Who: Detroit Red Wings (26-31-8, 60 points, 5th place Atlantic Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguns (39-17-10, 88 points, 2nd place Metropolitan Division)
When: 5:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, Bally Sports Detroit (BSDETX) for the visitors, ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Red Wings employ some of the most exciting young players in the NHL, but they’ve been having a rough go of it lately— after a recent six-game losing streak, they fell 23 points out of the last Wild Card spot in the East and were 2-7-1 in their last ten contests heading into the weekend. On Saturday, they earned a point against the Tampa Bay Lightning in an overtime loss. Sure, the Lightning are on a slump of their own, but Detroit held its own in regulation, showing this team can handle contenders when things are clicking.
Pens Path Ahead: The Penguins are looking to snap a two-game losing streak, and with the Rangers (one point behind with one game in hand) snapping at their heels, this contest is an important one. After facing the Red Wings, the Penguins have a brutal stretch ahead of them: a rematch against the Rangers, away games against the Wild and Avalanche, another contest with the Avalanche and then yet another with the Rangers. Pittsburgh has 16 games left in the season, and 13 of them are against playoff teams.
Hidden Stat: So far this season, the Red Wings are 3-6-1 in the second half of back-to-back sets. (They are coming out of an overtime battle with the Lightning on Saturday.)
Season Series: The Red Wings visited PPG Paints Arena for the season series opener on January 28, where Lucas Raymond beat Casey DeSmith in the shootout to claim a 3-2 shootout win for Detroit.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Winging It In Motown
—Goaltender Thomas Greiss, who was injured during a game against the Islanders on Thursday, has been ruled out for the weekend— meaning either Alex Nedeljkovic, who started for the Red Wings on Saturday, or Calvin Pickard will be tapped to face the Penguins on Sunday. Bets are on Nedeljkovic, but two starts in two days could leave him worse for wear.
Saturday Game Lines
Tyler Bertuzzi - Dylan Larkin - Lucas Raymond
Adam Erne - Pius Suter - Oskar Sundqvist
Jakub Vrana - Joe Veleno - Sam Gagner
Taro Hirose - Michael Rasmussen - Filip Zadina
Jordan Oesterle / Moritz Seider
Olli Juolevi / Filip Hronek
Jake Walman / Gustav Lindstrom
Goalies: Alex Nedeljkovic and Calvin Pickard (Nedeljkovic started Saturday, but Pickard has spent this entire season so far in the AHL)
Scratches: Gustav Lindstrom, Givani Smith, Thomas Greiss
IR: Danny DeKeyser, Robby Fabbri, Carter Rowney, Mitchell Stephens
—The Red Wings’ power play is one of the least effective in the NHL, but they mixed in some new players on the power play against the Lightning; Joe Veleno made an impression with a few scoring chances. They may try some new combinations to re-ignite this lackluster power play against the Penguins.
—Don’t be fooled by the team’s recent record; the Red Wings’ first line is a legitimate threat, and top-line center Dylan Larkin is powering the team as a point-per-game player for the first time in his seven-season career.
Watch out: The Calder Trophy might end up in Detroit this year
The Red Wings’ first line and top defense pairing each boast a Calder Trophy candidate— Keep an eye on numbers 23 and 53 this Sunday, because winger Lucas Raymond and blueliner Moritz Seider are two fun players to watch. In fact, Seider can go toe-to-toe with the best in the NHL.
Mo Seider calmly taking the puck away from McDavid 1v1 pic.twitter.com/9z5h3GXx8H— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) March 16, 2022
Seider’s 42 points in 64 games heading into the weekend ranked him fourth in production among all NHL rookies, and his defensive numbers are nothing to sneeze at.
Expect Seider to get matched up against the Crosby line, and expect him to be an effective obstacle for even the Penguins’ top players.
And now for the Pens..
Saturday Practice Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Rickard Rakell - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Danton Heinen - Teddy Blueger - Evan Rodrigues
Radim Zohorna - Brian Boyle - Jason Zucker*
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / John Marino
Marcus Pettersson / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith (On Friday, Tristan Jarry started and was pulled; then replacement DeSmith was hurt, and Jarry returned; who will start Sunday? You tell me!)
Scratches: Evgeni Malkin (game-time decision) Mark Friedman, Brock McGinn (week-to-week, upper body)
IR: Jason Zucker (week-to-week, core surgery), Nathan Beaulieu
*Kasper Bjorkvist was recalled on an emergency basis from the WBS Penguins on Saturday, so it looks like Malkin may still be out from a non-COVID illness. According to Pens Inside Scoop, head coach Mike Sullivan classified Malkin, who did not practice Saturday, as a “game-time decision” against the Red Wings. Zucker practiced in a non-contact jersey and is not expected to play today.
—Sullivan also said Casey DeSmith “checked out fine” after being hit in the head during Friday’s battle with the Rangers, so he may get the start after Jarry struggled Friday.
—Without Malkin, the Penguins power-play units during Saturday’s practice sorted out as: Letang/Crosby/Guentzel/Rust/Rodrigues on the first, with Matheson/Rakell/Carter/Kapanen/Heinen on the second.
The evolving Penguins penalty kill
Brock McGinn is out week-to-week. Zach Aston-Reese has absconded to Anaheim. Seeing as those losses cut out two of the Penguins’ most reliable penalty killers, some shake-ups are happening to Pittsburgh’s usual 4v5 lineup.
This game against the Red Wings presents an opportunity to reshape this fluctuating penalty kill.
At just a 17.8% success rate, the Red Wings’ power play is one of the flattest in the NHL in fact, only five teams have lower conversion rates on the man advantage.
This could be the Penguins’ chance to test out what players might be seeing increased ice time on the man disadvantage. One of those players will almost certainly be Bryan Rust, who has returned to regular 4v5 ice time since the trade deadline.
From head coach Mike Sullivan, as per Mike DeFabo at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“(Rust is) an elite penalty killer. It was a natural move for us and for him. His first few years as a Pittsburgh Penguin, that’s how he carved his way into this league. He was really good at it. And he continues to be good at it. I think he actually helps our penalty kill get better.”
Milestone and streak watch
- Since Malkin entered the NHL (2006-07), the Pens have won 40+ games in a season 13 times. Now, they sit at 39 wins and are looking to get to 14. Next highest in the league in this time is San Jose (12).
- With two points against Buffalo on Wednesday, Sidney Crosby tied Brett Hull for 24th place in the NHL’s all-time scoring sheet (1,391 points). Next up on Sid’s list is Luc Robitaille (1,394).
- Per the Pens PR department, Jake Guentzel (152) is one goal shy of tying Joe Mullen (153) for the second-most goals among an American-born Penguin players. (Still has a ways to go to get to first place Kevin Stevens, 260 goals).
- Kris Letang (635) is one point away from tying Rick Kehoe for fifth place in the franchise’s all-time scoring list.