Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (7-7-3, 17 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division) @ Winnipeg Jets (10-4-1, 21 points, 2nd place Central Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, Sling TV
Opponent Track: The Jets have won five of their last six games and are steadily climbing up the Western Conference standings. During those six contests, they have allowed just 10 goals against (the second fewest in the NHL during that stretch.)
Pens Path Ahead: The Penguins play again tomorrow in Chicago, return home for a game against Flames on Wednesday, take a break on Thursday for some turkey and then head back on the road Friday to Philadelphia. After this, there’s finally a prolonged home stretch coming up.
Season Series: This is the Penguins’ first run-in with the Jets this season. They will meet again at PPG Paints Arena on January 13. This mirrors the season series from last year, which was another November/January away/home split. Back then, the Penguins claimed both games, including one of the season’s three shootout victories.
Getting to know the Jets
SB Nation counterpart: Arctic Ice Hockey
Kyle Connor - Mark Scheifele - Sam Gagner
Cole Perfetti - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Blake Wheeler
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby - Adam Lowry - Saku Maenalanen
Dominic Toninato - David Gustafson - Michael Eyssimont
Josh Morrissey - Neal Pionk
Brenden Dillon - Nate Schmidt
Dylan Samberg - Kyle Capobianco
Goalies: Connor Hellebuyck (David Rittich)
Scratches: Jansen Harkins, Dylan DeMelo, Ville Heinola
IR: Mason Appleton, Morgan Barron, Nikolaj Ehlers, Logan Stanley
- That’s a fairly full IR for the Jets. Nikolaj Ehlers, who scored 28 goals last year, has been missing from the lineup for a month with an undisclosed lower-body injury. No timetable has been given for his return, and head coach Rick Bowness said Thursday that surgery is a possibility. This has meant some line shuffling for the Jets. Sam Gagner is getting more comfortable in his new role replacing Ehlers on the top line, and has two assists in his last two games.
- Defenseman Dylan DeMelo is a question mark for Saturday after he missed the Jets’ Thursday game for undisclosed reasons. If he returns, he will take Kyle Capobianco’s place on the third pairing.
- Winnipeg’s top-pair defender Josh Morrissey has 15 assists in 15 games this season, a number that ranks him among top NHL defenders like Cale Makar, Adam Fox, Morgan Rielly and Alex Pietrangelo.
- Top-line winger Kyle Connor is riding the high of scoring the third hat trick of his NHL career on Thursday. His third tally, the game-winning goal, was scored with less than one minute left in regulation against the visiting Ducks.
- 2020 Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck is once again looking like one of the best goaltenders in the league so far this season. Through 12 starts, he has a 8-3-1 record, two shutouts, a .935 save percentage and is allowing just 2.07 goals against per game— numbers comparable to what Linus Ullmark is doing for the surging Bruins.
- The Jets are not a particularly high-scoring team (they average a middle-of-the-road three goals per game), but they make up for that by allowing the fewest goals against (35) in the NHL, in part thanks to Hellebuyck’s presence in net.
And now for the Pens...
Potential Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Danton Heinen
Ryan Poehling - Teddy Blueger - Josh Archibald
Marcus Pettersson / Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin / Jeff Petry
P.O. Joseph / Jan Rutta
Goalies: Casey DeSmith or Tristan Jarry (Jarry started Wednesday, and the Penguins have another game on Sunday, so both will be playing this weekend)
Scratches: Kasperi Kapanen, Chad Ruhwedel
- The Penguins’ penalty kill helped fend off the Wild on Thursday, and the Penguins have killed off 24 of their last 28 penalties. They scored two man-advantage goals on Thursday, too, which is good news overall for Pittsburgh’s special teams— that is, if you don’t look too hard at the power play, which also allowed a shorthanded goal and has been one of the least effective power plays in the NHL for the last few weeks.
- Sullivan returned Rakell to Crosby’s line on Thursday and put Rust back on Malkin’s wing. Hard to say if that helped Sid dominate the game— he was due for a good contest after a bit of a relative slump— but it seems likely the Penguins will stick with it today after Thursday’s win.
- Kapanen was scratched again on Thursday. Are the Penguins planning a trade?
- In case you hadn’t heard, the NHL is making it mandatory for players who entered the league in 2019-20 or later to wear helmets during warmups. The good thing about being one of the oldest teams in the league is that this will not impact very many Penguins.