Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (5-4-1, 11 points, 5th place in the Eastern Division) @ New York Islanders (5-4-2, 12 points, 4th place Eastern Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, MSG+ in NYC, also available on ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Islanders rallied back to beat the Pens 4-3 on Saturday, and then continued the wave to shoutout NYR 2-0 on Tuesday night. And just like that, NYI has gone from last place in the division on Saturday afternoon right back into the playoff hunt.
Pens path ahead: After only playing a third game tonight in the month of February, business is about to pick up for the Pens. Pittsburgh hosts Washington for a 3 PM start on Sunday, followed by a game on Tuesday night. Then these Isles come to the ‘Burgh for games next Thursday and Saturday (2/20). The Pens next nine games are all against either NYI or WSH, as the NHL’s already wacky schedule takes some lumps with all the recent rescheduling and cancellations.
Season Series: NYI took the first matchup 4-3. February has a lot of these games, as mentioned on 2/18 and 2/20 the teams will meet in Pittsburgh, then @NYI on 2/27 and 2/28. The teams finish out the season against each other on 3/29 and 3/30 in Pittsburgh.
Recent History: The Pens are 3-1-3 in the last seven games against the Islanders
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Lighthouse Hockey for the news about the Islanders
Player Stats at a Glance
—The support players have had a good past few games, Cal Clutterbuck scored an important goal in the third period on Saturday to have NYI tie the Pens at 3. On Monday night against NYR it would be the other two fourth liners in Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin to supply all the offense the Islanders would need on the night. Those three haven’t kicked in a lot of offense lately, but they’ve been on a hot streak as of late.
—Varlamov has really settled in recently and provided great goaltending too, though the Pens were able to pick on him glove side with P.O Joseph and Evgeni Malkin scoring high and to the glove in an area where the Pens surely will remember
Anders Lee - Mat Barzal - Josh Bailey
Michael Del Colle - Brock Nelson - Jordan Eberle
Leo Komarov - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech / Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy / Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene / Noah Dobson
Possible starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov
Scratches: Sebastien Aho, Ross Johnston, Dmytro Timashov
IR: Anthony Beauvillier, Johnny Boychuk (LTIR-retired)
And now for the Pens..
Player stats at a glance
—Jared McCann was announced out with a week-to-week injury yesterday, which could prove to be a tough loss for the team’s depth. Not many players (if any, really) other than McCann could reasonably play up a line or two, if needed, and not many other bottom-six players are bringing the offense from their current positions.
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Drew O’Connor- Mark Jankowski - Colton Sceviour
P.O Joseph / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / John Marino
Chad Ruhwedel / Cody Ceci
Possible starting goalie: ?
Scratches: Sam Lafferty, Kevin Czucman, Jared McCann
IR: Juuso Riikola, Marcus Pettersson, Evan Rodrigues, Brian Dumoulin
Taxi Squad: Alex D’Orio, Maxime Lagace, Anthony Angello, Frederick Gaudreau, Will Reilly
—The Pens are about to start a long stretch of game action, but where does coach Mike Sullivan go in net tonight? Tristan Jarry was again underwhelming, giving up 4 goals on 26 shots (.846 save%) in the loss last game to these same Islanders. Casey DeSmith has been playing better as of late, but the team’s efforts to get Jarry back to his 2019 form have gone without success so far.
—Malkin left practice early yesterday with what Sullivan described as an “eye irritation” but should be fine moving forward.
Rust plugging along
Per Pens PR, Bryan Rust has been one of the most consistent players in the division so far this season, finding a way to show up on the scorecard in 8 of the team’s 11 games so far.
Winger Bryan Rust has been one of Pittsburgh’s most consistent performers through the first 11 games of the season. Rust has points in a team-best eight of 11 games this season (2G-6A) and his eight games with at least a point are tied for fifth-best in the East Division:
Player Games w/PT
Nicklas Backstrom 10
Brad Marchand 10
James van Riemsdyk 10
Jakub Voracek 9
Bryan Rust 8
Rust also sits two assists shy of 100 in his career. Since making his NHL debut on Dec. 13, 2014, Rust ranks sixth on the Penguins in goals (80) and seventh in assists (98) and points (178).
3 keys to the game:
- It’s OK to score twice in a row.. It was astounding to see that the Pens have been out-scored 8-0 this season in the few instances that they have actually held a lead. This means that Pittsburgh has yet to have a two goal lead in any game this season. They’ve scored twice in a row when trailing to get back into games, but it sure would make life a lot easier if the Pens found a way and were capable of stringing a few goals together before it got to that point.
- Equalizing Eberle. It seems like, especially since the 2019 playoffs, that Jordan Eberle has been a constant thorn in the Pens’ proverbial side. Eberle is a skilled player who consistently puts up decent numbers so he’s good against many across the league. Over his career against Pittsburgh (including time with Edmonton) Eberle has an impressive 14G+7A for 21 points in 25 games, with two goals coming on Saturday night. If the Pens can keep Eberle quiet, their chances of winning will go up a lot, but the first part has been the problem.
- Powerplay struggles..again. Pittsburgh didn’t earn a power play last game, which is already the second time in 2020-21 that they’ve gone a full game with no power plays. In 2016-17 the team had three games with no power plays, but to already be 2/11 is an anomaly. Of course, given the way the Pens’ power play has gone (1-21 in the last seven games, while allowing 2 SHG against) it might be fortunate that the PP didn’t have the chance to zap momentum or ruin them on Saturday. Still, eventually Pittsburgh is going to have to solve their PP problems and turn this area into a strength for them in order to have success.