It’s a hockey night in Pittsburgh
Who: Montreal Canadiens (5-15-2, 12 points, 7th place Atlantic division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (10-6-4, 24 points, 5th place Metropolitan division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet locally in Pittsburgh, CBC, RDS for the away broadcast, ESPN+
Opponent Track: We last saw a PIT/MTL game nine days ago in Montreal, where the Pens fed the Habs a 6-0 beatdown, for Montreal’s fourth loss in a row. They actually bounced back two nights later with a 6-3 home win over Nashville before getting three days off and losing 6-3 in Washington. Last night was game two of their road trip in Buffalo, a 4-2 loss. Tonight is the third MTL game in four days, all on the road.
Pens path ahead: Coming up next is the annual Western Canada road trip that will see the Pens play in Calgary on Monday night, out to Edmonton on Wednesday and then over to Vancouver next Saturday December 4th.
Season Series: As mentioned, the Penguins took the first matchup last week in a commanding 6-0 fashion that started their winning streak. There’s tonight’s game in Pittsburgh and then Montreal comes back to PPG Paints in a few weeks on December 14th. And just like that the PIT/MTL 2021-22 season series will be completed with these three games in less than a month’s time.
Random fact: Starting with last week’s Montreal game, the Pens are 5-0-0 and have out-scored opponents by a combined 16-2 in that stretch.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Habs Eyes on the Prize for all the Canadiens news you can get out there.
—A bleak outlook with just two players at more than half a point per game (for total team games played) and every goalie they’ve tried under a .900 save%. Can’t score, can’t defend, can’t keep the puck out of the net. Not a great recipe for what would be a last place time if Ottawa wasn’t so bad.
Last Night’s Game Lines
Jonathan Drouin - Nick Suzuki - Cole Caufiled
Tyler Toffoli - Christian Dvorak - Jake Anderson
Artturi Lehkonen - Jake Evans - Brendan Gallagher
- Ryan Poehling - Joel Armia
Ben Chiarot / Jeff Petry
Alex Romanov / David Savard
Sami Niku / Chris Wideman
Possible Starting Goalie: Jake Allen (Samuel Montembeault started last game)
Scratches: Brett Kulak (lower body injury, not on road trip), Michael Pezzetta, Cedric Paquette
IR: Shea Weber (LTIR), Paul Byron (LTIR), Mike Hoffman, Mathieu Perreault, Joel Edmundson
NHLPA Player Assistance program: Carey Price
—It was the rare 11 forward + 7 defensemen lineup for the Habs last night which is always a curious move. And usually a sign of a coaching staff and team in a pretty decent level of disarray/trouble.
—Jake Allen was out last week with a concussion and missed the game against the Pens. Pittsburgh lit up Cayden Primeau, Allen is a lot more experienced and perhaps more NHL-capable these days. But Allen only played one game back in his return, giving up six goals to the loss to the Capitals earlier this week, so it’s not like he’s in a top form right now either.
And now for the Pens..
—The Pens are kinda chugging along, steady as she goes for now. Guentzel is somewhat quietly at near a point/game and on track to ruin the “Dick Tarnstrom is the last player other than Crosby/Malkin to lead the Pens in scoring” trivia question.
—Overall, looking at the boxcars it’s great to see Heinen, Blueger and McGinn where they are, that secondary level of scoring has been critical to stay competitive with Malkin gone all season and Crosby rounding into form a bit. Probably want to see a little more bottom line production from players like Zucker and Carter, but that should be coming with similar results.
—Still pretty wild we’re past Thanksgiving and Crosby+Malkin+Letang have two total goals. Add in Rust and it’s four goals from 4/5 of the team’s top power play when fully healthy. And yet the Pens are right there in it. .936 save% goaltending from Jarry is a beautiful thing.
Friday Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Evan Rodrigues
Jason Zucker - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brock McGinn
Danton Heinen - Brian Boyle - Dominik Simon
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Probable Starting Goalie: Casey DeSmith (Tristan Jarry started last night)
Scratches: Sam Lafferty, Mark Friedman, Bryan Rust (injured)
IR: Evgeni Malkin (knee)
—The biggest note for the Pens was Bryan Rust leaving shortly as warm up started and unable to play. This bumped the red hot (e)Rod up to the top line and gave a chance for Brian Boyle to play for the first time since November 14th. We’ll see if Rust can go or not, but that he couldn’t be game ready 23.5 hours before the start of tonight’s game probably makes one think Rust will be out for a second game in a row.
—Tristan Jarry currently is among the leaders in the NHL in starts, getting the nod in 17 out of the 20 games for the Pens so far. And it makes sense being as he’s been playing so well, the team hasn’t had many back-to-backs, but also because Casey DeSmith has been very less than impressive. It’s been in limited looks, but a major reason it’s been a small sample is because the sample has been lackluster so far (4.57 GAA, .856 save%). The backup goalie usually doesn’t have a lot of job security with a stretch like that, which makes this game against a not-great Montreal team quietly a very important one for DeSmith and his future. He needs a great outing. He hasn’t played in two weeks and only has on game since 10/29, not the best setup.