When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, NBCSN nationally
Opponent Track: The Islanders are 8-3-0 in their last 11 games including the 6-3 loss to the Pens on Saturday night.
Pens path ahead: Up next for the Pens is a place they don’t play well at, going to Boston for games on Thursday and Saturday. After tonight, Pittsburgh embarks on a six game road trip with stops against NYR and NJD up to April 15th as the schedule gets relatively slack considering how tough it had been recently.
Season Series: This is the last PIT/NYI game of the regular season. Pittsburgh is 5-2-0 against the Islanders so far this season (with NYI going 2-3-2 from their perspective). New York won the first game of the season series 4-3 back on 2/6, and the Pens took a 4-3 (shootout) win on 2/8 for the first two games from Long Island. The Pens won both of the first two games in Pittsburgh, 4-1 on 2/18 and then 3-2 on 2/20. Pittsburgh took the 4-3 OT on 2/27 but then the Islanders rebounded the next night with a 2-0 win. The Pens won round 7 last night by a score of 6-3.
Recent History: The Pens are 8-2-3 in the last 13 games overall against the Islanders.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Lighthouse Hockey for the latest news to know about the Sabres.
Player Stats at a Glance
—I thought it a curious decision for the Islanders to play Ilya Sorokin over Semyon Varlamov on Saturday night. But Sorokin has started almost as many games in the month of March (7) as Varlamov (8), their season numbers looked skewed mostly because the rookie Sorokin has missed some time. And Sorokin came into Saturday 6-0-0 in the month March, so it’s not like he was playing poorly. Which might make his poor performance all the more surprising against the Pens.
—Nick Leddy is the second leading scorer on the team. Kinda weird, kinda cool. His playmaking and 23 assists is eye-catching, but it’s just so Islanders that they don’t have much via individual skill forwards and just waves of competent ones.
Leo Komarov - Mathew Barzal - Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey
Ross Johnston- Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Oliver Wahlstrom
Cal Clutterbuck - Casey Cizikas - Matt Martin
Adam Pelech / Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy / Andy Greene
Thomas Hickey / Scott Mayfield
Possible starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov
Scratches: Anthony Beauvillier (day-to-day injury), Sebastian Aho, Cory Schneider
IR: Anders Lee, Johnny Boychuk
—Beauvillier’s injury forced some shakeups of the middle lines for the Islanders last game. From the Islanders:
Bailey reaches 900
It’s been a nice career for Josh Bailey, who celebrated his 900th career game, which have all come with the Islanders. From the Islanders:
“What I’ve learned with Josh is that I’ve probably under-appreciated the whole package,” Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz said of Bailey. “Now, that I’ve been here for a while, I understand the whole package now. To me, he’s a tremendous leader. He’s one of those quiet leaders. He’s in the community, he’s a family guy. There’s a lot of guys that - they don’t demand a lot of respect, but they get a lot of respect - and he’s one of them. He’s one that gets a lot in our room. Sometimes he goes under the radar.”
Maintaining a level of incognito is almost instinctual for the Bowmanville, Ontario native. So much so, that Bailey’s quiet, but ruminative demeanor often reflects in his discreet, but brilliant playmaking abilities.
Over the course of his 14-year NHL career spent on the Island, he has amassed 495 points (159G, 336A) in the regular season and totaled 37 points (10G, 27A) in 52 postseason contests. And while he isn’t one to flaunt a garish game, his teammates - especially those like Cal Clutterbuck - have been fortunate enough to witness Bailey’s ingenious and chess-like hockey intellect on the ice first-hand. Also, his tremendous qualities as a leader and a genuine individual, day-in and day-out for years.
“He’s very understated, his game is understated,” Clutterbuck said. “I don’t think you gain an appreciation for what he’s able to do out there unless you’re with him every day. As a friend, as a person I’ve spent a lot of time with him over the last decade. He’s one of my closest friends and is everything you could ask for in a buddy, in a person, in a friend and a teammate. Nothing but good things to say about Josh.”
And now for the Pens..
Yesterday’s practice Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Jared McCann - Evan Rodrigues
Zach Aston-Reese- Frederick Gaudreau - Sam Lafferty
Colton Sceviour - Mark Jankowski - Radim Zohorna/Anthony Angello
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / Cody Ceci
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Possible starting goalie: Tristan Jarry
Scratches: Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel,
IR: Evgeni Malkin, Jason Zucker, Mark Friedman, Teddy Blueger, Brandon Tanev, Kasperi Kapanen
Taxi Squad: Yannick Weber, Maxime Lagace, Justin Almeida, Drew O’Connor
—It remains to be seen if Zucker will be able to play, after only getting one full practice, but his return looks like it could be coming sooner than later, and sooner than initially feared. That’s a great positive for the Pens to finally get good development from the injury situation, for once. During the day today if Zucker comes off the IR that will obviously be a very positive sign. He can’t play until that happens.
—Opportunities have opened up out of the massive losses to the lineup of Malkin and Blueger from the center spot. Freddy Gadreau is making the most of his chance. From Pens PR, Gadreau now has a three game point streak (1G+2A). Over the last five games, he ranks second among Pittsburgh forwards in shorthanded time-on-ice per game, averaging 2:50 minutes. The Penguins are 17-for-17 (100%) on the penalty kill in those games.
—That’s a great impression by Gadreau. It remains to be seen how long he will keep get the chance to dress, but based on his performance the past few games he really should be playing over Jankowski at this point.
—Speaking of Jankowski, he and Tanev spent Saturday on the NHL’s COVID protocol list but were removed on Sunday.
March of the Penguins
The calendar month of March has been really good for Pittsburgh traditionally in the Crosby/Malkin era. The playoffs are right around the corner (though less so this year) and as winter finally melts away into spring, the Pens also tend to heat up their seasons with solid months. 2021 has already proven to be right up there. From the Pens PR team:
Today, Pittsburgh plays its final game during the calendar month of March. The team enters tomorrow’s game with a 11-3-1 record this month and an NHL-best (tied) 23 points over that span. Despite the outcome of tomorrow’s game, the Penguins already have one of the best performances over the month of March in team history:
Year GP W L T/OTL PTS
2012-13 15 15 0 0 30
2006-07 17 12 3 2 26
2015-16 16 12 4 0 24
2020-21 15 11 3 1 23
2018-19 16 10 3 3 23
1992-93 13 11 2 0 22
2007-08 15 10 4 1 21
2016-17 16 9 4 3 21
1991-92 14 10 3 1 21
The Penguins entered March with an 11-8-1 record, good for 23 points – tied for 15th most in the NHL. Pittsburgh enters today’s game with a 22-11-2 record and the 6th-most points in the league (46). The Penguins are also just two points away from tying Washington and the New York Islanders for the division lead.
Man, what could have been for that lockout team in 2012-13, huh?