Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (9-6-4, 22 points, 5th place Metropolitan division) @ New York Islanders (5-9-2, 12 points, 8th place Metropolitan division)
When: 7:30 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet locally in Pittsburgh, MSG+ for the away broadcast, ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Islanders season has come apart at the seams at the tail-end of their long, long 13 game road trip to start the playoffs (to allow for extra time for the preparation of their new arena). NYI hasn’t won since Nov 6th in Winnipeg, going 0-7-0 since then and being out-scored 31-7 in those seven games. Never great to have 1.0 goal per game in a stretch like this where injury and a mounting COVID list has conspired to put the Islanders in a deep hole. (Four of those seven goals have been scored by Lee+Nelson, players who won’t be around).
Pens path ahead: It’s the Pens’ second back-to-back of the season, as they’re due back in Pittsburgh tomorrow night to play the Montreal Canadiens. Then next week is the annual Western Canada road trip that will see the Pens play in Calgary on Monday night, out to Edmonton on Wednesday and then over to Vancouver next Saturday December 4th.
Season Series: This is the first of just three games for PIT/NYI this regular season. The Pens return to UBS Arena on the Island all the way on March 10th, and the Islanders make their only trip to Pittsburgh on April 14th. Won’t really see too much of the Islanders this season, which given all the recent playoff action is probably just fine.
Random fact: Jake Guentzel has at least one point in every single road game this season (7GP, 5G+4A). Dating back to last season, it’s an eight-game road point streak for Jake.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Lighthouse Hockey for all the Islanders news you out there.
—Brock Nelson did have 8G+2A in his last 13 games..But now he is out 2-4 weeks with an injury, so...Tough times. Pretty much everyone else is struggling, injured or in COVID protocol and that’s not an exaggeration.
—Sorokin’s season save % looks good, but he’s 0-3-0 with a .879 save% and 4.73 GAA in his last three outings. Varlamov is not much better at 0-3-0 with a .866% and 3.57 GAA in his last three decisions.
—The world’s best 4th line ever or whatever they’re called all have 0G+0A in these seven losses (though Cizikas has played 6/7 of the games) and they’re all -5 to -7 in the last seven games. Can’t account for all the grit and making the boards shake with a hit as the puck goes the other way, though!
—The other top players haven’t been playing well either. 0G in the last eight for Anthony Beauvillier or Oliver Wahlstrom, 1G in 10 for Mathew Barzal. J.G Pageau 1G in the last 15 games, Kyle Palmieri joins him with only 1G in his last 16 games.
Wednesday Game Lines
Richard Panik - Mat Barzal - Zach Parise
Anthony Beauvillier - J.G. Pageau - Kyle Palmieri
Andy Andreoff - Otto Koivula - Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Robin Salo / Scott Mayfield
Thomas Hickey / Paul LaDue
Sebastien Aho (the defenseman, not the good one) / Grant Hutton
Possible Starting Goalie: Ilya Sorokin (Semyon Varlamov backup)
Scratches: Noah Dobson (day to day injury), Anatoly Golyshev
COVID Protocol: Anders Lee, Adam Pelech, Josh Bailey, Ross Johnston, Kiefer Bellows, Andy Greene, Zdeno Chara
IR: Brock Nelson, Ryan Pulock (LTIR)
—The absences are piling up, both of the great Pelech-Pulock pair are gone. Lee, Nelson and Bailey are all key forwards that are out. All told, NYI has about $31 million of salary on the shelf right now, similar to that stretch earlier in the season when the Pens had ~$35 million missing. Tough times for a team to get through.
—Otto Koivula was the leading scorer for AHL Bridgeport (3G+12A in 17 games this season) and will be easy to notice at 6’5, 225. The forward lines don’t really look that bad, all things considered if you ignore Parise and Panik on the top line. That defense though, woof. Ony Mayfield would be playing if New York was at full strength.
And now for the Pens..
Wednesday 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)
Rust reflects on success
Keep it simple, keep working. Good advice for just about anything, especially if you’ve only scored one goal in 11 games like Bryan Rust did coming into Wednesday. He got his second goal of the year then and with the way streaky scoring can go, there could be more soon where that came from.