Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (22-15-6, 50 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division) @ Ottawa Senators (19-21-3, 41 points, 7th place Atlantic Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh in the Western PA viewing market, Sportsnet and TVAs up in Canada, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Some dummy (me) picked Ottawa to make the playoffs this year, and that’s not going to happen. The Senators return home tonight after a three-game western swing where they defeated Arizona but then lost to Colorado (7-0, ouch) and to St. Louis on Monday night. Overall the Sens are just 1-4-0 in their last five contests and have been shutout twice in this recent span. They’ve also given up eight goals to Seattle in this stretch, in addition to the seven that the Avs put up on them.
Pens Path Ahead: The Pens and Sens will meet up again in Pittsburgh on Friday. Then the Penguins fly east to New Jersey on Sunday before coming back to Pittsburgh to host Florida next Tuesday. Then it’s back to to the road to meet the Capitals down in DC next Thursday, January 26th. Lots of back-and-forth with home then away then back home going on for the Pens.
Season Series: This is the first PIT/OTT game of the season, quickly followed by the second game in two days time on Friday. After that, the Senators return to Pittsburgh on Monday March 20th to close things out between the two.
Getting to know the Senators
SBN partner blog: Silver Seven Sens
Monday’s Game Lines
Brady Tkachuk - Tim Stutzle - Drake Batherson
Alex DeBrincat - Shane Pinto - Claude Giroux
Parker Kelly - Dylan Gambrell - Jake Lucchini*
Derick Brassard - Mark Kastelic - Austin Watson
Thomas Chabot / Jacob Bernard-Docker
Jake Sanderson / Travis Hamonic
Erik Brannstrom / Nick Holden
Goalies: Cam Talbot or Anton Forsberg
Scratches: Artem Zub
IR: Josh Norris*, Mathieu Joseph, Nikita Zadorov, Rourke Chartier, Tyler Motte
—All signs are pointing to the lines above changing, and it’s a very happy change for Ottawa. Josh Norris has been out since October 22nd. rehabbing his shoulder but is expected to return tonight against the Penguins.
—If one of those names looks slightly familiar, Jake Lucchini is an undrafted player the Penguins signed out of college in 2019, who played for parts of two seasons in Wilkes-Barre before moving onto Montreal and later Ottawa. At 27, he’s a great profile in perseverance, having only recently made it to play the NHL and got a great moment recently with his first career goal as well. Lucchini was placed on waivers yesterday to clear space for Norris, so it’s possible/probable he won’t be in the NHL for much longer this time around.
—Dude, Rourke Chartier. What a name. Can’t say I’ve remembering hearing that one before, but glad to know now.
—The goalie work has been split and are very similar with save%, records, shutouts, but it’s a bit odd that Cam Talbot has a GAA to give up almost half a goal less per game than Anton Forsberg.
—The return of Josh Norris from shoulder surgery could drastically help one of Ottawa’s biggest problem that we’re about to talk about below: putting the puck in the net. Norris scored 35 goals in a breakout season last year, having him disappear from them for virtually the whole first half of the season left a huge hole, that as it turns out, the Senators couldn’t fill.
—Check out the ages of the top seven or eight scorers on the team. Besides Claude Giroux it is still very young, very fresh and probably needs a little more time to grow together. They’re in an interesting place for it with several fellow Atlantic Division teams currently working on very long and very painful rebuilding processes (Buffalo, Detroit, even Montreal to a degree). These multi-year (and in Buffalo’s case: multi-decade) builds can take a lot of time to get the right pieces in place. It’ll be interesting to see which of them get to the next steps the quickest.
—But, otherwise, this team has some more building to do. Their top five forwards score a ton. But the third and fourth lines are basically “just guys on the team” taking up space and produce next to zero offense with the stat lines that some of those players have (Gambrell, Kastelic, Watson, Kelly). Sound like any other teams you know?
—These teams profile fairly similarly, with the Pens usually being slightly better than Ottawa (makes sense given records) and that probably should be a scary thought for Pittsburgh to look a lot like one of the lower-end teams in the league.
—Ottawa is a good process team with their shot-based attack, but can’t score to save their lives. Their 6.4% shooting rate at 5v5 is the lowest in the NHL currently. That’s a tough concept to grasp why they are so poor, especially for a team that doesn’t lack some high-end talented offensive players.
—Was surprised the Top Down model gives the Ottawa goaltending a fairly decent ranking. The Sens are 28th in the NHL with a .906 save% at 5v5, and that’s just not going to cut it. But then, for whatever reason, the Sens’ goalies are the third best in the league with a .887 save% while shorthanded. Goaltending rarely makes sense, but their situation is a tough one to get a handle on why the Sens are the way that they are.
And now for the Pens...
Potential Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Drew O’Connor - Teddy Blueger - Jeff Carter
Brock McGinn - Jonathan Gruden - Kasperi Kapanen
Brian Dumoulin / Ty Smith
Marcus Pettersson / Mark Friedman
P.O. Joseph / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Casey DeSmith (Dustin Tokarski)
Scratches: Taylor Fedun, Danton Heinen, Jan Rutta
IR: Jeff Petry (upper body, LTIR), Josh Archibald, Tristan Jarry, Ryan Poehling, Kris Letang
—It was great to see Letang back with the team yesterday after dealing with his personal matter at home in Montreal lately. Letang was moved from non-roster list to IR, as a result of his minor injury suffered prior to departing from the team. He was in a no-contact jersey and still is going to need some time but it’s good to see him in the process of gearing back up to move on with his professional life during a tough time personally after losing his father.
—Jeff Petry was also at practice again yesterday, and now in a full contact jersey. That’s great to see him getting closer and taking steps seemingly every day. Shouldn’t be too long yet before he will be back, which will require some other roster decisions to become cap compliant (possibly starting/stopping with moving Poehling and/or Archibald onto LTIR. Then again, with the note directly below, that could only be temporary moves..).
—Petry, Poehling, Archibald and Tristan Jarry are all traveling with the team to Ottawa. Good sign for all involved, even if none are expected to play. Jan Rutta is said to have a day-to-day injury, but did not practice yesterday and is not with the team, so make of that what you will. Definitely not on the quicker end of the day-to-day at this point.