Who: St. Louis Blues (19-9-5, 43 points, 1st place Central division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (18-8-5, 41 points, 4th place Metropolitan division)
When: 7:30 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: Nationally televised game on TNT
Opponent Track: St. Louis has been off since New Years Day and presumably thawing out since then, when they opened up a can and won 6-4 at Minnesota’s outdoor game that didn’t even feel that close. The Blues were off from December 20-29th in the extended holiday break, they beat Edmonton 4-2 last Wednesday to start this portion of the season 2-0-0 and on the right foot, coming into tonight’s game in first place (though Colorado has played way fewer games).
Pens path ahead: It’ll be a quick turn to head east to the smelly part of the commonwealth tomorrow to see the Flyers tomorrow night, the start of a six game road trip. Then the Penguins head west to play Dallas next Saturday before heading out to California in the following week to play Anaheim, LA and these Sharks from 1/11- 1/15 and then in Vegas on Monday 1/17. After that marathon they finally return home next on 1/20 to play Ottawa.
Season Series: This is game one of two for PIT/STL, with the Pens scheduled to head to the mid-west on March 17th to complete the season series.
Random fact: This will be the first Pens/Blues game since 2019, believe it or not, when the Pens won a 3-0 game in Pittsburgh on 12/4/19 and Tristan Jarry recorded a shutout in his lone appearance against St. Louis to date.
Opponent blog: It’s always game time when you check out St. Louis Game Time, our SBN Blues blog.
—The 23-year old Jordan Kyrou is turning into one of the league’s better young players that doesn’t get a lot of press. He had a pretty impressive 35 points (14G+21A) in 55 games last season, his first full year in the NHL, and has now exploded into a full point/game player so far this season. Kyrou is red, red hot scoring four points (2G+2A) in the outdoor game, and he also tallied three points (1G+2A) in STL’s return to play last week against Edmonton, so the Pens’ defense will have to look out for him having piled up those seven points (3G+4A) in the last two games alone.
—Since December 1st, Ivan Barbashev has 13 points (4G+9A) in 10 games. Sniper Vladimir Tarasenko has finally and fully rebounded from a couple of shoulder surgeries to lead the team in goals and points with 7G+7A in 11 games since the start of December.
—Brandon Saad can be a streaky scorer, and it’s been a cold streak as of late with 1G+0A in eight games dating back to December 9th.
—There were a lot of high hopes for Oskar Sundqvist after he emerged as a capable bottom-six player, but the points haven’t been there this season with just 1G+4A in 17 games. Sundqvist only has 1G+0A in his last nine games, though his ice time has been pretty good getting 16+ minutes in a majority of those games.
Tuesday Practice Lines
Brandon Saad - Ryan O’Reilly - David Perron
Jordan Kyrou - Robert Thomas - Vladimir Tarasenko
Pavel Buchneviich - Ivan Barbashev - Brayden Schenn
Logan Brown - Tyler Bozak - Oskar Sundqvist
Niko Mikkola / Colton Parayko
Torey Krug / Justin Faulk
Marco Scandella / Scott Perunovich
Possible Starting Goalie: Jordan Binnington (Ville Husso backup)
Scratches: Klim Kostin, Jake Wallman, Robert Bortuzzo (injury, may be available)
COVID Protocol: Assistant coaches Mike Van Ryn and Steve Ott
Taxi squad: Nathan Walker, James Neal, Dakota Joshua
—Assistant coach Mike Van Ryn didn’t travel to Pittsburgh, but Steve Ott did. St. Louis will have temporary help with AHL Springfield head coach Drew Bannister serving as a NHL assistant tonight.
—Some news on old pals: James Neal cleared waivers earlier this week and was assigned to the taxi squad. After making the club on a PTO, the veteran only scored 2G+2A in 17 games and failed to gain much of a footing, now serving basically as depth for injuries/COVID. Robert Bortuzzo missed practice but may take the morning skate and try to play so he could be available to
cross-check a Penguin like he always does err play.
—Otherwise the Blues are pretty clean at the moment, no one on IR with Brayden Schenn recently coming off the IR and looking to play tonight for his first game since December 12th. Other recent returns in David Perron and Robert Thomas have the Blues pointing in the right direction health-wise at the moment.
And now for the Pens..
Jake Guentzel- Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Evan Rodrigues - Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brock McGinn
Kasper Bjorkqvist - Brian Boyle - Dominik Simon
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Starting Goalie: Jarry? DeSmith?
Scratches: Sam Lafferty, Mark Friedman
COVID Protocol: Jeff Carter, Drew O’Connor
IR: Evgeni Malkin (knee), Jason Zucker (lower body injury)
Taxi Squad: Radim Zohorna, Juuso Riikola
—Some wholesale changes expected for the Pens due to COVID activity with Blueger and O’Connor swapping places from last game. Kapanen is back from COVID, as well as Boyle from witnessing the birth of his third child (new dad strength boost, activate!). Those returns will stand to bump 2⁄3 of the Lafferty, Zohorna and Bjorkqvist triumvirate from the playing lineup, with a pretty open-ended lucky player who will get the opportunity to play. We’ll take a shot in the dark and say Bjorkqvist since he scored last game, but a case could be made for any to slot in instead.
—Interesting decision in net for strategy purposes, with a division game tomorrow night in Philly. Mike Sullivan announced yesterday that Jarry will be available to play, do the Pens throw him right back in? Or give him an extra day and save him for the more important game, albeit in front of a tired team? Might be nice for confidence purposes to give DeSmith another crack at it and get the taste from allowing five goals last game out of his mouth, but we will have to see which way Sullivan decides to go for the goaltender split for this b-2-b.
The big dogs are back
As expected, the Pens wasted no time in going right back to their preferred top line of Guentzel-Crosby-Rust and it proved immediately fruitful. A little more for the high-powered trio from Pens PR:
Pittsburgh’s top line of Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust were reunited on Sunday against San Jose, accounting for four of Pittsburgh’s eight goals and combined for nine points total (4G-5A). Guentzel, Crosby and Rust have played just seven games together this season (Nov. 14-24; Jan. 2), and have accounted for 11 of the Penguins 25 goals in those games (44%). Below is a look at the trio’s stats as linemates:
Player GP G A PTS
Bryan Rust 7 4 6 10
Jake Guentzel 7 6 3 9
Sidney Crosby 7 1 3 4
Guentzel enters tonight’s game with points in each of his last 14 games (official point streak has since been snapped since he missed games due to injury), accumulating 21 points (13G+8A) during that span. He also has eight goals in his last five games played (8G+3A).
Rust picked up a career-high five points (3G+2A) in his return to the lineup on Sunday, giving him 14 points (5G+9A) in his last 13 games played, and 10 points (4G+6A) in his last six games. Rust enters tonight’s game with five points (1G+4A) in his last four games versus the Blues.
Milestone and streak watch
- The Penguins are on an eight-game winning streak, tied for sixth-longest in franchise history. A win tonight gives this team sole possession of sixth place, the team has never had a nine game winning streak (they have five 10+ winning streaks, the last one coming in the 2012-13 season).
- Sidney Crosby (1,345) is four points behind reaching Mats Sundin (1,349) for 29th place in all-time NHL scoring.
- Tonight assistant equipment manager Paul DeFazio will be working his 1,500th career game as an equipment manager. DeFazio has spent his entire professional career in the Penguins organization, split between Pittsburgh (assistant equipment manager) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League (head equipment manager). DeFazio’s first season with the team was the 1997-98 campaign. (h/t Pens PR)