6:28 p.m.: Nickels and dimes:
The Kings are 16-12-2 on the road. The Penguins are 21-7-1.
The Kings are also not deterred when their opponent scores first. The Kings are 14-18-3 when the opponents get the drop on them. The Kings are also 7-4-1 against the Metropolitan Division. The Pens are 7-6-1 against the Pacific (certainly not the Pacifist) Division.
Spot analysis: The Guentzel-Kessel pair will need a heaping helping of Sheahan to play defense. This is perhaps Guentzel’s first test of “message received” to see if he will compete in the defensive zone against the heavy Kings. Sullivan has encouraged Guentzel to be “stiff” against the competition. —Dan Kingerski
6:07 p.m.: L.A. Scouts are here! Oh wait… Here is the semi-official scouts list for tonights Penguins-Kings tilt:
The Winnipeg Jets sent a pro scout.
New Jersey Devils
No teams sent two. And, it appears no executive management has made the trip.
3:30 p.m.: Here’s Sullivan on the stylistic challenge facing the Penguins tonight:
“They’re another one of those teams that plays stingy defense,” he said of the Kings. “They have good goaltending. They play a heavy game. They have good size. They lean on you. They make you work for your opportunities. So it’s going to be another one of those type of games where we’re going to have to have an element of patience to our game that we don’t try to force things if we don’t get as many opportunities as we would like.”
Sounds a lot like the last couple of games, eh? Sidney Crosby put it a different way, saying the Penguins should “exercise their speed” as often as possible. At least, unlike the Ottawa game, there won’t be a gimmicky 1-3-1 to contend with.
12:40 p.m.: Matt Murray will start tonight against the L.A. Kings. Dan Kingerski looked at the return of the Murray Wall.
Sullivan had some thoughts on what Murray’s been doing well lately:
“I think he’s tracking the puck extremely well,” Sullivan said. “He’s such an intelligent goalie, he reads plays as well as any goalie I’ve been around and he tends to make the saves look easy because he’s always square to it. The puck just seems to hit him and I think that’s an indication of when Matt is really on top of his game.”
12:02 p.m.: The first player to break the NHL’s color barrier, Willie O’Ree, was at the skate, too. Sullivan called him a “a testament to persistence and perseverance.” If you’re a hockey fan, O’Ree is a name you should know. Yet, inexplicably O’Ree is not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
11:37 a.m.: That’s Hornqvist’s music! PHN’s Shelly Anderson covered the Penguins morning skate.
Via Twitter, Shelly reported the crazy Viking skated on his own for the second day in a row but has not yet officially returned from injury. Mike Sullivan says rejoining the team for practice will be the next step.
7 a.m.: Another game day in Pittsburgh, with the Penguins (32-22-4, 68 points) hosting the Kings at PPG Paints Arena. Fresh off a 6-3 win over Ottawa on Tuesday, the champs will try to hold their second-place standing in the Metropolitan Division against a Los Angeles team they grinded past last month in Southern California.
Sitting at fourth place in the Pacific, the Kings (30-21-5, 65 points) have dropped two in a row as their tepid second half continues, but they’ll have Dion Phaneuf in the lineup tonight after Tuesday’s trade from the Senators. Wonder if Phil Kessel housed his old Toronto pal for the past couple of days?
Shelly Anderson has our coverage of morning skate, with the slight possibility that Patric Hörnqvist and Tom Kühnhackl get a workout in before their teammates at 10:30 a.m.
Dan Kingerski will be on the spot tonight, as the Penguins aim to extend their 13-4-1 run in the new year.