Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (21-9-5, 47 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division) @ Los Angeles Kings (18-13-5, 41 points, 3rd place Pacific Division)
When: 10:30 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh (ATTSN-PT) locally in the Western PA viewing area, Bally Sports West (BSW), ESPN+
Opponent Track: Tonight is game seven of a homestand for the Kings, who have played all six games post-Christmas (4-2-0) from the comforts of home. It’s been pretty good as of late with a 3-1 record in the last four, and 2-0 in the last two recent games with a 4-0 win over Detroit on Saturday for LA followed by a 3-1 win over NYR on Monday in their last game.
Pens path ahead: The road goes on forever (and hopefully the party never ends). Or it sure feels that way. The Pens stay out west with a game Saturday in San Jose and then they’re over to Vegas next Monday (Jan. 17th).
Hidden stat: As if a 10:30 start could get any worse, six of the last 11 PIT/LA games have gone to overtime, so it would be very in tune with these teams history if they force an even later night..
Season Series: The Kings will come to Pittsburgh fairly soon on an east coast swing of their own, with the two teams scheduled to meet up on Sunday January 30th to close out the season series.
—Oh hey, Olli Maatta. The former Pen has kinda been out of sight, out of mind, playing out the last year of his contract in Los Angeles. He’s down to an even 17:00 average ice time this season, only the three points as you can see and just 17 shots on goal in 21 games. A real shame that still at just 27 years old, it looks like his career has plateaued.
—One player who has really been coming on as of late is LA-ish area native from Thousand Oaks, CA in Trevor Moore. Moore has eight points (3G+5A) in the six games since the NHL returned from Christmas break after just 2G+4A in the season’s first 30 games.
—A player we’ll get a first look at is Alex Turcotte (5th overall pick in 2019) who will be in his fifth career NHL game tonight and still looking for his first point. He’s only been playing 10:09, but getting an early shot at the NHL due to all the injury and COVID situations going on now. Turcotte has 10 points (3G+7A) in 18 games with AHL Ontario in now his second pro season.
Wednesday Practice Lines
Alex Iafallo – Anze Kopitar – Adrian Kempe
Trevor Moore – Philip Danault – Viktor Arvidsson
Alex Turcotte – Rasmus Kupari – Dustin Brown
Brendan Lemieux – Blake Lizotte – Arthur Kaliyev
Mikey Anderson / Drew Doughty
Olli Maatta / Matt Roy
Tobias Bjornfot / Sean Durzi
Possible Starting Goalie: Jonathan Quick (Cal Petersen backup)
Scratches: Jacob Moverare
COVID Protocol: Carl Grundstrom, Christian Wolanin
IR: Alex Edler, Sean Wagner, Lias Andersson, Andreas Athanasiou
—Really young Kings team, with an average lineup age on defense of just 25 (with Doughty at 32 being the oldest). Up front they only have two towards north of 30 (Kopitar and Brown) and overall have six players 22 years old or younger (Durzi, Bjornfot, Anderson, Turcotte, Kaliyev, Kupari).
—Athanasiou skated yesterday but per coach Todd McLellan has not been cleared to play as he works back from IR.
Iafallo’s important role..
Alex Iafallo got back from COVID last game and found himself on the first line and playing a minute over his season average ice time. A successful return for a valuable piece of the Kings’ top six. As their official website wrote:
Skating with familiar linemates also played a major role in not needing an easing-in process, with Iafallo very familiar with both Kopitar and Kempe.
Throughout this season, Iafallo has also played extensively with Phillip Danault, with his experience skating with Kopitar dating back to 2017. Both different players, but he doesn’t feel the need to later anything in his game or his approach with a change in centerman.
“I don’t really change my game, you just get a feel for where [Kopitar and Danault] are going to be, support-wise,” Iafallo said. “On the breakout, sometimes Kopi will be flying through the middle, he’ll be talking, where Phil might be lower. That’s just kind of the feel of play, so we’re just reading off of each other.”
And now for the Pens
Projected Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Evan Rodrigues
Jeff Carter - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen
Radim Zohorna - Teddy Blueger - Dominik Simon
Kasper Bjorkqvist - Brian Boyle - Anthony Angello
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Projected Starting Goalie: Tristan Jarry (Louis Domingue as backup)
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Drew O’Connor
COVID Protocol: Brock McGinn, Bryan Rust, Casey DeSmith, Danton Heinen, Zach Aston-Reese
IR: Jason Zucker (lower body)
Taxi Squad: Juuso Riikola, Filip Hallander
—Some more reinforcements arrived yesterday as the Penguins recalled O’Connor and Hallander from Wilkes-Barre. The last time they did this ended up with COVID announcements the following day, but it doesn’t seem that is expected this time with all players (except Jeff Carter, maintenance) in attendance at practice yesterday.
Mr. Carter returns to Los Angeles
Lots of eyes on No. 77 in white as he returns back to LA for the first time as a visitor. From the Pens PR team:
Jeff Carter will make his return to Los Angeles and Crypto.com Arena for the first time since being traded to the Penguins on Apr. 12, 2021. Carter spent nearly 10 seasons with the LA Kings and solidified himself as one of their best. In 580 regular season games with the Kings, Carter tallied 194 goals, 189 assists and 383 points which ranked second, third and fourth, respectively, on the Kings during his time there. Carter produced the most power-play goals (57), game-winning goals (44) and overtime goals (11) while with the Kings. His goal total with LA is tied for 10th-most in Kings history.
Carter played some his most consistent hockey with LA, having five-consecutive seasons (2012-2017) of finishing in the top-two in goals and points on the team. His best season with the Kings came in 2016-17 when he led the team in goals (32) and points (66) and was selected to represent the Kings at their hometown NHL All-Star Weekend.
Carter was instrumental in bringing the Stanley Cup to Southern California twice (2012, ’14). During his first postseason Cup run with LA, Carter posted eight goals, five assists and 13 points. He then ranked second on the team in playoff scoring during their second Cup push in 2014, posting 10 goals, 15 assists and 25 points. In 73 playoff games with the Kings, Carter tallied 26 goals, 27 assists and 53 points placing him sixth all-time in playoff scoring for the Kings
Milestone and streak watch
- Sidney Crosby (1,349) tied Mats Sundin for 29th place in all-time NHL points production last Thursday. A point tonight would move him to 28th on the all-time list, where he will sit just three points behind Guy Lafleur (1,353).
- The era of Jake Guentzel domination continues: although not an official point streak (injury kept him from the lineup from December 7 to January 1), he has points in the last 18 games he’s skated in, racking up a 27 points (15G+12A) in that span.
- Guentzel also has a road point streak going, he’s gotten on the scoresheet for each and every of his 15 road contests of the season so far.
- Kris Letang (611 career points) is two points behind tying Ron Francis (613 points with Pittsburgh) for sixth place in the franchise’s all-time scoring list. (Lemieux, Crosby, Malkin, Jagr, Kehoe being the top five).