Who: Colorado Avalanche (6-0-0, 12 points, 1st place Central Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (2-4-0, 4 points, 8th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00pm eastern
How to Watch: Sportsnet Pittsburgh, Altitude, streaming on ESPN+
Pens’ Path Ahead: The Pens’ every-other-day rhythm continues for a bit longer with home games on Saturday (vs. Ottawa) and next Monday (vs. Anaheim) before Pittsburgh gears up for their first extended road trip of the season out to California later next week.
Opponent Track: Colorado joins Vegas and Boston as the only teams without any sort of loss so far in this young season. It hasn’t necessarily been easy; the Avs were losing 3-2 on Tuesday in their last game @Islanders (and then tied 4-4) before pulling away 7-4 and were tied 3-3 with Carolina fairly deep in the game before that. But they keep winning, and dating back to last season are on NHL record 15-game road winning streak, so there’s that.
Season Series: Pittsburgh and Colorado don’t lock up again until March 24th out in Denver for a matinee nationally televised game. Won’t it fun to see where both of these teams are at that point..
Last Year: The Pens went 2-0 last year against the Avs, taking a 2-1 OT game in February. In the most recent PIT/COL game on March 22nd, Pittsburgh won a 5-2 game in Denver that might be one of their most satisfying victories of the season. It also broke a four-game Pens’ losing streak. Could history repeat itself there?
Hidden Stat: Tonight’s game features the top-two teams in shots/game; Colorado is first with 37.5, Pittsburgh is second in the NHL with 35.
Hidden Stat II: Jeff Carter scored not one but two goals in the last Pens/Avs game in March. He only has 2G+1A in the 17 games since that point. With 16 goals in 34 career games, Colorado has been one of Carter’s more favorable opponents over the years.
Getting to know the Avalanche
Projected Game Lines (from Tuesday’s game)
Artturi Lehkonen - Nathan MacKinnon - Valeri Nichushkin
Tomas Tatar - Ryan Johansen - Mikko Rantanen
Miles Wood - Ross Colton - Jonathan Drouin
Andrew Cogliano - Frederik Olofsson - Logan O’Connor
Devon Toews / Cale Makar
Bowen Byram / Sam Girard
Jack Johnson / Josh Manson
Goalies: Alexandar Georgiev and Ivan Prosvetov
Possible scratches: Corey Schueneman, Kurtis MacDermid,
IR: Gabriel Landeskog, Pavel Francouz
—First reaction, as always, is holy shit Jack Johnson is still a regular member of an NHL team.
—Francouz remains injured with an undisclosed return, but so far that’s been no problem with Georgiev playing every minute so far, and as we’ll see below, playing the best hockey of his career.
—Landekog’s future is also murky at best — after knee troubles and surgery he’s not expected back this regular season, if at all. Adding that one more weapon and key leader would make this team that much more dangerous.
Whomst is hot:
Basically everyone - Colorado is rockin’ and rollin. Six players are point/game early in the year. In the last four games, 10 Avs have at least three points...Is it fair to say Mikko Rantanen is “under-rated”? He scored 55 goals and 105 points last season and doesn’t get the press of the absolute biggest names in the league, but he’s right back at the top this year...Cale Makar is back with a vengeance too, scoring 1G+2A in the last game...Former Pens free agent target Tomas Tatar has slotted into a scoring line and is scoring..Ryan Johansen has bounced back to start the year after being discarded from Nashville...And then you have the Nate Dogg as one of the game’s most dynamic and productive threats doing his thing. Pack a lunch when it’s time to play the Avs.
Alexandar Georgiev - Was named the NHL’s second star last week and has been sensational. Giving up four goals last game is probably his worst performance, but he’s been about flawless to start the year.
Whomst is not:
Jonathan Drouin - Signed off the scrap heap to get his career on track with his junior teammate MacKinnon, Drouin didn’t last long on a top line and still has a ways to go to build back up.
Miles Wood and Ross Colton - Acquired to bolster the depth down the lineup, the newcomers have a modest 1G+0A and 1G+1A so far. Sound familiar? No big deal when the big dogs are filling the net in their place, but in the early going Colorado was probably looking for a little more from the third line.
And now for the Pens...
Infographic courtesy of Pens PR
Projected Game Lines (from Wednesday’s practice)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Reilly Smith - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Drew O’Connor - Lars Eller - Radim Zohorna
Matt Nieto - Noel Acciari - Jeff Carter
Ryan Graves / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Erik Karlsson
Ryan Shea / Chad Ruhwedel / P.O Joseph
Goalies: Tristan Jarry and Magnus Hellberg
Expected scratches: One of Shea/Joseph/Ruhwedel, John Ludvig (concussion)
IR: Alex Nedeljkovic
Season opening IR: Raivis Ansons, Will Butcher
—Not much was different at Pens practice yesterday for the skaters. Ludvig was understandably not on the ice and officially announced as suffering a concussion after his collision on Tuesday night. The lower defenders all rotated but forward groups remained as they have been.
—Nedeljkovic left practice early, and Mike Sullivan said it was the result of an undisclosed injury suffered in the game against Dallas. Jarry was expected to start tonight anyways, but Nedeljkovic is now off to the IR and looking at 3+ weeks of seeing Hellberg as the backup NHL ‘keeper.
Sticking with it
Unlike much of the internet, the Penguins are staying balanced and looking forward to getting back to work as they iron out their season on the fly.
Karlsson: "I think we have to just stick with it. We know what group we have in here, we know the characters that we have... I think we all knew it was going to be a challenge, but at the same time I think it is a fun challenge." pic.twitter.com/ByDMB7CKMP— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 25, 2023
Matt Nieto also talked about getting out of adversity.
Nieto: “Everyone in this room has gone through stretches where things might not go as you want them to. Everyone in this room knows how to get out of it. We’ve had some discussions about it and we’re looking forward to a good challenge tomorrow."https://t.co/0GQwbwYBDX— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 25, 2023
Part of the data released by the NHL this week includes player tracking for speed. Would you believe Jake Guentzel stands out as one of the high-end forwards with bursts? Feels like some of his actual skills are over-looked or taken for granted a little bit. To the surprise of no one, MacKinnon is also near the top of the list. This kind of data is what you make it, there certainly are plenty of effective players (and veterans) down by the bottom who don’t have a ton of burst, but it is interesting to see visualized.
One of the tracked stats released by the NHL is how often a player exceeds 18 miles per hour for a sustained period of time.— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) October 25, 2023
Here are the 104 forwards with 17+ minutes played per night in 2022-23 ranked by that metric: pic.twitter.com/0f03Gvo8Cq
Sid a couple passes away from passing Recchi
Another game, and another milestone is in the sights for Sidney Crosby. After recording an assist against Dallas, Crosby is now one away from passing a former teammate to move into a tie for 15th place all-time in assists.
From Pens PR:
Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby enters tomorrow’s game one assist shy of cracking the top-15 on the NHL’s all-time assist list. Crosby (955A), who currently ranks 15th on the NHL’s all-time points list (1,508 PTS), is looking to tie former Penguin and Hall-of-Famer Mark Recchi, who accumulated 956 assists over his 22-year career:
NHL All-Time Assist List
Rank Player Assists
13 Joe Sakic 1,016
14 Doug Gilmour 964
15 Mark Recchi 956
16 Sidney Crosby 955
17 Al MacInnis 934
Crosby has been held without a point just once this season. He’s also recorded eight points (6G-2A) in his last seven games against the Avalanche dating back to Nov. 28, 2018.