Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (36-15-9, 81 points, 2nd place Metropolitan Division) @ Nashville Predators (34-21-4, 72 points, 4th place Central Division)
When: 8:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh (ATTSN-PT) locally in the Western PA viewing area, Bally Sports South (BSSO) for the Nashville area, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Nashville has a had a topsy-turvy month of March so far. They started it by losing 3-2 to Seattle (lol), before bouncing back and crushing San Jose with a resounding 8-0 win. That helped set Nashville on a course to follow up with two home wins over Dallas and Anaheim. But from there, we saw a lot more fireworks over the weekend, first the Predators lost 7-4 at home to St. Louis on Saturday before responding with a 6-2 road win over Minnesota on Sunday. They win a little more than they lose (6-4-0 in last 10, 17-11-0 at home) but aren’t dominant and are prone to wild swings from winning big to losing almost as big just the same.
Pens Path Ahead: This is the last three game road trip of the season for the Pens, with stops heading progressively west going to St. Louis next for a game on Thursday night and then way out to Arizona on Saturday at 5PM eastern.
Hidden Stat: The Penguins have gone a league-best 19-6-4 in 29 games on the road this season. The team’s road wins (19), points (42), points percentage (.724), goals against (66) and goals-against per game (2.28) all lead the NHL. (h/t Pens PR)
Hidden Stat II: The Pens are 14-5-5 versus Western Conference opponents this season. Including tonight, Pittsburgh plays eight of their final 22 games of the regular season against Western teams
Season Series: This is just the first PIT/NSH meeting of the season, the Preds still have to make their trip to Pittsburgh this year, which will happen on Sunday April 10th.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Check out On the Forecheck for the latest in Predators analysis.
—What a season it’s been for Juuse Saros, who has carried the mail big time in Nashville this season. Saros is second in the NHL (behind Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck) with 49 starts and is a top-10 goalie in wins, save%, GAA, shutouts. And, come to think of it, what a nice and smooth transition had from one Finnish goalie in Pekka Rinne (the go-to guy from 2008-19) a few years of a gradual 1A/1B switch with Saros and now the torch has been fully passed with Rinne retired and his number recently raised to the rafters in Nashville.
—After the rhetorical “who the f is Bryan Rust” from opposing fans from years ago, I feel like Tanner Jeannot is the updated version of an emerging player with no fanfare. In 2020-21, Jeannot even spent time in the ECHL! Now he’s chugging towards well over a 20 goal and 40 point season in the NHL. Not bad for an undrafted player to make a mark.
—I don’t think enough people are talking about the season Matt Duchene is having either. He’s had a very odd career, being the No. 3 overall pick in 2009 to Colorado, doing well but never quite fitting in as a true franchise cornerstone. He was eventually traded to Ottawa and then really went through the proverbial desert with a forgettable run there and eventually being moved to Columbus for a brief stint (which included being a major reason why CBJ had the historic first round upset over Tampa in 2019). That parlayed Duchene to a huge $8.0m x 7 year contract with Nashville where he was a huge disappointment early on (his first two seasons in Nashville totaled just 19 goals and 55 points in 100 games). But now, with 31-goals, he’s already tied a career single-season high this year, and he has more points this season (59) than the 55 total he had in the first two Nashville seasons. Big bounce back for Duchene.
Sunday Game Lines
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Matt Duchene
Eeli Tolvanen - Mikael Granlund - Luke Kunin
Yakov Trenin - Colton Sissons - Tanner Jeannot
Nick Cousins - Michael McCarron - Phillip Tomasino
Roman Josi / Dante Fabbro
Mattias Ekholm / Alexandre Carrier
Ben Harpur / Matt Benning*
Goalies: Juuse Saros (seldom used backup David Rittich played on Sunday)
Scratches: Matt Luff, Philippe Myers & Mark Borowiecki (day-to-day)
—*Benning was injured towards the end of last game against Minnesota. Did not see any update of his status.
Advanced Stat Matchup
Pittsburgh and Nashville are incredibly similar defensively, and both are impressive with their respective structure and goaltending this season. Both clubs are well above average in the way of the chances and goals that they have allowed.
Offensively, the Pens are ninth in the NHL with 3.25 goals/game and the Preds are just behind them at 3.19 goals/game (13th). However, they get to about the same place in completely opposite ways, funnily enough. The Pens typically earn a ton of chances but have been bad at finishing them, but just based on quantity (7th in shots/game in the NHL) it adds up to score goals. The Preds are the polar opposite, where they don’t generate a ton (they’re 27th in the NHL in shots/game), but are very effective at finishing what they do create.
And now for the Pens..
Monday Practice Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Evgeni Malkin - Evan Rodrigues
Radim Zohorna - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Brian Boyle - Teddy Blueger - Zach Aston-Reese
Mike Matheson / Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin / John Marino
Mark Friedman / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry or Casey DeSmith
Scratches: Dominik Simon, Marcus Pettersson
IR: Jason Zucker (week-to-week, core surgery), Brock McGinn (week-to-week, upper body )
—The Pens practiced in Pittsburgh before heading out on the road, keeping their same lines and pairs that they have had recently.
—The goalie split on this road trip will be an angle for the Pens to manage. Jarry at 47 appearances, ranks fourth in the NHL now. Casey DeSmith hasn’t been playing poorly but only has one start in the last two weeks. Nashville (72 points) is similar but a little step behind St. Louis (76) and then Arizona (40) is a last place team. Sullivan didn’t ask for council here, but what about playing DeSmith tonight and Saturday? Jarry still gets the toughest game and some playing time, but it gets DeSmith involved a bit more and keeps some minutes off Jarry. Might not go down like that, but just how much the Pens continue to ride Jarry will be an aspect to monitor.
Milestone and streak watch
- Sidney Crosby’s goal on Sunday got him to the 20-goal mark for a 14th season, a franchise record in Pittsburgh.
- Crosby also has an active nine game point streak going (6G+6A).
- Crosby’s goal on Sunday counted as the game winner, giving up now 76 career GWGs. That places him in second place in franchise history in that category, pulling Sid past Evgeni Malkin (75) at least temporarily. Jaromir Jagr (78) retains his grasp on first place, if only for a little longer as Crosby and Malkin catch up.
- Tristan Jarry has 29 wins on the season, one away from his first career 30 win NHL season. Over his last five starts, Jarry has been in top form lately at 4-1-0 with a 1.82 goals-against average, a .944 save percentage and has one shutout.
- Kris Letang (633 career points) is three shy of tying Rick Kehoe for fifth place in the franchise’s all-time record books.
- Jeff Carter is looking to set a personal season-high point streak if he can get on the scoresheet tonight and take it to four games in a row with a point.