It hasn’t been the cleanest win streak, but the Pittsburgh Penguins (31-11-8) are at least finding their game for longer stretches. The Penguins hope to win their fifth game in a row when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs (31-12-3) at the Scotiabank Arena on Thursday night. The Penguins are looking for more sustained offensive pressure, and head coach Mike Sullivan juggled the lines Wednesday at practice.
The puck drops just after 7 p.m.
Sullivan moved Jeff Carter from third-line center to second-line LW and Evan Rodrigues from winger to third-line center. Sullivan noted the Penguins lines aren’t etched in stone, but he was surprisingly candid about demanding more sustained offensive pressure.
“…More sustained offense, just more sustained play. I just think with what we’ve had here over the last few games, we’re not getting, in our estimation, enough sustained zone time that I think helps us create the balance,” Sullivan said.
Kasperi Kapanen will play his second game at Scotiabank Arena after five seasons with the Maple Leafs. Kapanen had one assist in the Penguins 2-0 win over Toronto on Nov. 20. Jake Guentzel and Jeff Carter scored first-period goals. The Penguins have won four of the last five against Toronto, including both meetings this season, (7-1, 2-0).
The Penguins will need offense, but also to be stingy against the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs, who have five players with 40 points or more (Marner, Matthews, Reilly, Nylander, Tavares). Top center Auston Matthews has 57 points, including the second-most goals in the NHL (32).
Toronto can score. This season, their goaltending has held up, too. Jack Campbell has kept pace with Tristan Jarry. Campbell has a .921 save percentage and a 2.38 GAA.
Jarry will likely start for the Penguins after backup Casey DeSmith beat the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-4 in OT on Tuesday night. Jarry has a .925 save percentage and a gaudy 25-8-6 record.
One key to watch: The Penguins fourth line with (former Toronto Maple Leafs) center Brian Boyle has been chipping in offense. More fourth-line offense and zone time could ground Toronto.
Pittsburgh Penguins Betting Odds
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The Penguins are -190 to cover the 1.5 spread, so we don’t like that payoff, but they are a +130 Moneyline. Even better, the Penguins are +185 to win in regulation–We like that, a lot. The Penguins have owned the Maple Leafs over the last few years and outscored them 9-1 this season. The Penguins match up well against Toronto, though the new lines give us some concern. We’re not big on Jeff Carter at wing (BJC joke intended).
But, a homecoming for Kasperi Kapanen could provide some fireworks with Evan Rodrigues. Kapanen is +2500 to score a goal. That $1 bet pays $25, plus the DraftKings promo. We’ll spend the buck.
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:
*The Penguins special teams are rising. The PK Is second at 87.7%. The power play is 11th at 22.1%.
*The Toronto Maple Leafs have the best PP in the NHL (31.5%, 1st) and a strong PK (83.8%, 8th).
*The first goal will be clutch. The Penguins are 21-3-1 when scoring first. The Maple Leafs are 20-4.-1.
*Penguins injuries; F Drew O’Connor, upper-body (13 consecutive, 16 total), F Jason Zucker, lower-body (12 consecutive, 19 total), G Louis Domingue, lower-body (12 consecutive, 12 total), F Teddy Blueger, upper-body (9 consecutive, 10 total).
*The Penguins have outscored Toronto 9-1 in two games this season.
*The Penguins have won four of their past five games against Toronto (4-1-0).
*No team has scored more power-play goals than the Penguins (20) since Jan. 1. Only Toronto (33.3%) has a better power play percentage than Pittsburgh’s 31.1% in 2022.
*John Marino (8) and Mike Matheson (6) rank first and second in the league in penalties drawn among defensemen since Jan. 16.
*Sidney Crosby has a seven-game point streak (3-9-12) and scored his 500th career goal on Tuesday night
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines:
|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|
Toronto Maple Leafs Lines, Per Puckpedia.com:
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T Sportsnet; Radio: 105.9 The X