Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (6-6-4, 16 points, 7th place Metropolitan division) @ Toronto Maple Leafs (12-5-1, 21 points, 2nd place Atlantic division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet locally in Pittsburgh, Sportsnet for the away broadcast, NHL Network if in America but not the Western PA viewing area
Opponent Track: The Leafs were a mess the last time seen in Pittsburgh, but have figured it out in the past few weeks. They’re 10-1-0 in the last 11 and on a five-game winning streak, including a 2-1 win over NYR on Thursday night. Overall Toronto is 10-2-0 since getting spanked 7-1 by the Pens four weeks ago.
Pens path ahead: The Canadian road trip concludes in Winnipeg on Monday for the Pens. Then it’s back to Pittsburgh on Wednesday for their traditional home game on Thanksgiving Eve against another Canadian team, when Vancouver comes to the ‘Burgh. And in six days next Friday, the Pens get a look at the Islanders’ brand new arena.
Season Series: As mentioned, the Pens took Round 1 against Toronto by a 7-1 final that featured many a weird bounce. After tonight, Pittsburgh returns to Toronto on December 29th and the season series will be finished.
Random fact: The Penguins are only team in league with five 40+ shot games this season. The team’s 35.8 average shots per game is most in the NHL. Over the last two games, the Pens are averaging 44.5 shots/game. (h/t Pens PR)
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Pension Plan Puppets for all the Maple Leafs news you out there.
—Considering they’ve won 10 of the last 11, just about everyone is playing well. The Leafs have six players near or above a point-per game in this stretch, and they are really providing the offensive muscle. It’s pretty much the names you would expect to be scoring a lot: Auston Matthews (6G+7A in the last 10), Mitch Marner (4G+9A), John Tavares (6G+6A in nine games), William Nylander (4G+6A), Morgan Rielly (3G+6A) and Alex Kerfoot (1G+8A) are all coming through big time lately. The other players on the team have combined for just 25 points in 120-combined man games in this stretch.
—Campbell is leading the league in save percentage right now (.944%) and he’s been even hotter in the recent past, going 8-2-0 in his last 10 games with three shutouts, a .952 save% and a 1.39 GAA.
—And depending on how you look at it, Campbell is even better. He’s only surrendered nine goals in his last seven games (.958 save%)...He’s only given up two goals in the last four games and has stopped 117 of the last 119 shots he’s seen. Phrased differently, Campbell has the same number of shutouts (2) as he does total goals allowed in his last four games, which is absolutely crazy. Not exactly the goalie you want to seeing timing-wise, Campbell will be a huge challenge for the Pens.
—This is a lot different than the performance of the guy who gave up five goals in Pittsburgh in just two periods a couple weeks ago! Even then, it mostly wasn’t his fault as crazy deflections, poor defensive play and pucks going in off his own teammates sunk any chance for the Toronto goalie on that night.
—Wayne Simmonds is in a depth role, but barely doing much of anything early. Simmonds has only averaged 9:52 of ice-time in his last nine games and has no goals and one assist in this winning streak.
—Plenty of internet GM’s were quick to sign Nick Ritchie. 0G+2A this season in a slow start, but he has been rotated around a lot, including opening up space now for skilled players on a top line.
—Rielly will put up points but most of the rest of the defense won’t. Even in this winning streak, the combination of T.J. Brodie, Rasmus Sandin, Justin Holl, Timothy Liljegren and Travis Dermott have combined for 40 games since 10/28 and have 0G+3A between them (and two are from Brodie!)
Thursday Game Lines
Nick Ritchie - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Alex Kerfoot - John Tavares - William Nylander
Peter Engvall - Daivd Kampf - Ondrej Kase
Michael Bunting - Jason Spezza - Wayne Simmonds
Morgan Rielly / T.J. Brodie
Jake Muzzin / Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin / Travis Dermott
Probable Starting Goalie: Jack Campbell (Joseph Wall backup)
Scratches: Kirill Semyonov. Timothy Liljegren
IR: Petr Mrazek (LTIR), Ilya Mikheyev (LTIR)
—Goalie could be a developing problem. Mrazek, a guy who always seems to get injured, has shockingly gotten injured two games into his Toronto career. Campbell is performing amazingly now, but is an impending UFA after this season. Mrazek will still have two years left on a $3.8m cap hit, due to the goalie market being all crazy. Toronto was impulsive and aggressive in their attempts to replace the departed Frederik Andersen, but in hindsight adding Mrazek has created a cap issue for the future for a team that really can’t afford cap issues.
And now for the Pens..
Thursday Game 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)
—Mike Sullivan will be back behind the bench and welcomed into Canada now that he is 14 days clear of his last official positive COVID test.
Kapanen back to Toronto
Kasperi Kapanen plays his first game against the Maple Leafs, the team that traded for him, developed him for a while, paid him and then traded him away. Pretty wild journey he has been on.
Kasperi Kapanen has returned to Toronto wearing the black and gold.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 19, 2021
Kapanen: "It feels weird, I guess. It's been a minute. It's always good to be back. I spend a fair amount of time here (in the offseason). So it's fun."
More from today's practice: https://t.co/LryD2ApZWE pic.twitter.com/kNpy9BN2pQ
The Pens’ captain — and Canada’s captain — has played well on his native soil. From Pens PR:
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby returned to Canada for the first time in over a year and a half on Thursday, picking up a goal and finishing plus-1 in Pittsburgh’s 6-0 win in Montreal. Crosby thrives when playing in his home country, as he’s picked up points in 14 of his last 16 games in Canadian cities.
In those 16 games which date back to Nov. 4, 2017 in Vancouver, Crosby has tallied 22 points (10G-12A). Nearly one third of those games (5/16) have been multi-point efforts.
In 22 career road games against the Maple Leafs, he has 13 goals, 13 assists and 26 points.
- Brian Dumoulin will compete in career game 400 tonight
- Chad Ruhwedel will compete in career game 200 tonight
- Dumoulin is three points away from 100 in his career
- Evan Rodrigues is also three points away from 100 in his career
- Sidney Crosby’s goal on Tuesday night pushed him past Gilbert Perrearult in all-time NHL points. Crosby is now tied with Pierre Turgeon at 1,327 points on the scoring ledger and looking to move past him with the next point into sole possession of 33rd place.