Winnipeg on Monday, 11/22. The Pens then go home next Wednesday, 11/24 for their traditional home game on Thanksgiving Eve against another Canadian team, when Vancouver comes to the ‘Burgh.
Season Series: We’ll see more of the Canadiens when they come to Pittsburgh in nine days on next Saturday (11/27). And then Montreal comes back to PPG Paints in a few weeks on December 14th, and just like that the PIT/MTL 2021-22 season series will be completed with these three games in less than a month’s time. Tonight is Pittsburgh’s sole trip to Montreal of the season.
Random fact: Per Pens PR: Pittsburgh is facing Montreal for the first time since February 14, 2020 – a 4-1 Penguins win in Pittsburgh. Jason Zucker scored twice and Sidney Crosby had three assists in the win.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Habs Eyes on the Prize for all the Canadiens news you out there.
—Nick Suzuki has really come into his own (inking an eight year, $63 million contract that will kick in next season) and he’s already earning it. Suzuki is leading the team in points on the season, and has 4G+5A in eight November games. Both November games that MTL has won, Suzuki has scored the game winner. Suzuki has at least one goal at even strength, on the power play and short-handed this month alone, playing almost 21 minutes per game this month and is really doing it all and looking like a first line center.
—Fellow top liners in Brendan Gallagher and Tyler Toffoli have matching 2G+4A stat-lines in November as well. Top line scoring hasn’t been an issue. Montreal only has 19 goals in the eight games this month (2.38 per game), and Suzuki has nine points, so the math shows he’s factoring into about half of the entire team’s production right now. That’s good he’s productive, but not a great sign that the first line forwards have almost no help right now in the form of secondary scoring.
—Jeff Petry has four straight 10+ goal, 40+ point seasons in a row from 2017-21, impressive for a defenseman in any context. Doubly impressive considering the last two seasons have been shortened campaigns. Petry scored 12G+30A for 42P in just 55 games last season. This year so far in 18 games: 0 goals, 2 assists. Minus Shea Weber and kicked up a notch, Petry has been unable to produce much of anything.
—Josh Anderson is one such wave of secondary scoring struggling. He does have two points in the last two games, including a goal last game against NYR, but already has separate point drought of 5 and 6 games this season and only has four goals on the season, too few for a big ticket player.
—Joel Armia scored five goals in Montreal’s 21 game playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final last season. Armia only has one goal in 18 games so far this season, which can’t be what Montreal hoped for when they re-signed him for a $3.4m cap hit for four years.
—Christian Dvorak was brought over in a trade to help replace the off-season losses of Philip Danault and Jesper Kotkaniemi, but hasn’t gotten going yet with his new team. Dvorak scored 15+ goals in all four healthy NHL seasons he had in Arizona, he only has two goals so far in 18 games this season.
Tuesday Game Lines
Tyler Toffoli - Nick Suzuki - Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin - Christian Dvorak - Jake Anderson
Artturi Lehkonen - Jake Evans - Joel Armia
Michael Pezzetta - Ryan Poehling - Alex Belzile
Ben Chiarot / Jeff Petry
Brett Kulak / David Savard
Alex Romanov / Chris Wideman
Goalies: Cayden Primeau and Samuel Montembeault
Scratches: Jake Allen (concussion), Sami Niku, Mattias Norlander
IR: Shea Weber (LTIR), Paul Byron (LTIR), Mike Hoffman, Cedric Paquette, Mathieu Perreault, Joel Edmundson
NHLPA Player Assistance program: Carey Price
—Montreal is a beat up bunch right now. The third string goalie in the organization, Primeau, played and played well against NYR on Tuesday even in the loss. Drouin just returned from injury, but several of the names we’ve grown accustomed to are out of the lineup or have departed the team.
Under the radar player profile: Chris Wideman
The word “unique” is over-used in sports, but it’s truly been a unique career path for defenseman Chris Wideman. At first Wideman’s story seems common for many NHL players: he was a fourth round pick of the Ottawa Senators, spent three seasons in the AHL working on his game and eventually made it to the NHL where he became a regular player for the Sens for a few seasons. Nothing too remarkable there, until a fateful Uber trip in October 2018 down in Phoenix turned Wideman’s life and career upside down.
