Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1-0, 2 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division) @ Calgary Flames (1-0-0, 2 points, 3rd place Pacific Division)
When: 7 p.m. ET
How to Watch: SN-PIT, SNW
Pens’ Path Ahead: The Penguins have a three-day break before hitting the road for a battle with the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday, then two more days off before heading to St. Louis to face the Blues next Saturday.
Opponent Track: The Flames opened their season with a 5-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets Wednesday. With just six minutes left in regulation, the Jets tied things up at 3-3, but Elias Lindholm scored on a behind-the-net feed from Andrew Mangiapane (two goals) to put the Flames ahead in the final minutes. Saturday marks the first outing of a five-game road trip for the Calgary team, so they’ll be rested and looking to pick up points against a Pens team on the wrong half of a back-to-back.
Season Series: The Pens won’t see this team again until March 2.
Last Year: The Pens first faced the Flames last season in the middle of their early-season seven-game winless skid. Nazem Kadri scored twice, and the Penguins’ only goal was a power-play strike by Evgeni Malkin in a 4-1 loss. Things went better in November, although it wasn’t exactly a dominant victory. The Pens were unable to hold onto an early one-goal lead and the game went to a shootout, where Tristan Jarry stoned Mikael Backlund before Malkin finished things off for a 2-1 win.
Hidden Stat: Tristan Jarry, who played against the Capitals Friday, might not be getting the start tonight. If he doesn’t, he will preserve his streak of zero regulation losses against the Flames. The netminder has a career record of 4-0-2 with a .951 SV% and 1.59 GAA in six games against Calgary.
Getting to know the Flames
Projected Game Lines (from Friday’s skate, per CalgaryFlames.com)
Jonathan Huberdeau - Elias Lindholm - Andrew Mangiapane
Adam Ruzicka - Nazem Kadri - Matt Coronato
Dillon Dube - Mikael Backlund - Blake Coleman
A.J. Greer - Yegor Sharangovich - Walker Duehr
Noah Hanifin - Rasmus Andersson
Nikita Zadorov - MacKenzie Weegar
Dennis Gilbert - Chris Tanev
Goalies: Jacob Markstrom, Dan Vladar
Possible scratches: Dryden Hunt, Jordan Oesterle
IR: Kevin Rooney, Oliver Kylington (LTIR), Jakob Pelletier (season-opening IR)
A bounce-back campaign for Jacob Markstrom?
In his third season with the Flames, Markstrom led the NHL in one of the most excruciating goaltending stats: overtime losses. If you thought Jarry’s seven OTLs were painful, take a look at Markstrom, who struggled with similarly inconsistent performances and racked up 12 losses in extra time. He finished the season with a .892 SV%, the lowest of his career as an NHL starter.
The season prior, his .922 SV% and nine shutouts helped earn him a second-place finish in Vezina Trophy voting.
Flames fans hoping for a return to Vezina calibre for their starting goaltender received hope Wednesday when Markstrom earned first-star honors by turning aside 34 shots, including 14 on power plays, in the 5-3 season-opening win. More important than the stats, he looked solid for sixty minutes and helped the Flames hold back a late surge from the Jets.
That’s a great sign for the Flames— and could be bad news for a Pens team still figuring out their line combinations and power play.
Jacob Markstrom with a fantastic save pic.twitter.com/o9f3oCrK9Q— Hockey Realm (@hockey_realm) October 12, 2023
Flames scorers to watch out for
Andrew Mangiapane’s two-goal season start makes him an easy pick, but there are a few other notable Flames forwards with lots to score for this season.
Jonathan Huberdeau’s overwhelming first season in Calgary— after leading the league in assists on his way to 115 points for Florida Panthers the campaign prior, he was held to just 55 points last season— has the former Panthers star looking for redemption this year. He already recorded two assists in the season opener and will be shooting for his first goal of the season Saturday.
Lindholm, who scored the go-ahead goal during the Flames’ season-opening win, is in a contract year. Whether he signs an extension in Calgary or hits the open market, he has plenty of motivation to return to the 40-goal plateau he reached in 2021-22.
20-year-old Matt Coronato earned a spot on the starting roster after leading the Flames with four goals and seven points in the preseason. He’ll be fighting to keep that place in the Calgary top six— and that will involve a demonstration of the former Harvard star’s sharpshooting skills.
And now for the Pens...
Projected Game Lines (from Friday’s game)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Reilly Smith - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Drew O’Connor - Lars Eller - Jansen Harkins
Matt Nieto - Noel Acciari - Jeff Carter
Ryan Graves - Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson - Erik Karlsson
P.O. Joseph - Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Alex Nedeljkovic (Tristan Jarry started yesterday)
Expected scratches: Ryan Shea, John Ludvig
Season opening IR: Raivis Ansons, Will Butcher
Alex Nedeljkovic set for Penguins debut
After Tristan Jarry started against the Capitals last night, Alex Nedeljkovic is “likely” to make his Pens debut tonight, per Pens Inside Scoop.
Nedeljkovic spent just 15 games in the NHL last season, spending more time with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. The Penguins, who have learned over the past few postseasons that a backup goaltender— or lack thereof— can make or break a season, are likely hoping for a larger role for Nedeljkovic.
If Jarry rests, tonight will mark the first test of whether Nedeljkovic can fill that role.