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Game Preview: Winnipeg Jets @ Pittsburgh Penguins 2/6/2024 - Lines, how to watch

Penguins hockey is back!

NHL: JAN 13 Jets at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who: Winnipeg Jets (30-12-5, 65 points, 3rd place Central Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (22-17-7, 51 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division)

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Sportsnet Pittsburgh, TSN3

Pens’ Path Ahead: The Penguins are off for a two-day break before they take the road for a back-to-back set against the Minnesota Wild and the Jets, again, on Friday and Saturday. Expect a compressed schedule over the coming weeks. After the Wild/Jets weekend, the Penguins have another back-to-back against the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks up next.

Opponent Track: The Jets claimed eight straight wins to start out January. Then first-line center Mark Scheifele got injured, and Winnipeg lost three straight heading into the All-Star Break. Now, Scheifele is set to make his return alongside the debut of new trade acquisition Sean Monahan as the Jets look to get back into the win column.

Season Series: This season series concludes at the tail end of the back-to-back road set this weekend.

Hidden Stat: The Jets are 12-3-0 when scoring first at home this season. (In comparison, the Penguins are 7-5-1 when scoring first on the road.)

Trivia Question: Tonight Jake Guentzel is set to become the 20th skater in Penguins history to play 500 games with the team. How many of the other 19 can you name?

Getting to know the Jets

Projected lines

FORWARDS

Kyle Connor - Mark Scheifele - Gabriel Vilardi

Nikolaj Ehlers - Sean Monahan - Cole Perfetti

Nino Niederreiter - Adam Lowry - Mason Appleton

Morgan Barron - Vladimir Namestnikov - Alex Iafallo

DEFENSEMEN

Josh Morrissey - Dylan DeMelo

Brenden Dillon - Neal Pionk

Dylan Samberg - Nate Schmidt

Goalies: Connor Hellebuyck, Laurent Brossoit

Possible scratches: Rasmus Kupari, Dominic Toninato, Axel Jonsson-Fjällby, Logan Stanley

IR: David Gustafsson

  • Sean Monahan, who was traded from the Montreal Canadiens to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, is set to make his Jets debut tonight against the Penguins. He also played his final game for the Canadiens against Pittsburgh, where he recorded an assist in the Pens’ 3-2 overtime win on Jan. 27.
  • Scheifele will be activated from the injured reserve and is expected to play tonight. He last skated for the Jets on Jan. 11, when he suffered a lower-body injury against the Blackhawks. Despite missing three games he still leads the Jets with 41 points.

Player stats

(via hockeydb)

  • Connor Hellebuyck has taken the majority of the Jets’ starts so far this season and is a likely choice for the starting netminder tonight following the extended break. He has been stellar through 35 starts, holding a .924 save percentage that would, through a full season, tie his career high.

What to expect during Monahan’s Jets debut

Expect to see Monahan get heavy use down in front of the net on the Jets’ power play tonight. Monahan has recorded 16 of his 35 points this season (six goals, 10 assists) on the Canadiens power play and will be a boost for a Jets’ man-advantage clicking along at just a 15.7 percent conversion rate so far this season.

The biggest concern for the Jets will be Monahan’s defensive impact. The Canadiens saw an expected 3.26 goals-against average with Monahan on the ice at 5v5 this season, compared to a 2.68 expected goals for average, per Natural Stat Trick.

Back to the win column

The Jets went on a 38-point run with an 18-2-2 record between Dec. 2 and Jan. 20.

Then came a string of three Scheifele-less losses and the ensuing slide out of first place in the Central. But the Jets have 65 points and are within striking distance of the division leaders. The Colorado Avalanche have 67 points, the Dallas Stars 66, and the Jets have two games in hand on both.

This is a franchise that believes it can contend for a Stanley Cup this year, if their decision to deal a 2024 first-round pick for Monahan is any indication, so motivation to get back into first place with a win tonight is as high as it will ever be.

And now for the Penguins

Projected lines (from Monday’s practice)

FORWARDS

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust

Reilly Smith - Evgeni Malkin - Drew O’Connor

Rickard Rakell - Lars Eller - Jesse Puljujarvi

Jansen Harkins - Noel Acciari - Jeff Carter

DEFENSEMEN

Marcus Pettersson / Kris Letang

Ryan Graves / Erik Karlsson

P.O. Joseph / Chad Ruhwedel

Goalies: Tristan Jarry, Alex Nedeljkovic

Potential Scratch: Colin White

IR: Matt Nieto (out from knee surgery until March), John Ludvig (upper body injury)

  • Ludvig and Smith are both back at practice in full capacity. Smith has said he plans to return, while John Ludvig might need a little more time, per DK Pittsburgh Sports’ Taylor Haase. Hopefully the extended break will provide a reset for Smith, who even before suffering an injury to his left arm during a loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 11 was slumping. He last scored on Dec. 18, and that was just his second goal in over a month.
  • Jesse Puljujarvi also joined the Penguins for practice starting on Sunday. He’s coming out of a conditioning stint with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, where he recorded nine points (four goals, five assists) in 13 games.
  • Mike Sullivan says all three of Ludvig, Smith and Puljujarvi will be game-time decisions tonight.
  • Puljujarvi will be wearing No. 18 and using Jason Zucker’s old locker beside Bryan Rust, for those wondering.
  • Major power play changes at Monday’s practice, including splitting up Crosby and Malkin, per Pens Inside Scoop.

PP1: Kris Letang, Jake Guentzel, Reilly Smith, Bryan Rust, Sidney Crosby

PP2: Erik Karlsson, Evgeni Malkin, Rickard Rakell, Lars Eller, Jeff Carter

  • The biggest news from the All-Star Break: Kris Letang got a haircut.
  • Milestone Watch: Tonight marks Game No. 800 for head coach Mike Sullivan. He heads into the milestone night having coached 164 games for the Boston Bruins and 635 for the Penguins. Sullivan has accrued 429 wins heading into tonight, the 11th-most wins through 800 games in NHL history, according to Pens PR.
  • Trivia Answer: The 19 players who have played at least 500 career games for the Penguins are, in order of the names played: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Jean Pronovost, Rick Kehoe, Brooks Orpik, Ron Stackhouse, Ron Schock, Dave Burrows, Bob Errey, Chris Kunitz, Martin Straka, Brian Dumoulin, Bryan Rust, Ron Francis, Troy Loney and Kevin Stevens.