Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (37-16-9, 83 points, 2nd place Metropolitan Division) @ Arizona Coyotes (20-36-4, 44 points, 8th place Central Division)
When: 5:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh (ATTSN-PT) locally in the Western PA viewing area, Bally Sports Arizona (BSAZ) in the desert, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Arizona’s place in the standings doesn’t reflect their pace as of late— the Yotes have gone 7-2-0 over their last nine games, a stretch which includes wins over playoff teams like the Golden Knights, Avalanche and Maple Leafs. This squad is the hottest it’s been all season, and they’ve proven they have the ability to beat good teams.
Pens Path Ahead: After taking on the Coyotes, the Penguins are in for a busy week. They’re playing five games in seven days, including a back-to-back set against the Blue Jackets at home and the Sabres in Buffalo.
Hidden Stat: The Coyotes have claimed 19 of their 20 wins this season while being outshot by their opponent. (Arizona ranks 31st in the NHL in shot suppression, allowing an average of 35.2 shots against per game.)
Season Series: In the first half of this season series, the Penguins traded goals with the visiting Coyotes before scoring four unanswered third-period even-strength tallies in a span of fewer than ten minutes to seal a decisive 6-3 win on January 25.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Check out Five for Howling for all the latest on the Yotes.
—The Coyotes have been switching between Scott Wedgewood and Karel Vejmelka in net. Vejmelka started the Coyotes’ last outing— will we see Wedgewood on Saturday?
Clayton Keller - Travis Boyd - Nick Schmaltz
Alex Galchenyuk - Riley Nash - Phil Kessel
Nick Ritchie - Barrett Hayton - Loui Eriksson
Matias Maccelli - Christian Fischer - Lawson Crouse
Shayne Gostisbehere / Dysin Mayo
Janis Moser / Anton Stralman
Kyle Capobianco / Vladislav Kolyachonok
Goalies: Karel Vejmelka, Scott Wedgewood
Scratches: Jakob Chychrun (injury), Michael Carcona, Cam Dineen
IR: Antoine Roussel, Liam O’Brien, Andrew Ladd, Johan Larsson, Jay Beagle, Dmitrij Jaskin, Conor Timmins
—The length of that injury list is no joke— and it only got worse when defenseman Jakob Chychrun, who has been the subject of a flurry of trade rumors, suffered an ankle injury against the Bruins last Saturday.
—Two ex-Penguins are flanking ex-Hurricane/Bruin/Blue Jacket Riley Nash on the Coyotes’ second line. After a few sub-15 point seasons, Alex Galchenyuk is one point way from matching his 17-point campaign with the Penguins in 2019-20; Phil Kessel ranks fourth on the team after recording 37 points (6-31—37) in 60 games.
A legitimate threat on the Coyotes’ fourth line
On March 14, Lawson Crouse helped the Coyotes to the first win of a victorious back-to-back set by scoring his first NHL hat trick— a feat including even strength, power-play and shorthanded goals.
This is Crouse’s sixth season with the Coyotes, and he’s making it a breakout campaign. The winger has recorded a career-high 32 points in 59 games, and one more tally will make this the first 20-goal campaign of his career.
On a team as far out of the playoff picture as the Coyotes, success like this inevitably brings up rumors he will be traded to a contending team. Crouse’s father seems to think otherwise:
And now for the Pens..
Thursday Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Evan Rodrigues
Danton Heinen - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Radim Zohorna - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Brian Boyle - Teddy Blueger - Dominik Simon
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / John Marino
Marcus Pettersson / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith)
Scratches: Zach Aston-Reese, Mark Friedman
IR: Jason Zucker (week-to-week, core surgery), Brock McGinn (week-to-week, upper body )
—Crosby’s season-long ten-game point streak (6-7—13) was snapped against the Blues on Thursday. Seeing as the Penguins emerged with two points themselves, it seems unlikely the captain is too worried about it.
—There are a few roster battles happening on the fringes of the Penguins lineup right now. Out of Mark Friedman or Marcus Pettersson, who would you put on the Penguins’ defense? How about Zach Aston-Reese or Dominik Simon in the bottom six?
—It has now been 20 games since Kapanen has scored a goal (he has recorded three assists over the stretch.) Something’s got to give eventually... doesn’t it?
—It seems Evan Rodrigues has been moved back up to the first line, at least temporarily. And what a wild coincidence— he’s getting more scoring chances now that he is skating on Sidney Crosby’s wing.
The looming trade deadline
This is the Penguins’ final game before they trade for Claude Giroux.
Fine, that’s a joke (mostly), but it really is Pittsburgh’s last game before the 2022 NHL trade deadline— meaning it’s the last opportunity to shuffle the lines and pairings and evaluate where this team most needs an addition.
The Penguins have been tied to potential trades with the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings. Who would you most like to see the Penguins go for at the deadline— and what would you like them to give up in return?
Milestone and streak watch
- A few Penguins production streaks were snapped Thursday, but that’s because there were some depth players on the scoresheet instead of the usual crew, so cheers to Chad Ruhwedel goals and broken streaks!
- Kris Letang (634 career points) is two shy of tying Rick Kehoe for fifth place in the franchise’s all-time record books.
- Jake Guentzel is one goal away from the second 30-goal campaign of his career; Bryan Rust is three points away from his second 50-point season.
- Evgeni Malkin is five goals away from tying Jaromir Jagr for third place on the Penguins’ all-time scoring leaderboard.