Who: Calgary Flames (9-7-2, 20 points, 4th place Pacific Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (9-7-3, 21 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, SN1, TVAs in Canada, Sling TV
Opponent Track: Tonight is the fourth game of a six game road trip in the east for Calgary. So far the Flames lost the first game on the trip to Tampa, but have bounced back with a two-game winning streak in Florida and then a 5-2 win in Philadelphia for Calgary’s previous game. This weekend they’ll take trips to Washington and Carolina before getting to head back home.
Pens Path Ahead: Another three-in-four starts today for the Pens, who will have to cross the commonwealth to play in Philadelphia on Friday (note the 5:30pm eastern start) followed by coming back home quickly to play the Toronto Maple Leafs yet again on Saturday night.
Season Series: The Pens lost 4-1 in Calgary on October 25th, which marked the second game of their seven-game losing streak.
Getting to know the Flames
SB Nation counterpart: Matchsticks and Gasoline
Adam Ruzicka - Elias Lindholm - Tyler Toffoli
Dillon Dube - Nazem Kadri - Andrew Mangiapane
Jonathan Huberdeau - Mikael Backlund - Blake Coleman
Milan Lucic - Kevin Rooney - Trevor Lewis
Noah Hanifin / Rasmus Andersson
Nikita Zadorov / MacKenzie Weegar
Dennis Gilbert / Chris Tanev
Goalies: Jacob Markstrom (Daniel Vladar)
Scratches: Brett Ritchie, Connor Mackey
IR: Oliver Kylington, Michael Stone
—It may be a slight surprise or go a little unnoticed, but Markstrom is arguably THE most dreaded opponent for the Penguins across the entire NHL. Luckily he is in the Western Conference so at least Pittsburgh doesn’t have to play him that often. Over his career Markstrom is 6-3-0 vs the Pens with a .941 save% but he’s been even better than that in recent years. Since 2019-20, Markstrom is 4-0-0 with a .977 save% against Pittsburgh and has only allowed three total goals in the four games (with one shutout). The Pens have scored 1, 1, 0 and 1 goal against him in the last four meetings, including stopping 32/33 in a win on October 25th against Pittsburgh. Scoring has been a major pain for the Pens against Markstrom, but it’s a riddle they will have to get better at tonight.
—Health-wise, it’s been a great start in Calgary keeping almost all of their best players upright and available for every game so far, with only minimal losses for injury to date.
—Markstrom’s struggles have been unexpected. As mentioned above, he was terrific (as he always is) last month against the Pens with a .969 save%. But in his other 14 games he’s just .882% against the rest of the league with a GAA well above 3. Last season, Markstrom was a Vezina finalist, and now he’s been one of the worst performing goalies early on this season. Goalies, go figure...
—The 23-year old Ruzicka could be one to keep an eye on. Since making his season-debut on November 1st, he’s scored seven total points across just three games, including a three-point night (2G+1A) in the recent win against Florida.
Huberdeau’s slow start
Jonathan Huberdeau put up 115 points last year in Florida, yet was served up in a trade to Calgary which raised eyebrows. Huberdeau’s adjustment to Calgary hasn’t been the most smooth process, he only has three goals and nine points in 15 games to start the season.
Body & head positioning, weight shifting, stick angles…that's so different when you're playing a lot of your shifts on the boards instead of in open ice— Salim Nadim Valji (@salimvalji) November 19, 2022
& sight lines of passing to a winger east-west instead of back top to the defenceman
Very different to what he was used to.
Not hitting the ground running isn’t the biggest surprise when changing teams, systems and conferences but does it give any pause to an eight-year $10.5 million annual average contract that kicks in for Huberdeau, who will be 30 at that point? After being spurned very publicly by Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau, neither of which wanted to sign long-term to stay in Alberta — Calgary was quick to sign Huberdeau sight unseen for them in a major commitment and lock down an elite playmaking winger.
It’s not quite the time for buyer’s remorse just yet, and Huberdeau has four points in the last five games including a goal against Philly on Monday (and found the back of the net against the Pens in the earlier meeting). The fascinating trade and Calgary insta-rebuild with players like Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and free agent signing Nazem Kadri will be interesting to watch on how that idea unfolds in the upcoming years.
Head to head matchup
—From almost identical overall season records entering tonight, down to how they play within the games, Pittsburgh and Calgary have been very, very similar to start the season. Both are top-10 in the 5v5 process stats and also goals for. Calgary’s been a little more stingy defensively than the Pens, but have surprisingly not gotten much goaltending from Markstrom, so that has washed out in Pittsburgh’s favor for actual goals against.
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
P.O. Joseph / Jeff Petry
Brian Dumoulin / Jan Rutta
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith)
Scratches: Kasperi Kapanen, Chad Ruhwedel
—Heinen has been withering away as of late. He has gone 14 games without a goal and only has two assists across that stretch too. Last game against Chicago on Sunday, Heinen only played 10:41 and is now in that vicious cycle where “minutes are down because he’s not doing much, but not able to do that much because his opportunities are diminishing”. In the last nine games, Heinen only has five total shots on goal. Winning teams don’t usually change their lineups all that much, but if the Pens ever wanted to get Kapanen back in the lineup and yet another chance to pull the nose up, they have a great candidate to scratch in Heinen these days.
—Evgeni Malkin will receive his silver stick and have a ceremony and deservedly receive the traditional bells and whistles tonight in celebration during the first home game since he got to 1,000 games played over the weekend.
—DeSmith missed practice with an undisclosed upper body injury that Sullivan deemed “precautionary”. That is worth watching given the amount of games in the coming days. One would think now that Jarry is likely playing today and Friday in the immediate future, we’ll see if DeSmith is ready to play by Saturday.
‘Twas the night before turkey...
One of the nicer little wrinkles and occurrences in the NHL schedule is the (near) annual Thanksgiving Eve Pittsburgh home game. It’s memory has been enhanced due to the results too, with the Pens rocking a 6-1-2 record in the Crosby-era on home games the night before Thanksgiving.
- 2021: 4-1 win over Vancouver
- 2019: 8-6 win over Vancouver
- 2017: 2-5 loss to Vancouver
- 2015: 4-3 (OT) win over St. Louis
- 2014: 4-3 (OT) win over Toronto
- 2013: 6-5 (SO) win over Toronto
- 2011: 2-3 (OT) loss to STL
- 2009: 3-1 win over Montreal
- 2006: 3-4 (SO) loss to Boston
The Pens also won road games in NYI (2008) and Buffalo (2010) on the fourth Wednesday of November, making this day overall typically a very happy one to send families to gather around the table for the feast the next day with a good result.