Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (5-6-0, 10 points, 8th place Metropolitan Division) @ Los Angeles Kings (8-2-2, 18 points, 3rd place Pacific Division)
When: 10:30 p.m. ET
How to Watch: SportsNet Pittsburgh for the visitors, Bally Sports West, streaming on ESPN+
Pens’ Path Ahead: It’s a quick trip back home for the Pens, who meet the Sabres on Saturday night in Pittsburgh with little turnaround time after being on the West coast this week. Then they’re back on the road next week to Columbus on Tuesday before returning to PPG Paints Arena to meet the Devils one week from tonight as their schedule heats up for the rest of the month.
Opponent Track: The Kings were in action last night in Las Vegas, winning 4-1 over the first place Golden Knights, so they’ll be on short rest. Overall, the Kings are clicking along nicely at 6-0-1 in their last seven games.
Season Series: These teams won’t meet again until February 18th in the ‘Burgh.
Last Year: It was a tale of two blowouts last year between PIT/LA. The Pens took a 6-1 win in Pittsburgh, but then got throttled 6-0 for the game in LA.
Hidden Stat: Speaking of, per Pens PR, the Pens are looking for their first win in Los Angeles in nearly six years (Jan. 18, 2018)....The Kings have been one of the tougher recent opponents for the Pens, LA holds a 5-1-1 record from their perspective in the last seven meetings.
Getting to know the Kings
Projected Game Lines
Quinton Byfield - Anze Kopitar - Adrian Kempe
Kevin Fiala - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Alex Laferriere
Trevor Moore - Philip Danault - Arthur Kaliyev
Carl Grundstrom - Blake Lizzote - Trevor Lewis
Mikey Anderson / Drew Doughty
Vladislav Gavrikov / Matt Roy
Andrea Englund / Jordan Spence
Goalies: Cam Talbot, Pheonix Copley
Possible scratches: Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Tobias Bjornfot
IR: Viktor Arvidsson
—About the only negative is Arvidsson going through a second back surgery in as many years, leaving his season and possibly playing future in doubt. So far Kaliyev has filled in on Arvidsson’s normal line.
—If you’re like me you might have done a double or triple take on “Alex Laferriere” having a similar sounding to name of the first overall pick of the Rangers. This forward, Laferriere, is a third round pick in 2020 and recently turned pro after two years at Harvard. Ahh, young mid-round picks getting NHL ready in a hurry, those were the days. (The Kings also have a promising prospect from the 2021 draft in Jack Hughes — who isn’t THAT Jack Hughes of the Devils. All they need now is to get goalie Matthew Murray from the Stars and they’ll have all the name doppelgangers).
—Byfield, who was the No. 2 overall pick behind the previously mentioned Alexis Lafreniere (not to be confused with Alex Laferriere), looks like he’s finally having a glow up season with 10 points in 11 games and a key spot in the NHL lineup after a somewhat rocky start to his career.
—Between trading for and extending Dubois and Fiala, the Kings have done a masterful job at turning cap space and future assets into prime-aged, top tier talent. Add in Danault, Gavrikov and Talbot and LA has done really well at acquiring quality pieces to boost their team. Star player-turned-managers can have go a lot of different ways, but credit to Rob Blake and company for a patient approach that has also progressed unto a very nice rebuild since 2017 to place the Kings as one of the better clubs on paper in the league.
Not another hot goalie!
We regret to inform you that tonight’s opponent does in fact feature another goalie giving top-flight performances lately.
We’ll see if Talbot goes tonight or not after playing last night in Vegas, and being busy making 37 saves in the win. The Kings have had a favorable schedule lately, which has led coach Todd McLellan to float the idea he could be playing a lot in the near future:
“Not a real taxing day for us here today, especially in Talbs’ case. We know that we’re going home for a few days of rest, we know we’ve got a 3-in-4 coming up and then another chunk of rest. With that being said, yeah we can ride him maybe more than we will in January when it’s really jammed up.”
Today is the middle of that three-in-four McLellan spoke of, LA plays Philadelphia on Saturday. Typically playing goalies back-to-back doesn’t go well statistically, but as we’ll see below in the stats section, the Kings might feel the need to load up on Talbot..
(via hockeydb, does not include last night’s game)
—It’s been a team effort so far, with just about all of the Kings off to really nice starts individually and as a group. The top players and doing their part and they are deep with options down the line of players that are showing the ability to pitch in.
—For a good as Talbot has been this year, backup Pheonix Copley has been that bad (albeit only in 133 minutes so far). The decision will be up for how McLellan wants to answer it, but the somewhat rare occurrence of playing a goalie two days in a row might be the choice.
And now for the Pens...
Infographic courtesy of Pens PR
Projected Game Lines (from yesterday’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 - Vinnie Hinostroza
Ryan Graves / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Erik Karlsson
Ryan Shea / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Magnus Hellberg and Tristan Jarry?
Expected scratches: Jeff Carter, P.O. Joseph, John Ludvig (concussion)
IR: Alex Nedeljkovic
Season opening IR: Raivis Ansons, Will Butcher
—Jarry was missing from practice yesterday and is officially “day to day”, per coach Mike Sullivan. The Penguins will need to recall a goalie from Wilkes if Jarry is ruled out for tonight, which would be one of Joel Blomqvist or Taylor Gauthier as current healthy options available (Garret Sparks is in the organization on an AHL contract, and also injured). All signals point to Magnus Hellberg getting his first start with Pittsburgh today, which will be just the 17th start of the 32-year-old’s NHL career.
Mike Sullivan said the question of whether they’ll call up another goalie is a question for Kyle Dubas.— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) November 8, 2023
“It all depends on what we get back today from some of the test results and things like that. If he ends up inevitably getting ruled out, then I imagine we would.”
Patience is key
Mike Sullivan was happy with the performance in Anaheim away from the puck last game.
Coach Sullivan on tonight's performance: "I was happy with our patience. We didn't open it up. We just took what the game gave us and if plays weren't there to be made, then we got pucks deep and we stayed above the puck." pic.twitter.com/1Ddz7DNpCP— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 8, 2023
As illustrated by Jack Han, the Pens are starting to sit back more and clog the neutral zone in a more “measured” way, which is an apt description.
Last wk I wrote about how PIT's aggressive NZ forecheck doesnt suit their personnel anymore.— Jack Han (@JhanHky) November 8, 2023
Tonight, a more measured NZ FC from PIT, with four skaters above the puck in the NZ. This'll work! pic.twitter.com/lrJoa7VUPn
Neutral zone play is so vital, it’s important that the Pens stay sharp and play conscientiously against a top opponent. A similar strategy worked against Colorado earlier in the year and if the team can execute it could give them more momentum as they get their season sorted out.
The Pens have been comfortable on the road (3-2-0 record this season). From Pens PR:
The Penguins enter tomorrow’s game having outscored their opponents by a 12-2 margin on their current road trip, and the team ranks in the top-10 in the NHL in multiple categories overall:
Category NHL Rank
Goals Per Game (4.20) 2nd
Goals Against Per Game (2.40) 7th
Power Play Percent (28.6) 8th
Shots Per Game (34.4) 5th
Shots Against Per Game (25.4) 1st
Faceoff Percent (54.2) 6th
A lot of those numbers are obviously boosted by the 10-2 beat-down placed on the Sharks; but from the power play to limiting shots against and taking care of business in the faceoff circle, Pittsburgh has been one of the league’s better away teams so far this season. They’ll be looking to build on that and get a result in what has been a difficult venue for them in recent years and complete a successful three-game road trip.