Who: Arizona Coyotes (10-26-4, 24 points, last place Pacific Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (26-10-5, 57 points, 2nd 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, Bally Sports Arizona for the away market, ESPN+
Opponent Track: This will be the fourth and final game on an Eastern road trip for the desert dogs, and it turned sour this weekend in New York. After defeating New Jersey 4-1 last Wednesday, AZ lost by a combined score of 11-3 on Fri+Sat to the Islanders and Rangers. Before this weekend’s troubles, Arizona was doing pretty well recently— from Jan 6th-19th they were 4-2-1 — which might not seem like much, but considering they only won six games all year prior to that, that’s pretty strong. And that included a win over Toronto and it took Colorado until a shootout to defeat them, another reminder that in the NHL any result can happen on any night.
Pens Path Ahead: The home cookin’ continues when Pittsburgh hosts Seattle for the first time on Thursday, followed by a visit from Detroit on Friday night and then another Sunday afternoon home game (this weekend against the LA Kings).
Hidden Stat: The Penguins are 12-4-4 against Western Conference opponents this year (h/t Pens PR).
Hidden stat Part II: Kasperi Kapanen and Jeff Carter scored nine seconds apart on Sunday, the shortest amount of time that Pittsburgh has scored two-consecutive goals since February 11, 2000 (0:07 vs EDM, both scored by Martin Straka). (h/t NHL PR)
Season Series: The Pens didn’t hit up Arizona on their recent Western trip, and still have to go out there on Saturday March 19th to complete the season series.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Our Arizona blog Five for Howling will have you covered from the opposing perspective.
—Not a lot to see here with only three double-digit goal scorers and just four players with 20 or more points. The Coyotes only have 89 goals in 40 games, just 2.23 per game, which is 31st out of the 32 NHL teams this season.
—And while they haven’t been able to score goals, as you can see from those goalie stats, Arizona hasn’t been able to prevent them either. Their 3.70 goals/against per game ranks dead last in the NHL as of now.
Arizona wasn’t designed to be good this season, they’re stripping down all valuable parts to try yet another rebuild, but they’ve been perhaps even worse than expected. The Coyotes already possess three first round picks (and a whopping five second rounders) in the 2022 draft, and might be adding more when their next sell-off begins prior to the deadline.
This is a really bleak picture, the Coyotes are one of the worst teams in the whole league, possibly even the worst. Some games against bad teams who have been playing better (like Ottawa last week) in a tricky spot in the schedule you could point to as a trap game. The Coyotes offer no such trappings. To not get a winning result tonight could only qualify as a total letdown game, due to a physical challenge (this is the fourth game in six days for the Pens) or mental one (not “getting up” for a weak opponent).
Saturday Game Lines
Clayton Keller - Travis Boyd - Nick Schmaltz
Lawson Crouse - Johan Larsson - Phil Kessel
Andrew Ladd - Riley Nash - Christian Fischer
Liam O’Brien - Alex Galchenyuk - Loui Eriksson
Shayne Gostisbehere / Dysin Mayo
Janis Moser / Anton Stralman
Jacob Chychrun / Ilya Lyubushkin
Goalies: Scott Wedgewood or Karel Vejmelka
Scratches: Kyle Capobianca, Antoine Roussel, Ryan Dzingel
COVID Protocol: none
IR: Dmitry Jaskin, Jay Beagle, Barrett Hayton, Conor Timmons, Carter Hutton
—Vejmelka started last game, but got replaced early in the third period by Wedgewood after giving up six goals to the Rangers. Wedgewood fared a bit better, only giving up one goal (on a NYR power play) in 18 minutes of clean-up duty.
And now for the Pens..
Projected Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen
Dominik Simon - Jeff Carter - Evan Rodrigues
Radim Zohorna - Brian Boyle - Brock McGinn
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Projected Starting Goalie: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith backup)
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Zach Aston-Reese (day-to-day injury)
COVID Protocol: none!
IR: Drew O’Connor (week-to-week, lower body injury), Jason Zucker (week-to-week, lower body injury), Louis Domingue, Teddy Blueger (broken jaw, out 6-8 weeks)
—The IR is starting to fill up again, with Blueger being added yesterday with a broken jaw. Aston-Reese could be a candidate to play if he’s healthy and ready, but was hurt over the weekend and unable to play on Sunday, so who knows if by today he would be ready. If not, the door is open for Zohorna to play in the NHL lineup again, when just a week ago it looked like he wouldn’t be seen again for a while due to numbers.
—In the midst of this heavy stretch (the Pens play eight games in 13 days from Jan 20 - Feb 1), the team was given a day off yesterday. They probably won’t be practicing much over the next week or so given the heavy schedule.
The Penguins are now at the mid-point of their 82 game season, kicking off the second half of the season tonight with Game No. 42. The first 41 stack up as one of the best starts in franchise history. From the team’s PR team:
The Penguins have a 26-10-5 record and 57 points through 41 games. The team’s .695 points percentage at the halfway point of the season is tied for the third-best points percentage in team history:
Year PTS% Record
1992-93 .714 28-9-4
1994-95 .708 16-6-2 (48-game season)
2021-22 .695 26-10-5
2016-17 .695 26-10-5
1995-96 .695 27-11-3
2013-14 .683 25-10-6
And from me, if you just take the current points through 41 games (57) and multiply by two that would be 114 points. Only one team in Penguin history (1992-93, 119) ever had more. The highest in the Mike Sullivan era was 111 points in the 2016-17 season. The next highest in the Sullivan era is 100 (2017-18 and 2018-19), though the team was on pace for 112 and 102 points in the prior two shortened seasons.
Milestone and streak watch
- The Penguins are currently on a five game winning streak. Pittsburgh is one of three NHL teams (along with Colorado and Toronto) to have three separate 5+ game winning streaks this season.
- Jake Guentzel is three points away from hitting 300 in his career (appearing in game 334 tonight).
- Sidney Crosby is now four goals away from 500 in his illustrious career.