Who: Nashville Predators (41-26-4, 86 points, 4th place Central Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (41-22-10, 92 points, 3rd place Metropolitan Division)
When: 4:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: TNT
Opponent Track: The Predators are also entering this contest on the second half of a back-to-back. On Saturday, Nashville lost 4-1 in regulation to Florida at home, Prior to that, they had won four of their last five (although one of those wins was over the Flyers and two over the Senators.)
Pens Path Ahead: The Penguins are in for a set of home-and-away sets against the Islanders and Bruins over the next week.
Hidden Stat: In the second half of back-to-backs this season, the Penguins are 4-2-3 for 10 points, and the Predators are 5-4-1 for 14.
Season Series: In the Penguins’ first meeting with the Predators in Nashville, the Predators broke a second-period tie with two even-strength goals in two minutes to surge to a decisive 4-1 victory.
SBN Counterpart Blog: On the Forecheck
From hockeydb: (stats do not include Saturday’s game)
—Heading into Saturday, Predators goaltender Juuse Saros tied with Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy for the NHL lead in wins (35) and is seventh in the league (min. 20 GP) with a .921 save percentage. But Saros started Saturday against the Panthers, which means the Penguins could be facing David Rittich.
Rittich made three starts in March, earning a .889 SV% and 1-1-0 record. In his last NHL appearance, he was shelled with five goals from the host Los Angeles Kings.
—In a 6-2 win over the visiting Minnesota Wild last week, Michael McCarron (now injured), Mark Borowiecki, and Jeremy Lauzon all got in fights. One thing about the Predators: they are not afraid to drop the gloves. From the Tennessean, in “Nashville Predators willing to fight for NHL playoffs. They’ll punch you in the face to get there”:
The Nashville Predators love to fight. They lead the league by a mile in that category. Their 49 fighting majors this season were 14 more than the next closest team going into Thursday’s games.
“It’s really the fabric of our identity,” coach John Hynes said. “A big part of our identity is we have a lot of sandpaper, a lot of highly competitive guys. ... The more physical a game is, the better our team is.
Maybe this quality will earn Mark Friedman a spot in Sunday’s lineup.
Saturday Game Lines
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Philip Tomasino
Eeli Tolvanen - Mikael Granlund - Matt Duchene
Yakov Trenin - Colton Sissons - Tanner Jeannot
Nick Cousins - Luke Kunin - Matt Luff
Roman Josi / Dante Fabbro
Mattias Ekholm / Alexandre Carrier
Mark Borowiecki / Jeremy Lauzon
Goalies: Juuse Saros, David Rittich
Scratches: Matthew Benning, Jeremy Davies, Ben Harpur
IR: Michael McCarron
—On Thursday, Predators captain Roman Josi set a franchise record for points in a single season; he passed Paul Kariya (85 points in 2005-06) by setting up three goals against the Senators to reach 87 on the season.
Forward Ryan Johansen on Josi, as per NHL.com:
“I think after the season, when we’re able to sit back and relax, it’s going to be amazing to look back at. As a teammate right now, I just see him doing his thing so consistently. Just dominating the puck, dominating the ice, making big-time plays every game.”
Advanced stats matchup
—Nashville is not one of the NHL’s best 5v5 team, but their power play is ranked sixth in the league at a 25% conversion rate.
—The Predators’ penalty kill, on the other hand, sits at No. 15 with a middling 79.9% kill rate.
And now for the Pens..
Saturday Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Evan Rodrigues - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Brian Boyle - Teddy Blueger - Danton Heinen
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Goalies: Casey DeSmith (Tristan Jarry started Saturday)
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Radim Zohorna, Anthony Angello
IR: Brock McGinn (week-to-week, upper body), Nathan Beaulieu (LTIR)
—As per ESPN’s Saturday broadcast: the Guentzel/Crosby/Rust line has scored 35% of the Penguins’ goals this season.
—DeSmith, who seems likely to take this second half of a back-to-back, last started on March 31 in Minnesota, where he stopped 28 of 31 Wild shots to hold on for a 4-3 overtime win.
Milestone and streak watch
- It finally happened: Evgeni Malkin registered assist No. 700 against the Capitals Saturday. He is the second-fastest active player (after Sidney Crosby) to reach the milestone.
- After scoring his 24th goal of the season Saturday, Bryan Rust needs just three more tallies to match his career-best 27-goal 2019-20 season.
- Speaking of career highs, Jake Guentzel, after notching his 71st point of the season Saturday, needs just five more points to match his career best (76 points in 2018-19.)
- Brian Boyle began this season uncertain if he would be playing in the NHL. On Saturday, he scored his 10th goal of the season, making this his first double-digit scoring campaign since 2018-19.