The indomitable, or greasy, or gritty Pittsburgh Penguins (3-0-2) will again be without their top three centers, top defenseman, and top-line winger when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning (2-2-1) Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m.
While injuries have crippled other teams, such as the Vegas Golden Knights, the Penguins remain unbeaten in regulation this season. Starting goalie Tristan Jarry has lost just one regulation game in his last 21 regular-season appearances (16-1-2). This season, the netminder is 3-0-1 with a 1.47 GAA and .943 save percentage.
The Penguins embarrassed the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, 7-1. Drew O’Connor had two goals. Marcus Pettersson had three points and was a +5. Here’s the Penguins PHN+ report card and analysis.
The Penguins will need great goaltending on Tuesday as they face the defending two-time Stanley Cup champions. The Penguins whizzed past Tampa Bay in the NHL season debut, 6-2, but that was an emotional and distracted opponent, which reveled a little too long in their Stanley Cup banner raising ceremony.
What to Watch:
The Penguins are, of course, without forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jeff Carter, Bryan Rust and defenseman Kris Letang.
Can the Pittsburgh Penguins keep up this level of play? The grinders are scoring, which is floating the Penguins offense. Danton Heinen, Evan Rodrigues, and Drew O’Connor lead the Penguins with five points each.
Brian Boyle already has a couple of goals, which is probably two more than anyone expected at this point. The law of averages says the Penguins bottom-six players thrust into top-six roles cannot keep this up.
Of course, that would put the offensive onus on Kasperi Kapanen and Jake Guentzel. Kapanen has four assists but no goals this season. Guentzel has three points (1-2-3) in four games.
The law of averages also doesn’t take into account the systematic speed, tight-knit puck support, and energy with which the Penguins have played. Win or lose, they have been outstanding.
Tampa Bay is off to a sluggish start. It’s the two-time Cup hangover, and this is the first time they’ve begun an 82-game season as the Cup Champions since their first Stanley Cup in 2004.
Tampa Bay is not short on star power, though Bud Light poster boy and former Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov is on LTIR. Tampa Bay played poorly and lost on Monday night in Buffalo, 5-1.
Will they turn in two stinkers in a row? Probably not. The Penguins will need to be at their greasy, gritty, best.
Pittsburgh Penguins Injuries
Position, Player, Status (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)
Sidney Crosby, upper body (5 consecutive, 5 total)
Evgeni Malkin, lower body (5 consecutive, 5 total)
Bryan Rust, lower body (3 consecutive, 3 total)
Jeff Carter, COVID-19 protocol (1 consecutive, 1 total)
Kris Letang, COVID-19 protocol (1 consecutive, 1 total)
2021-22 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 22
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Evan Rodrigues|
|Jason Zucker||Jeff Carter||Danton Heinen|
|Brock McGrinn||Teddy Blueger||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Drew O'Connor||Dominik Simon|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Mike Matheson||Chad Ruhwedel|
Expected Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:
–The Penguins called up Kasper Bjorkqvist on Monday.
–The Penguins are 4-1-1 in its last six home games versus Tampa Bay. Going back further, the Penguins are 13-2-1 in their last 16 contests against the Lightning here at PPG Paints Arena.
–The Penguins are allowing an average of 2.20 goals against per game, which is tied for the fourth-lowest total in the league.
–Teddy Blueger won a career-high 17 faceoffs last game (17-7, 70.8%). On the season, his 42 faceoff wins and 57.5% faceoff win percentage (42-31) lead the Penguins.
—Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel has drawn a team-high four penalties
–Zach Aston-Reese recorded a career-high 10 hits on Saturday night against the Maple Leafs. In doing so, he became the sixth player in franchise history (10th time total) to record 10-plus hits in a game.
–Defenseman Marcus Pettersson leads the NHL with a +10.
–Despite missing its top three centers, the Penguins are the fourth-highest scoring team in the NHL.
–The Penguins also lead the league with 14 unique goal scorers this season. The Washington Capitals and three others are tied with 12.
How to Watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet; Radio: 105.9 The X