Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (6-6-2, 14 points, 7th place Metropolitan Division) @ Montreal Canadiens (7-6-1, 15 points, 6th place Atlantic Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, Sling TV
Opponent Track: The Canadiens have been very streaky so far this season— almost all of their wins and losses come in pairs or trios. They are facing the Penguins on the heels of two straight wins, comprised of a shootout victory in Detroit and a 5-2 beatdown of the visiting Canucks.
Pens Path Ahead: The Penguins get just two days to recuperate from this back-to-back Canadian set before they face Toronto for the second time in five days, this time at home. Then the team racks up some more airline miles with visits to Minnesota, Winnipeg and Chicago.
Season Series: The Penguins registered their first loss— and first blown third-period lead— of the season in their 3-2 overtime loss to the Canadiens on October 17. They won’t see the Habs again until they finish out the season series in March.
Getting to know the Canadiens
SB Nation counterpart: Habs Eyes on the Prize
Cole Caufield - Nick Suzuki - Kirby Dach
Mike Hoffman - Christian Dvorak - Josh Anderson
Jonathan Drouin - Sean Monahan - Brendan Gallagher
Evgeni Dadonov - Jake Evans - Joel Armia
Kaiden Guhle - David Savard
Arber Xhekaj - Joel Edmudnson
Jordan Harris - Johnathan Kovacevic
Goalies: Jake Allen, Samuel Montembeault
Scratches: Michael Pezzetta, Chris Wideman, Juraj Slafkovsky (suspended two games)
IR: Paul Byron, Emil Heineman, Mike Matheson, Carey Price
- Kirby Dach is officially playing as a right winger, but observers of the Canadiens’ first line will often see No. 77 charging down the middle of the ice as he and Nick Suzuki swap positions mid-play. From Nathan Ni at SBNation’s Habs Eyes on the Prize:
There are advantages to playing a natural centre down the wing, as Team Canada can attest. Dach’s positioning and playstyle often doesn’t match that of the classical winger. For one, his defensive prowess helps insulate Cole Caufield and allows Nick Suzuki to push deeper into the offensive zone without worrying about being caught up ice. More strikingly, Dach is still able to play in the middle of the ice, allowing him and Suzuki to be essentially interchangeable when it comes to positioning.
Check out the rest of the article for a breakdown on how Dach’s flexibility and position swapping can catch defenders off guard and help the Canadiens score.
- Half of the Canadiens’ defensemen are 22 years old and younger— but that isn’t stopping them from averaging big minutes. Kaiden Guhle and Jordan Harris are both skating over 20 minutes per night.
- The Habs have been splitting their goaltender workload fairly evenly between Jake Allen (nine starts) and Sam Montembeault (five.) This system is part of what sunk the Canadiens to the bottom of the Atlantic last season, when the tandem both ended up in the bottom third of goalies (among those with at least 35 games played) with sub-.905 save percentages.
So far this season, the duo is doing much better. Montembeault especially has been impressive (3-1-1, .930 SV%, 2.38 GAA.) And that’s despite the fact that the Canadiens, like the Penguins, are one of the more porous defensive teams in the NHL (both teams average about 34 shots against per game.)
- While still not a high-scoring team— the Habs average under three goals a night— the addition of Dach has helped the Canadiens’ top line become a consistent threat. Between them, Suzuki, Caufield and Dach have generated over 40% of the team’s points production so far.
- Both Penguins and Canadiens power plays have often been toothless as of late. At a 15.8% conversion rate, the Canadiens have the fifth-least effective power play in the NHL. That’s about the rate of success the Penguins were having during their recent losing streak.
- The Canadiens boast a top-10 penalty kill in the NHL, while the Penguins’ 4v5 success rate slipped during a brutal losing streak— although Pittsburgh has improved to kill off nine of their ten last penalties.
And now for the Pens...
Potential Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Danton Heinen
Filip Hallander - Ryan Poehling - Josh Archibald
Marcus Pettersson / Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin / Jeff Petry
Chad Ruhwedel / Jan Rutta
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith started last night)
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Sam Poulin, Kasperi Kapanen, P.O. Joseph (day-to-day lower body injury)
IR: Teddy Blueger
- With Casey DeSmith getting the last two starts— including the one that snapped the Penguins’ losing streak— all bets are Tristan Jarry will be feeling the pressure to come back with a win tonight.
- Kasperi Kapanen was a healthy scratch last night for the second game in a row after being one of the Penguins’ poorer players during their seven-game losing streak. He certainly saw his share of healthy scratches last season, but the fact that he’s back there again just one month into his first season on a $3.2 mil, 2 year contract is a bad look for Hextall’s cap management abilities.
- P.O. Joseph missed last night with a lower-body injury, but made the Canadian road trip with the team and seems like a possibility for tomorrow.
- Filip Hallander made his second appearance of the season last night, but saw minimal ice time against the Maple Leafs— he was the only Penguins forward to skate for fewer than 10 minutes last night.
- Jake Guentzel has goals in four straight games. If he scores tonight, it would be his first five-game scoring streak since the 2022 postseason, when he became the fourth player in NHL history (alongside Mikael Samuelsson, Martin Havlat and Rick Tocchet) to open the postseason with goals in five games.