Who: Nashville Predators (37-28-8, 82 points, 5th place Central Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (36-28-10, 82 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh for the home market, Bally Sports South for the visitors, ESPN+
Opponent Track: This is the second game of a two-game Eastern swing for Nashville, who handed the Bruins a rare defeat in Boston on Tuesday. Overall, the Preds are 3-4-1 in the last two weeks. After selling at the deadline, they were slumping out of the playoff picture and need get their act together quickly to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. That might be in process of happening, Juuse Saros has been giving them a chance all year and was sterling in Boston stopping 35/36 shots and was two seconds away from a shutout before a late goal ruined it.
Pens Path Ahead: The Pens stay at home this weekend for two matinee-ish games (3pm vs. Boston on Saturday, 6pm vs. Philadelphia on Sunday). Then Pittsburgh goes to New Jersey next Tuesday before returning home a week from tonight to play the Red Wings again.
Season Series: Pittsburgh is looking for the season sweep of Nashville, having pulled out a 3-1 win in Smashville on February 28th (the last game that Teddy Blueger and Brock McGinn would play for the Pens). McGinn chipped in an assist to spring Sidney Crosby for a breakaway goal, then Jason Zucker scored late in the third to break a 1-1 tie. Bryan Rust tacked on an empty netter in the closing seconds and Tristan Jarry stopped 24/25 shots in the win.
Hidden Stat: Across the NHL, only Chicago has scored less goals per game since the trade deadline than Nashville (2.29). Then again, Detroit was only scoring 2.0 goals/game in the same stretch and scored seven on the Pens on Tuesday, so you be the judge.
Getting to know the Predators
SBN partner blog: On the Forecheck
Potential Game Lines
Egor Afanasyev - Cody Glass - Philip Tomasino
Kiefer Sherwood - Thomas Novak - Luke Evangelista
Yakov Trenin - Colton Sissons - Cole Smith
Rasmus Asplund - Mark Jankowski - Michael McCarron
Ryan McDonagh / Dante Fabbro
Jeremy Lauzon / Tyson Barrie
Kevin Gravel / Cal Foote
Goalies: Juuse Saros (Kevin Lankinen)
Scratches: Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Roman Josi, Juuso Parssinen, Alexandre Carrier
IR: Filip Forsberg, Mark Borowiecki
—If you haven’t heard of a lot of these guys, you can’t be blamed with so many injuries. Josi has been out for the last six games, but is technically day-to-day. Duchene is now week-to-week after suffering a hand injury recently. Johansen is lost for the season. There’s some hope Forsberg could be back before the end of the season.
—Afanasyev, 22, might be one to keep an eye on after a recent promotion. His linemate Cody Glass factored into both goals the Preds scored on Tuesday.
—Nashville shifted gears at the deadline, trading all of Tanner Jeannot, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Mattias Ekholm away, mostly for future draft picks (aside from bringing back Tyson Barrie to even up salaries). These moves have or will make the future now for youngsters like Luke Evangelista and Philip Tomasino, whose path to key roles are no longer blocked by veterans.
—Novak, 25, has been a revelation. The former third round pick of the Preds has slowly been gaining traction over the years in the farm system, got 26 NHL games last season (scoring only one goal) but has taken advantage of a bigger than expected role to make his mark.
—It’s starting to hurt a little to see Tomasino make his way, when you consider he was selected three picks after Sam Poulin in 2019. For all the attention that trades and free agency garners among managerial mis-steps, the Pens haven’t made the most optimal of draft picks lately either. Imagine Tomasino in this bottom-six right now in Pittsburgh. It would be a very welcome addition of youth and skill.
Can I get an amen? Speaking of youngsters, rookie Luke Evangelista made perhaps the best non-goalie save of the year on Tuesday night against the Bruins.
Luke Evangelista (@levang22) with a sensational save!— NHL (@NHL) March 28, 2023
Yes, you read that correctly. pic.twitter.com/56QdoUAe4O
Evangelista made his NHL debut in the first PIT/NSH meeting of the season a few weeks ago and has been a lineup mainstay since. He didn’t score that night, but the 21-year old has 5G+4A and this one big stop in a short but promising looking NHL career so far.
And now for the Pens...
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Danton Heinen - Ryan Poehling - Mikael Granlund
Drew O’Connor - Jeff Carter - Josh Archibald
P.O. Joseph / Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin / Jeff Petry
Mark Friedman / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Casey DeSmith or Tristan Jarry
Scratches: Alex Nylander, Jan Rutta (injured)
IR: Dmitry Kulikov (week-to-week, lower-body injury), Nick Bonino (week-to-week, lacerated kidney), Marcus Pettersson (lower body)
—The Pens were off yesterday, which considering their age is probably a good thing.
—If Jarry doesn’t play tonight, you have to assume he is not in a good health form, no? DeSmith punted the game away in the third period. Jarry reportedly hurt his back a week ago during/after the Colorado game. The goalie situation right now is just uncertain or worse.
—The Islanders and Panthers both won last night, turning up the temperature for the Penguins now. They didn’t have much of a cushion anyways but now really need to get a result against a non-playoff team while they’re at home if they want to hold their ground.