Wideman and several teammates (Matt Duchene, Thomas Chabot, Dylan DeMelo, Alex Formenton, Chris Tierney and Colin White) went to a steakhouse and summoned a van to take them back to the hotel. On the trip, the players talked freely and had negative comments about an assistant coach and their penalty kill. Nothing too absurd, standard venting that just about any players would do when they get together to let off some steam and frustrations.
What they didn’t count on was the Uber driver would become disgruntled after feeling he did not receive enough of a tip and then decided to publish video from his car’s dashboard to the internet as a measure of revenge. Suddenly the story became news in the hockey world as an embarrassing moment for private laundry to be aired out in public.
The organization, Wideman said, made an example of him by trading him to Edmonton soon after. His once stable-looking career was turned upside down with the fiasco out there and a reputation earned. Wideman felt black-balled and bounced around in 2018-19, playing for a total of five teams — including the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins when Pittsburgh traded for him at the deadline. But Pittsburgh stashed him in the AHL for the rest of the season after acquiring Erik Gudbranson later that day.
Wideman only received a two-way contract from Anaheim in the summer of 2019 and spent the next season entirely with the AHL San Diego Gulls. With his stock at an all-time low, he signed with a KHL team for 2020-21. For most middle-aged, bottom-of-the-lineup type hockey players, this would usually be where the story ends. Possibly a few seasons in Europe and then a career coming to a quiet end.
With the global pandemic going on to boot, Wideman bucked the trend, scoring 41 points (9G+32A) in 59 games in the KHL and was named the defenseman of the year in that league. Suddenly, he had NHL prospects again, and was in demand enough to sign a one-way contract with Montreal for this season. Wideman has six points (2G+4A) in 14 games this season. He had to have taken the longest hockey detour after an Uber trip imaginable, but somehow found a way to buck the odds and get a place back in the NHL.
And now for the Pens..
Wednesday Practice Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brock McGinn
Danton Heinen - Evan Rodrigues - Dominik Simon
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Possible Starting Goalie: Tristan Jarry
Scratches: Sam Lafferty, Mark Friedman, Brian Boyle
IR: Evgeni Malkin (knee)
—The Pens had all players on the ice yesterday at practice before heading north and are looking to break their four game losing streak.
—Mike Sullivan will be unable to coach tonight, due to entry to Canada and testing positive for COVID in the last 14 days (even though he is clear now). Fortunately for the team, all their players who have recently been in COVID protocol (Crosby, Dumoulin, Ruhwedel and Pettersson) are now 14+ days clear and are eligible to play in Canada.
—The Pens will use the same coaching plan as when Sullivan was out earlier: Todd Reirden will manage the forwards and serve as defacto coach from the bench, Mike Velucci will handle the defensemen and Sullivan will be able to connect between periods to offer further instruction.
Looking to break the streak
The team is talking the talk and seems focused on pulling out of their losing streak.
Zucker: "None of the guys in the room are saying 'It's only November'... We're a team that wants to win and we're a team that takes these games in October, November, December as seriously as March and February and down the line."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 17, 2021
More from the Penguins: https://t.co/VtTM45etjD pic.twitter.com/lvZdZIwBLd
Bienvenue á La Maison
Kris Letang is among the best French Canadian hockey players of his era, and surprisingly enough, one of the few actual Montreal-born players right now who are having a ton of success. From the Pens’ PR team:
Montreal native Kris Letang has picked up 28 points (6G-22A) in 35 career games against his hometown team. Here at the Bell Centre, he has 15 points (3G-12A) in 19 games, including 14 points (2G-12A) in his last 12 visits.
Among all active players born in Quebec, Letang has the third-most points, but is first among Montreal-born skaters:
Player GP PTS Birthplace
Patrice Bergeron 1,156 930 L’Ancienne-Lorette, QC
David Perron 921 620 Sherbrooke, QC
Kris Letang 874 591 Montreal, QC
Jonathan Huberdeau 607 513 Saint-Jerome, QC
Derick Brassard 919 510 Hull, QC