The Pittsburgh Penguins end their five-day holiday break in the “Music City” for the first game of a home-and-home series with the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena, Friday. The Penguins have not played since last Saturday, but the rest has mended some injured players. The Penguins can cap off a torrid December and add to their league-leading seven wins in December.
Last season, the Penguins were 1-1-0 against Nashville, including a 2-1 shootout win in Nashville on March 31. Bryan Rust scored the lone goal in regulation for the Penguins and Sidney Crosby scored the shootout winner.
Tristan Jarry was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate and will be the Penguins starter. Jarry leads the league (T-1) with six wins in December. His 1.41 goals-against average and .952 save-percentage rank second and third in December, respectively. Nashville starts Pekka Rinne, who has won three straight with a 2.61 GAA and .911 SV% but possess pedestrian career number against the Penguins (especially in Pittsburgh).
The Penguins had a week to reflect on their 4-1 loss to Vancouver, Saturday. Despite winning their previous two games in Western Canada, the Penguins could not muster any offense punch and were deterred by penalties to conclude their four-game winning streak. Neither team played a great first period as it took Vancouver until the halfway point of the period to register a shot while the Penguins went to the first intermission with no credited shots. Vancouver did tally two goals; however, as Jake Virtanen (10) and JT Miller (14) both found twine.
The second period was much of the same until Jake Guentzel breathed some life into his team late in the period. Guentzel pounced on a rebound on the power-play to trim the Penguins’ deficit to one. The Guentzel good vibes soured quickly as the Penguins surrendered the next goal just 44 seconds later. Elias Pettersson picked up the rebound in the right circle and snapped a quick wrist shot to retake the two-goal lead. Brock Boeser scored in the third period to conclude all scoring in the game. the Penguins ended the game outshooting Vancouver 29-14.
Matt Murray, making his first start since Dec. 7, faced only 14 shots in the loss and surrendered four goals. Murray played a great first period but could not help kill the Penguins’ early penalties. Jacob Markstrom was the busier of the two goalies and made 28 saves to earn his 12th win. You can read more about the Penguins loss Saturday in Dan’s Recap and the PHN Extra Report Card.
Nashville played on Monday against Arizona. The Rick Tocchet led Coyotes pushed late but fell short in a 3-2 loss. Nashville received a goal a period as Filip Forsberg (14) Viktor Arvidsson (7) and Roman Josi (14) all scored in front of the home crowd. Lawson Crouse (7) and Jakob Chychrun (10) score for Arizona. Pekka Rinne outdueled Antti Raanta by making 26 saves for the win. Raanta stopped 38 of 41 shots in the loss.
Through the unofficial first half of the season, the Penguins have been one of the best third-period teams in the NHL. In 36 games, they have scored 46 third-period goals, which are sixth-most in the NHL. On the flip side, they’ve only allowed 30 third-period goals, which is tied for second-fewest in the league. The Penguins goal differential in the third period is plus-16, which is tied with Philadelphia for second-best in the NHL, trailing only the Boston Bruins (+17).
Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang both possess strong career numbers against Nashville. Malkin has 15 points in 12 career games against Nashville. He has recorded at least one point in all but two games against the Predators. Letang has 12 points in 13 career games versus Nashville.
Sidney Crosby (Core Muscle, skating)
Nick Bjugstad (Core Muscle, skating)
Brian Dumoulin (Ankle, IR)
Patric Hornqvist (Lower Body, skating)
Justin Schultz (Lower Body, Longer term)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||20.3% (16th NHL)||82.4% (7th NHL)|
|New Jersey Devils||17.7% (22nd NHL)||82.0% (10th NHL)|
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jason Zucker||Sidney Crosby||Conor Sheary|
|Patrick Marleau||Evgeni Malkin||Bryan Rust|
|Evan Rodrigues||Jared McCann||Patric Hornqvist|
|Brandon Tanev||Teddy Blueger||Sam Lafferty|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|