Who: Pittsburgh Penguns (41-20-10, 92 points, 3rd place Metropolitan Division) @ New York Rangers (45-20-6, 96 points, 2nd place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: This is one of the four Penguin games of the season that is exclusive to streaming for American audiences. There are no TV broadcasts, you have to use the ESPN+ or Hulu platforms to watch this game.
Opponent Track: Since last seeing (and beating) the Penguins nine days ago, the Rangers are 2-1-1, which doesn’t sound too bad. However, it hasn’t been easy (one win came in OT, they were down 3-0 in the game that they ended up earning a point in) and all four games were against non-playoff bound teams. However, it is a result oriented business, and the recent results have been decent for the Rangers, including a 3-1 win over NJ in the last game played on Tuesday night.
Pens Path Ahead: The weekend brings a matinee home back-to-back with Washington and Nashville taking trips to the ‘Burgh for their respective Saturday and Sunday afternoon games. After that, Pittsburgh has a home-and-home with the Islanders, playing on the Island next Tuesday and then back at home to see NYI next Thursday. This hectic stretch finally wraps up with a trip to Boston for yet another weekend afternoon game on Sat. April 16th.
Hidden Stat: Jake Guentzel is 10th in the NHL with 42 points (21G+21A) coming on the road this season. Guentzel has at least a point in 29 of the 33 road contests he has played in this season (h/t Pens PR).
Season Series: Today is the fourth and final regular season game, with Pittsburgh carrying a 1-2-0 record and looking to force a split. The Pens won the first PIT/NYR game by a 1-0 score back on February 26th, but the Rangers took both subsequent meetings: a 5-1 smacking on March 25th and then a tighter 3-2 game on March 29th.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Blueshirt Banter
—Chris Kreider just can’t stop scoring goals and is up to 47 on the season after scoring 44 total goals, combined, in the previous two seasons. Kreider has 3G+2A against the Pens this year. Right now he’s got the Midas touch in the offensive zone.
Tuesday Game Lines
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Frank Vatrano
Artemi Panarin - Ryan Strome - Andrew Copp
Alexis Lafrienere - Filip Chytil - Barclay Goodrow
Tyler Motte - Johnny Brodzinski - Dryden Hunt
Ryan Lindgren / Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller / Jacob Trouba
Justin Braun /Braden Schneider
Goalies: Igor Shesterkin (Alexandar Georgiev backup)
Scratches: Ryan Reaves, Libor Hajek, Patrik Nemeth, Julien Gauthier, Greg McKegg
IR: Sammy Blais, Kaapo Kakko, Kevin Rooney
—If there is one positive or at least intriguing developing situation for the Pens, it could be with Shesterkin’s level of play. After giving up three goals to the Flyers on Sunday (a game NYR would come back and win), Shesterkin offered a terse “I don’t want to talk about my game”. Well, we do! After an unbelievably good start, the goalie has come back to Earth quite a bit (4-4-1 record with a .886 save% and 3.11 GAA in the last month).
It's uncanny how Shesterkin's season is shaping up to be a carbon copy of Lundqvist's 2012 Vezina/MVP-nom season... Flirting with historic numbers at the start of March, then suddenly becoming human again.— HockeyStatMiner (@HockeyStatMiner) April 4, 2022
Like Superman suddenly being introduced to Kryptonite. pic.twitter.com/iDdxGRo45z
If that decade-old parallel with the last franchise goalie holds, it wouldn’t be good news for the Pens. Lundqvist rebounded in 2012 to have a .931 save% in 20 playoff games and carry the Rangers to the third round of the playoffs on his back.
However, Shesterkin is 2-1-0 vs the Pens this season, posting a .944 save% and only allowing four total goals in the three games. Pittsburgh has only scored a total of just ONE goal against him while at 5v5 in the three games. Will he get his mojo back against a team he’s done well against? Or can the Pens sew further doubt about his recent course of play as the playoffs near? The suspense is terrible, I hope it lasts!
Advanced stats matchup
—The lack of finishing has been a sore spot for the Pens all season long, and surely was on display against the Avalanche in the last two games. Pittsburgh did just fine hanging with the NHL’s best team as far as pace or play and generating enough chances...But again they were stung by not finishing on enough of them. That’s been a huge storyline this season.
—And while NYR ranks terribly among the full season, it’s also important to note and recognize that the team they are now is a lot better than the team they were in the past. For instance, in the last 12 games, the Rangers have a 54.1% Corsi For%, a 51.4% xGF% and just 44.8 Corsi Events against/60, where only Carolina is better in this stretch. This is actually a team capable of playing pretty good defense and suppressing opponent opportunities — as the Pens have found out lately (44.8% CF%, 45.5% xGF% for Pittsburgh vs NYR in the last two meetings).
And now for the Pens..
Wednesday Practice 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
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith backup)
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Radim Zohorna, Anthony Angello
IR: Brock McGinn (week-to-week, upper body), Nathan Beaulieu (LTIR)
—Welcome back already, Jason Zucker??? Zucker practiced in full gear and a normal contact jersey yesterday and took line rushes. Mike Sullivan has been very coy and unclear about Zucker’s actual status, but from on the ice the player has been ramping up participation lately. It looks like Zucker is trending towards playing tonight, given yesterday’s practice, including working with the second power play group.
—He’s been sick recently, but something odd is happening with Danton Heinen’s ice time as of late. After averaging 13:53 per game from Jan 1 - March 26th, Heinen has only played 4:58, 6:04 and 6:57 in his last three games. Effects of illness? Falling out of favor? Something is going on here, but when and if the Pens ever regain some health, it could be Heinen that is trending towards being a healthy scratch as his role diminishes. Heinen is still a level above the Angello/Zohorna unestablished players, but from the lineup above, subbing in Brock McGinn for Heinen is starting to look like the Pens’ preferred lineup, if there is health.
—Speaking of McGinn, he is also making progress. He had his first team practice in a non-contact jersey yesterday as his rehab ramps up. His progress has been more the slow and steady recovery that is normally seen.
—The defensive pairings have been moved in practice yesterday back to the familiar settings that were used for much of the season, and where the Pens played most of their best hockey.
He said it:
Jeff Carter on tomorrow's game vs NYR: "I think we'll be ready to go for tomorrow. Look for a better effort and a better result." #Pens— Wes Crosby (@OtherNHLCrosby) April 6, 2022
Milestone and streak watch
- Sidney Crosby is three points away from No. 1,400 in his career. Crosby is one point behind Jari Kurri for 22nd place in the NHL’s all-time scoring list.
- Crosby has 98 career points against the Rangers. He is currently the only active player in the NHL with 100+ points against a franchise, of which he actually has two (New York Islanders, 123; Philadelphia, 119) and is looking to put NYR on as the third here soon..
- At 699 career assists, Malkin is looking to join the 700 helper club with his next assist. He will become the sixth active NHL player to reach the milestone, and the second fastest active player to do so (behind Sidney Crosby).
- Bryan Rust set a new single-season high (57) with his goal on Tuesday against Colorado.
- Jeff Carter notched career point No. 800 against Colorado.
- Evgeni Malkin and Jaromir Jagr are tied for most in Penguin franchise history in game winning goals (78). Crosby is on their heels with 76.
- Jake Guentzel has cracked the 70-point plateau for the second season in his career (76 points in 2018-19). Guentzel also has established a career-high in assists for a season (37).
- Guentzel is on an active three-game point streak (2G+3A).
- Mike Matheson has set a career-high for goals (11) and points (28) in a season. Matheson has goals in two straight games.