Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (4-2-1, 9 points, 3rd place Metropolitan Division) @ Vancouver Canucks (1-5-2, 4 points, 7th place Pacific Division)
When: 10:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, SN1, S360 up in Canada, Sling TV
Opponent Track: It’s been a frustrating start for Vancouver, who already have had a classic Canadian “disgruntled fan throws jersey on the ice to express dis-satisfaction” moment. It was a tough schedule for the Canucks, with a five game road trip (0-3-2) right out the gates. Then they came home and lost to Buffalo and Carolina in the last week, before finally becoming the last NHL team this season to win a game, downing Seattle 5-4 last night.
Pens Path Ahead: The Pens will make their second ever trip to Seattle for tomorrow night and then they get to return to the Eastern time zone. Pittsburgh plays Boston at home on Tuesday and then has to turn and make the quick trip up to Buffalo for next Wednesday night in the immediate future.
Season Series: Vancouver makes their yearly trip to Pittsburgh on January 10th to complete the two-game season series.
Getting to know the Canucks
SB Nation counterpart: Nucks Misconduct
JT Miller - Bo Horvat - Conor Garland
Ilya Mikheyev - Elias Pettersson - Andrei Kuzmenko
Tanner Pearson - Sheldon Dries - Nils Hoglander
Dakota Joshua - Nils Aman - Vasily Podkolzin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson / Tyler Myres
Jack Rathbone / Kyle Burroughs
Guillaume Brisebois / Luke Schenn
Goalies: Spencer Martin (Thatcher Demko started last night)
Scratches: William Lockwood, Riley Stillman, Noah Juulsen
IR: Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, Travis Dermott, Curtis Lazar, Micheal Ferland (LTIR, unofficially retired), Tucker Poolman (LTIR)
—This isn’t a lineup without its faults, but isn’t as talent deficient as a last place team either - especially considering front line players in Hugher and Boeser have played the majority of the season before recent injuries sent each to the IR. Perhaps fortunately timed meeting for the Pens to see the Canucks without these players (particularly Boeser who has been something of a Penguin killer historically with 7G+3A in just eight career games against Pittsburgh).
—Also in the “good timing” file: Vancouver played their starter Demko last night, so unless they are going to play him on both ends of their back-to-back, that opens the door for 27-year old Spencer Martin to play tonight. Martin has mostly been a minor league goalie in his career with just 10 games of NHL experience under his belt.
—A Vancouver lineup lacking Hughes and Boeser is a lot less intimidating to ponder. Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat are all very good players but after that there’s not a lot else for consistent threats to have to circle on the board.
—Kuzmenko was a high profile free agent signing from Russia with many NHL teams looking to sign him, but has been more “Plotnikov” than “Panarin” as far as instant production from a new import goes. Not to completely write his NHL career off after just a handful of games and he did have two points last night to double his season total.
—Vancouver is giving up over four goals per game in this young season. Their penalty kill is an absurdly poor 60.0% (only killing 15 of 25 chances). It’s easy to see why this is a coach and team under attack and pressure from media, management and their own fans — they can’t keep the puck out of the net right now, to disastrous results so far. Clearly something has to give in terms of execution, roster changes or getting new coach(es) involved, because the status quo simply can’t be acceptable at this level for how their team is performing from top to bottom.
—The Canucks were fighting for a win last night — literally. Three players dropped the gloves. Not too often in the NHL today you see three different players get in fights in the same game, which might speak to the desperation and urgency that they were feeling.
Will the Penguins get another Canucks coach fired?
On the Penguins’ last visit to Vancouver on December 4th 2021, Pittsburgh won 4-1 and out-shot the Canucks 44-23 in a dominating effort. That was the end of the road for VAN coach Travis Green, who was fired soon after the game. (As was his boss, general manager Jim Benning).
Fast forward to this season and there are already a lot of rumors swirling about the status of Green’s successor Bruce Boudreau regarding his own job security. After tonight, Vancouver doesn’t have another game until Tuesday — a change after tonight would make sense timing-wise if that is the direction that new GM Patrik Allvin and Team President Jim Rutherford want to go. Should the results mirror last year’s PIT/VAN game, the Pens might again cause a coaching switch against the same team for the second season in a row, a seriously odd quirk.
And now for the Pens...
Potential Game Lines
Rickard Rakell - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Evgeni Malkin - Jeff Carter
Brock McGinn - Sam Poulin - Kasperi Kapanen
Drake Cagguila - Ryan Poehling - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Jeff Petry
Chad Ruhwedel or P.O. Joseph / Jan Rutta
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith)
Scratches: Jake Guentzel (upper body injury), Jason Zucker (injury)
IR: Teddy Blueger (LTIR)
—The Pens practiced yesterday with Guentzel on the ice for the whole thing, but in a no-contact jersey. He did not take line rushes, which heavily suggests he will not be playing tonight. Zucker was only involved at the very end of practice for a little twirl and likely is further behind Guentzel in each of their respective recoveries.
—Joseph and Ruhwedel alternated on line rushes, it’s worth watching to see if Joseph gets back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Tuesday night. Unusually enough, it wasn’t a very smooth or successful game for Ruhwedel, a change back to the way the defense was with Joseph-Rutta would make a lot of sense on the surface.
—Practice was said to have an animated Mike Sullivan, who finished the day off by gathering the players at center ice for an extended one-sided chat probably about some of the lackluster stretches of play in the last two games. Message sent, the response in these situations are always interesting to track.
Post practice chat a little longer than usual. pic.twitter.com/H4HZccsr7V— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) October 27, 2022
- $10.00 on on the Pens 3-way (+100, $10.00 to win $20.00)
From the immediate note above, I’m expecting the Pens to respond affirmatively to the challenge that Sullivan has no doubt imparted on them yesterday. Every season is bound to have flat spots, but Pittsburgh has been too passive and careless with their decisions for periods of time against Edmonton and Calgary in the last two games. Now that it’s addressed, we’re looking for a better effort.
On the flip side, Vancouver is in shambles and they just played last night. And they should be in-line to play an inexperienced backup. These are typically the situations where the Pens feast on inferior opponents, much like they did in Columbus last week.
Anything can happen in a single game of NHL hockey, but all logical signs seem to be pointing to a game where the Pens should be in excellent position to take care of business.
A “3-way” bet is settled at the end of 60 minutes, so Pittsburgh would need to win in regulation in order to cash this bet. A tie or Vancouver lead after 60 (the other two legs of the three) cause a loss for this bet.
Season picks: 6-3, +0.824 units