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Game Day #10: Penguins Get Rust! Lines, Notes & What to Watch vs. Wild

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota Wild

The Pittsburgh Penguins (4-3-2) snapped a three-game losing streak in impressive style when the shorthanded roster beat the hated Philadelphia Flyers in OT on Thursday night. Not all things must be pretty, and the Penguins would do well to keep that mantra against the Minnesota Wild (6-3-0) on Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena.

Winger Bryan Rust remains a game-time decision. He was a full-go at practice on Friday and participated in the optional morning skate on Saturday morning. Provided he doesn’t feel too sore after the skate or have a setback, we like his chances to play.

UPDATE: The Penguins activated Rust off of IR before the game. No other moves were announced.

The Penguins overcame a multitude of mistakes to beat Philadelphia on Thursday. More specifically, goalie Tristan Jarry covered up the Penguins mistakes and turned away 36 shots in the 3-2 OT win. 

The Penguins remain without Sidney Crosby, Marcus Pettersson, Brian Dumoulin, and Chad Ruhwedel, who are in COVID protocol. Head coach Mike Sullivan is also in the protocol, so Todd Reirden will remain the Penguins bench boss on Saturday.

Though Sullivan can’t detach himself–He’s been in constant contact with the coaches, even during games.

Tristan Jarry will start again for the Penguins. This is the last of the Penguins season-long eight-game homestand. The team plays in Chicago on Tuesday before coming back home for the scorching hot Florida Panthers on Thursday.

What to Watch:

The game will be about the Pittsburgh Penguins effort and style. Without their stars, the Penguins must play simple and aggressive. And structured. They got away from those ideals for large portions of the game against Philadelphia, but Jarry was rock solid.

Jarry has only three losses in his last 24 regular-season games.

Minnesota shed their overpaid stars over the summer when they bought out Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter. The salary cap dead money will stick around until 2027. Still, it gave Minnesota GM Bill Guerin enough salary cap space to build a competitive team this season, led by emerging superstar Kirill Kaprizov.

Kaprizov and Marcus Foligno lead Minnesota with eight points. Penguins “head coach” Todd Reirden may be wise to keep his patchwork third pairing of Juuso Riikola and P.O. Joseph away from Minnesota’s best.

We’ll dive more into this as it unfolds, but the Penguins third pair with Mark Friedman and Juuso Riikola played sheltered minutes–Riikola only played 11 minutes. Friedman and second-pairing defenseman P.O. Joseph played a more appropriate 17 minutes, but that required some juggling and leaning heavily on Kris Letang and Mike Matheson.

Letang was gassed after the game on Thursday. He played 29 minutes in his first game back from COVID protocol. That’s huge. He was visibly worn in his postgame media availability.

A second straight draining game is likely, but how long can he keep that up?

Special teams are always something to watch, but neither power play is very good, and the Wild PK is 25th in the league vs. the Penguins 26th ranked power play.

So, you might want to look away during the special teams play on Saturday. The Penguins PK ranks first in the NHL to balance out the ineffective man-advantage.

The Wild has three players you’ll immediately recognize. Last season’s diamond in the rough, Frederick Gaudreau, is the Wild’s second-line center. Nick Bjugstad is on the third-line right-wing, and former top defenseman prospect Calen Addison is on the third-pairing.

Special Teams:

TEAMPower PlayPenalty Kill
Pittsburgh Penguins13.6% (9-66) 26th NHL91.4% (5-58) 1st NHL
Vancouver Canucks18.1% (15-83) 16th NHL64.5% (27-76) 32nd NHL

Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines

LWCRW
Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyEvan Rodrigues
Jason Zucker Jeff CarterDanton Heinen
Brock McGrinnTeddy BluegerKasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-ReeseDrew O'ConnorDominik Simon
LDRD
Brian DumoulinKris Letang
Marcus PetterssonJohn Marino
Mike Matheson Chad Ruhwedel
Goalie
Tristan Jarry
Casey DeSmith

Expected Minnesota Wild Lines

Foligno-Erickson Ek-Fiala

Kaprizov-Gaudrea-Hartman

Duhaime-Sturm-Bjugstad

Beckman-Deware-Rau

Defensemen

Kulikov-Spurgeon

Brodin-Dumba

Merrill-Addison

Goalie: 

Cam Talbot (6-2-0), 2.72 GAA, .905 GAA

Penguins Bets, Odds & Prediction:

Pittsburgh Penguins -1.5 (+205) are a heavy favorite not to cover the spread but are a moneyline favorite (-120). As some readers have noted, it’s often good to bet against my gut feelings. I’m taking the Penguins and the 1.5 spread, and here’s why–It’s an out-of-conference game, Jarry is in the groove, and the gritty Penguins seem to find a way. Root for the empty netter and give the 1.5.

Since this is my first official prediction this season, I’m 0-0-0.

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Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:

Position, Player, Status (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)

F Evgeni Malkin, lower body (9 consecutive, 9 total)
F Bryan Rust, lower body (7 consecutive, 7 total)
F Sidney Crosby, COVID-19 protocol (1 consecutive, 8 total)
D Brian Dumoulin, COVID-19 protocol (1 consecutive, 1 total)
D Marcus Pettersson, COVID-19 protocol (1 consecutive, 1 total)
D Chad Ruhwedel, COVID-19 protocol (1 consecutive, 1 total)
2021-22 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 41

*The Penguins have won five straight against the Minnesota Wild.

*The Penguins are 3-0-2 with Kris Letang in the lineup and 1-3-0 without him.

*Danton Heinen leads Pittsburgh with seven points (4G-3A) this season. Only 10 players playing on a new team this season (including rookies and Seattle) have recorded more points than Heinen’s seven.

*Zach Aston-Reese has been a hit machine. His 42 hits are third-most in the NHL and more than double any other Penguin (Jason Zucker, 20). Aston-Reese has 23.02 hits per 60 minutes which are second-best in the NHL (min. 5 GP) behind the New York Rangers’ Ryan Reaves (24.29).

How to Watch:

TV: AT&T SportsNet; Radio: 105.9 The X

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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