Who: Vegas Golden Knights (13-3-2, 26 points, 1st place Pacific Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (8-8-0, 16 points, 7th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 6:00 pm start
How to Watch: SportsNet Pittsburgh locally, Scripps out west and on the NHL Network in the out-of-market footprints
Pens’ Path Ahead: Today ends a lot of hockey for the Pens (four games in six days) but there’s not much rest ahead. They get two days off before starting a three-in-four on Wedneday against the Rangers and then get a game at Buffalo Friday before returning home to meet Toronto next Saturday.
Opponent Track: Following an electric 11-0-1 start, Vegas has come down to Earth with a 2-3-1 record in the last two weeks. Today is their fourth game of a five game road trip that they are 1-1-1 on. The overtime loss was yesterday in Philadelphia in a matinee game.
Season Series: The Pens make their trip out to the desert on January 20th to complete the two-game season series.
Last Year: The teams each won their home games against one another in 2022-23, Pittsburgh took a 4-3 regulation win in the ‘Burgh in December but Vegas returned the favor with a 5-2 victory of their own in January.
Getting to know the Golden Knights
Lines from yesterday’s game
Ivan Barbashev - Jack Eichel - Jonathan Marchessault
Brett Howden - Chandler Stephenson - Mark Stone
Paul Cotter - William Karlsson - Mike Amadio
William Carrier - Nic Roy - Keegan Kolesar
Brayden McNabb / Shea Theodore
Alec Martinez / Alex Pietrangelo
Ben Hutton / Zach Whitecloud
Goalies: Adin Hill and Logan Thompson
Possible scratches: Jonas Rondbjerg, Pavel Dorofeyev, Brayden Pachal
IR: Nic Hague, Robin Lehner
—Stephenson returned to the lineup yesterday after a five game absence due to injury.
—Backup Logan Thompson played yesterday, no official word on who is starting today but the path looks clear for Adin Hill to get back in the crease for this game.
—Vegas’ championship bonafides have been on display in the early going this year with thir five leading scorers all getting off to great starts and showing why they hoisted the Cup last June.
—The Knights had to make Reilly Smith a salary dump in order to keep Barbashev, who they ended up giving a contract extension in the $5 million range that Smith was occupying. That was probably done mostly for age (Barbashev is 4+ years younger) and Barbashev’s impressive playoff run, but will be a minor little storyline to see if it turns out being a good short and long-term decision about which one to keep.
Eye on the defense
Found this observation from Vegas beat writer Jesse Granger to be illuminating about the form that Vegas is in these days:
Under Cassidy there have been a lot of games where Hill & Thompson finish with excellent numbers but you say to yourself, "they were Ok tonight."— Jesse Granger (@JesseGranger_) November 18, 2023
The system is goalie-friendly, and the defense often makes things easier on them.
The opposite has been true on this trip. Hill &…
Both teams are on a back-to-back, neither are probably that happy with recent defensive efforts. Could that make for a bit of a wide open game with chances? It’s never easy to defeat the defending champs, but they’ve been on the road for a while and aren’t quite in their top form at the moment. It’ll be up to the Pens to dig deep and take advantage of it, but if there’s ever a good time to catch the Golden Knights, this might be it.
And now for the Pens...
Infographic courtesy of Pens PR
Projected Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Reilly Smith - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Drew O’Connor - Lars Eller - Radim Zohorna
Matt Nieto - Noel Acciari - Vinnie Hinostroza?
Ryan Graves / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Erik Karlsson
Ryan Shea / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry, Magnus Hellberg and Alex Nedeljkovic?
Expected scratches: Jeff Carter
IR: Alex Nedeljkovic, John Ludvig (concussion), P.O. Joseph
Season opening IR: Will Butcher
—The Pens are a little dinged up, Jansen Harkins was a short-term call-up yesterday but sent back to the AHL before the game. That move suggests a player or two up front isn’t 100%, Nieto and Carter have been known to be dealing with minor issues. To make matters worse, they didn’t get through last night unscatched, Hinostroza left the game with injury after crashing into the boards.
—Nedeljkovic is eligible to return from LTIR and played well in a conditioning stint with Wilkes on Friday. He scored a goal on an empty net! But also earned the win giving up two goals on 19 shots. Jarry has been ridden hard playing every game since returning from injury, but on the back-to-back could probably stand a night off at some point soon.
Crosby, Pens looking for that little bit extra
Pretty fair summation from the captain after last night’s loss to Carolina:
Sidney Crosby: "We got to find a way to have our power play maybe be a bit more of a difference and maybe get another one on one of those chances. But it was a pretty close hockey game either way.”— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) November 19, 2023
The Pens will try to find that chance to get a little bit of a difference between winning and losing tonight against a quality opponent.