Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (34-14-8, 76 points, 2nd place Metropolitan Division) @ Carolina Hurricanes (37-12-5, 79 points, 1st place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh (ATTSN-PT) locally in the Western PA viewing area, Bally Sports South down south, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Like the Pens, the Hurricanes also played on the road last night, losing to Washington 4-0. That makes for now a two-game losing streak for Carolina, who saw their recent five-game winning come to an end on Tuesday when they fell 3-2 to Detroit in OT. This is their third game in four days.
Pens Path Ahead: After this quick storm of seeing Lightning and Hurricanes in two days, the Pens get their next three games at home after a few days off. First up will be Florida on Tuesday, then Pittsburgh welcomes Vegas a week from today on Friday March 11th, followed by another Pens/Canes game on Sunday March 13th.
Hidden Stat: Sticking with yesterday’s theme, today finishes the eighth set of back-to-back games this season for the Penguins. They are 10-3-2 overall (improving to 6-1-1 on the first night after yesterday’s win; 4-2-1 the second game). After tonight, Pittsburgh has two more sets of b-2-b games to go.
Hidden Stat Part II: After last night’s win, the Pens improved to 56-20-9 in the month of March under Mike Sullivan. March of the Penguins, indeed. (h/t Bob Grove)
Season Series: Tonight is Round 2 of Pens/Canes this season, with Carolina taking a 4-3 regulation win a couple weekends ago on February 20th, in a game that didn’t feel as close as the score. As mentioned above, Carolina returns to Pittsburgh on March 13th for another weekend afternoon game, and that will be it for these two in the regular season. Despite being division rivals, they only have three matchups based on the NHL scheduling matrix this season.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Check out Canes Country for the news to know about the Hurricanes.
—Balance has been a hallmark of the ‘Canes, they have star power in Aho and Svechnikov but still are able to come at teams in waves with secondary threats who are capable and often productive in their roles.
Last Night’s Game Lines
Andrei Svechnikov - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Jesper Kotkaniemi - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
Nino Niederreiter - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Jordan Martinook - Derek Stepan - Steven Lorentz
Jaccob Slavin / Ethan Bear
Brady Skjei / Brett Pesce
Ian Cole / Jalen Chatfield
Goalies: Antti Raanta expected starter (Frederik Andersen played last night)
Scratches: Seth Jarvis, Brendan Smith (injury), Tony DeAngelo (injury)
IR: Jake Gardiner
—A couple of changes from when these teams met a few weeks ago on defense. Brendan Smith (who was temporarily hospitalized after being hit with a shot in the head against the Pens) has not played since then, and Tony DeAngelo has joined him on the injury list. Ian Cole, who was a healthy scratch against Pittsburgh, has slotted back into the lineup.
—One thing you can kinda wonder about though is if center play on the lower lines is going to hold up when it’s playoff time. Trocheck has found a nice groove as the second line center, but Staal isn’t always a force in the offensive zone and Stepan isn’t much more than just a guy at this point either. If you’re really at picking nits and wondering what or where Carolina should add with deadline time coming up, I would think getting an extra center would be high on the list for areas to improve.
Another Big Time Battle
It’s another clash of titans tonight in Carolina, with two of the better teams in about every metric meeting up.
The big standouts are the Pens can’t finish this season and the Hurricanes give up a surprising amount of expected goals against, despite not giving up that many total shots. But Carolina has long been a team with excellent shot/possession process and weak goaltending, and this year they have found the answers in the goaltending department with Frederik Andersen coming in as a free agent and playing very well.
And now for the Pens..
Last Night’s Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Evan Rodrigues
Zach Aston-Reese - Brian Boyle - Dominik Simon
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mark Friedman / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Casey DeSmith (Tristan Jarry started last night)
Scratches: Kasper Bjorkqvist
IR: Jason Zucker (week-to-week, core surgery), Louis Domingue, Teddy Blueger (broken jaw)
—Probably not going to be many changes from recent days for the Pens, with the exception of potentially in net. Jarry didn’t have a huge physical workload last night in terms of making a ton of saves, but there probably isn’t reason to play him two days in a row and push his focus and sharpness. DeSmith has been playing well lately and this is why a team has two goalies.
—Nice to see both the second and third lines chip in with goals last night. Hopefully that builds some confidence for the players like McGinn, Kapanen, Rodrigues and Heinen who haven’t been finding their names on the stat sheet very often lately.
—Teddy Blueger has been taking morning skates and practices in a regular contact jersey, sporting extra face protection on his jaw. Doesn’t look like he’s right on the edge of returning, but luckily that process is moving along pretty quickly and he should be back in the games sooner than later, possibly next week.
Milestone and streak watch
- Evgeni Malkin has goals in four straight games and a seven-game point streak going (5G+6A). Overall Malkin has at least a point in 17 out of the 20 games he has played this season. If he has changed the way the Pens have played, it turns out it’s for the better!
- Kris Letang (49) is one point away from hitting the 50 point mark this season. It would mark the sixth time in his career that he’s cracked 50.