Who: Ottawa Senators (11-19-2, 24 points, 7th place Atlantic Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (23-10-5, 51 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh (ATTSN-PT) locally in the Western PA viewing area, TSN5 and RDS north of the border, ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Senators have only played four games in calendar 2022 (2-2-0 record) as their scheduling picks back up. They hosted their first home game since December in their last game on Tuesday, but lost 3-1 to visiting Buffalo. But Ottawa won last week on the road in Calgary and Edmonton, so as usual in the NHL just about any team can get any result on any given night.
Pens path ahead: It’s going to be a busy stretch for the Pens, today starts a stretch of seven games in just 11 days. And in the near future it’s very busy with three games in basically 3.5 days since the Pens jump over to Columbus tomorrow night for a back-to-back. And then it’s quickly back in Pittsburgh for a Sunday afternoon for a matchup against the Winnipeg Jets. One benefit is six of the next seven games are all home games (the @CBJ game tomorrow being the last road game of January).
Hidden stat: The Penguins have an active 12 game home point streak (11-0-1) against the Senators dating back to Feb. 13, 2013. (h/t Pens PR)
Season Series: These teams have already met once in 2021-22, with the Senators taking a 6-3 win back on November 13th in a game that feels forever ago and was one of the first early bad Casey DeSmith games of the season. A December PIT/OTT game was postponed, and we just learned yesterday will be made up on Thursday February 10th in Ottawa to complete the three-game season series (with the second game, of course, being tonight).
SBN counter part blog: Check out the sickos (said in the most respectful way) over at Silver Seven Sens for the news and notes and to get up to date on the Senators.
—Usually like to showcase some hot and cold players at this point, but Ottawa has played so few games lately there isn’t much to dive into. One very noticeable area is just how young this years Senator team is. They only have two forwards who are 30+ (Tyler Ennis, 32; Austin Watson, 30) and neither are in particularly key roles, which just makes them seem all the younger. It feels like Brady Tkachuk has been around forever, he’s only 23! Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Tim Stutzle are also all super-young and highly talented players that can be built around for the future.
—On defense, Nick Holden is 34 (and Nikita Zaitsev on IR is 30) but it’s again the same story with a 25-year old average in the lineup tonight. Thomas Chabot is already well-established as a minute-eating, point-producing No. 1 dman (he’s only 24) and a name to watch is Jacob Bernard-Docker, who has bounced between NHL and AHL this year at age-21, but I remember had a pretty strong game against the Pens in November.
Sens close to turning it around?
Gotta give the crew at SSS credit, they’re finding some positives even after Tuesday’s 3-1 home loss to Buffalo. But they make a good case about how Ottawa might be turning a corner and at least getting back to playing competitive hockey in a nice read:
Since that time, however, the team has compiled a 7-4-1 record and have, for the most part, seemingly played some pretty good hockey, Last night’s defeat to the Buffalo Sabres, for example, is typical of the type of loss that can befall a good team as the Sens were better throughout but simply couldn’t convert enough of their chances. Sometimes in hockey, the bounces just don’t go your way. But if you carry the play like Ottawa did, these things tend to even themselves out in the long run. That is to say: even in defeat, there were plenty of positives. That’s not something that could always be said earlier in the season.
Considering their game against the Pens was one of those just four early season wins in the 20 games, it makes that November game look even worse in hindsight. But also an easy lesson to the team that everyone in the NHL is still NHL quality and capable of having a good game.
All that to say, tonight won’t necessarily be an easy night for Pittsburgh, especially in the first game back after a long road trip. That has always been considered something of a “trap game” situationally within the schedule, so combine that with what we saw in November with a plucky, upstart opponent with nothing to lose — and this one has all the trappings (pun intended) of what could be a trickier game than one might think.
Wednesday Practice Lines
Brady Tkachuk - Josh Norris - Drake Batherson
Alex Formenton - Tim Stutzle - Zach Sanford
Nick Paul - Dylan Gambrell - Austin Watson
Clark Bishop - Chris Tierney - Adam Gaudette
Thomas Chabot / Jacob Bernard-Docker
Nick Holden / Artem Zub
Erik Brannstrom / Josh Brown
Possible Starting Goalie: Anton Forsberg (Matt Murray? backup)
Scratches: Dillon Heatherington, Victor Mete, Tyler Ennis
COVID Protocol: none!
IR: Nikita Zaitsev, Colin White, Connor Brown, Shane Pinto, Scott Sabourin
—Colin White might be one of those under-rated players around the league who is actually good but no one talks much about, aside from the commonly mentioned under-rated players who are stars that gets a ton of attention. But the Pens won’t see him tonight with the youngster not appearing yet this season.
—Matt Murray is supposedly coming with the team on the trip, but it has been announced he won’t start in his first game in Pittsburgh since being traded.
And now for the Pens
Projected Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen
Danton Heinen - Jeff Carter - Evan Rodrigues
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brock McGinn
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Projected Starting Goalie: Tristan Jarry (Louis Domingue or Casey DeSmith as backup)
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Dominik Simon, Brian Boyle
COVID Protocol: none!
IR: Drew O’Connor (week-to-week, lower body injury)
Taxi Squad: Juuso Riikola
—We’re going to be bold and optimistic with the projected lineup and wishfully project the first full lineup for the Penguins all season long. Yesterday all of Heinen, Aston-Reese and DeSmith cleared COVID protocols and skated in practice. All three are available to play tonight, though cagey as ever, Mike Sullivan noted that “available” and “ready to play” can be two different categories. Still, a practice yesterday + game day skate this morning has been the typical path back for most of the recent COVID cases, so there is reason for hope that in Game #39 Pittsburgh can finally have all the forwards and defensemen that they actually would want to use all together at the same time.
Milestone and streak watch
- Kris Letang is on a eight game point streak (2G+11A in this span). This is tied for the longest current streak around the league with Chicago’s Patrick Kane. A point tonight would mark a career-high for Letang to get to nine straight games.
- Letang’s point on Monday also had him crack the 30 assist plateau for the ninth time in his career. Only two active defensemen (Ryan Suter, 11; Duncan Keith, 10) have more 30+ assist seasons.
- The Penguins enter tonight’s game with an active nine-game home winning streak (9-0-0) against the Ottawa Senators dating back to Dec. 6, 2014. In those nine games, Pittsburgh has outscored Ottawa by a 46-23 margin (h/t Pens PR)
- Teddy Blueger has points in three straight games (1G+2A), and is looking to set a new career-high with a four game streak tonight.
- Evgeni Malkin (74) remains tied with Mario Lemieux for second place in franchise history in game winning goals.
- Sidney Crosby (1,351) is now two career points behind the legendary Guy Lafleur (1,353) and 28th place in all-time NHL scoring. Crosby is also in striking distance of Brendan Shanahan, who sits three points ahead (1,354) at the moment for 27th in all-time scoring.