Pittsburgh Penguins (10-7-1) begin a weekend twofer on Long Island Saturday night in fifth place and out of the playoff seeds. The Penguins face the New York Islanders (10-6-3) at 7 p.m. on Saturday and hang around for a 5 p.m. game on Sunday.
First, it appears Jared McCann will be back in the lineup. McCann reportedly skated with Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust on the Penguins’ second line in warmups. Head coach Mike Sullivan listed McCann as a game-time decision.
“If he does join our lineup, what we’ll look for him to do is what he always does for us,” Sullivan said.
The Penguins are fresh off a hard 3-2 regulation loss to the Washington Capitals. In a statistical anomaly, the Penguins have beaten Washington in four of six games but needed three overtime to do it was a statistical nightmare for the Penguins.
They gained one point on Washington. Despite winning four, the Penguins were 4-2-0, but Washington is 2-1-3, so the Penguins earned eight points, and the Capitals earned seven. The result is the Penguins have 10 wins but are currently out of the playoff picture.
Don’t expect the situation to improve until the Penguins can win games in regulation.
The Penguins may be out of the frying pan with Washington forward Tom Wilson, but into the fryer with Matt Martin. The New York Islanders were unhappy with Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson, who hit New York center Mathew Barzal near the boards.
New York warned of retaliation, but game situations prevented New York from getting it when the Penguins beat New York, 3-2 only because of a brilliant performance from Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry.
On Saturday, Penguins GM Ron Hextall addressed the possibility of adding toughness to the Penguins lineup.
According to head coach Mike Sullivan, Jarry will make his seventh straight start on Saturday night. Semyon Varlamov, who struggled through the Islanders 7-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday, is the likely New York starter.
Jarry’s record is 6-6-1 with an improved 3.17 goals against and an .895 save percentage.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines and Special Teams
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Rickard Rakell||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jason Zucker||Jeff Carter||Danton Heinen|
|Brock McGinn||Teddy Blueger||Evan Rodrigues|
|Mike Matheson||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Mark Friedman||Chad Ruhwedel|
|Expected Islanders Lines|
|Leo Komarov||Mathew Barzal||Jordan Eberle|
|Anthony Beauvillier||Brock Nelson||Josh Bailey|
|Kyle Palmieri||J-G Pageau||Oliver Wahlstrom|
|Matt Martin||Casey Czikas||Cal Clutterbuck|
|Adam Pelech||Ryan Pulock|
|Nick Leddy||Scott Mayfield|
|Andy Greene||Noah Dobson|
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||15.1% (11-73) 27th NHL||92.2% (5-64) 1st NHL|
|Anaheim Ducks||26.3% (20-76) 5th NHL||86.3% (10-76) 3rd NHL|
What to Watch
Monkey see, monkey do. The Washington Capitals were able to change the game with a physical approach to the Penguins. The New York Islanders already like to push the Penguins but expect them to be more emboldened. Also, just how serious were the Islanders about sending a message to Mike Matheson?
Special teams have been a running storyline for the Penguins. The power play gets hot, then cools faster than plunging the steel into cold water. The PK was brilliant against Washington until one fluky stick snapped, and Tom Wilson was unchecked in front of the Penguins net for the GWG on Thursday night.
Tactically, it’s always about the rigid New York scheme. They like to stack the blue line and frustrate the Penguins through the neutral zone. The Penguins have found success, but can they find it before the third period?
Tristan Jarry is starting his seventh straight game. How are his conditioning and mental outlook? These are the new issues a first-time No. 1 goalie has to learn. Will he tire or lose focus?
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
F Sam Miletic (17 consecutive, 17 total)
D Juuso Riikola (13 consecutive, 13total)
F Evan Rodrigues (11 consecutive, 11 total)
D Brian Dumoulin (10 consecutive, 10 total)
F Jared McCann (6 consecutive, 6 total)
F Jason Zucker (1 consecutive, 1 total)
2020-21 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 107
*The Penguins have picked up points in nine of its last 10 games against New York (6-1-3) and are 9-3-3 over its last 15 games versus the Islanders.
*The Penguins have points in five of their last six road games against the Islanders (3-1-2)
*It is the Penguins’ first set of back-to-back games this season. Pittsburgh is scheduled to have nine sets of back-to-back games in 2020- 21.
*Since Feb. 14, goaltender Tristan Jarry is tied for the NHL lead in wins (4) and has the seventh-best save percentage (.928) among all goaltenders with at least three starts during that time frame.
*Jake Guentzel has a three-game point streak (2g, 2a).
*Kris Letang also extended his point streak to three games (2g, 2a) with an assist on Thursday.
*The Penguins are 8-1-1 in one-goal games, but New York is only 3-2-3.
*When tied after two periods, the Penguins are 5-2-0, and New York is 6-2-2. New York is undefeated when leading after two (4-0-0).
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 105.9 The X