Evgeni Malkin is the latest Pittsburgh Penguins to contract the illness moving around the locker room and will not play Thursday night. Head coach Mike Sullivan will again start Tristan Jarry in the net as the Pittsburgh Penguins (17-10-4) host the Columbus Blue Jackets (12-14-4) at PPG Paints Arena. This is Jarry’s seventh appearance and sixth start in the last nine games, though Sullivan declined to publicly declare him the starter. Sullivan was also non-committal on the Penguins top line without Malkin.
“I know two (of the top line). We’ll see where it goes from there,” Sullivan deadpanned before the game.
It’s also the anniversary of the franchise-altering move for the Penguins. Four years ago, the Penguins fired then-head coach Mike Johnston and named Sullivan their interim coach. The move yielded the Penguins two Stanley Cup championships over the next two seasons and four straight playoff appearances. Sullivan is 191-102-38 as the bench boss and continues to help the Penguin stay afloat despite a growing list of injuries this season.
The Penguins are currently 1-1-0 in games against Columbus this year, as both teams picked up wins at home. They start Thursday’s game with wins in eight consecutive home games against the Columbus dating back to December 21, 2015, and are 12-2-0 in their last 14 home games versus them.
Joonas Korpisalo starts for Columbus against the Penguins. In his first start of the year against the Penguins, Korpisalo stopped 29 of 31 shots in a 5-2 win in late-November. Jarry is 7-5-0 with an astounding 1.92 goals against average and .938 save percentage.
The Penguins could not overcome a noticeably poor effort a 4-1 lost to Montreal, Tuesday. Despite scoring the first goal early, the Penguins bled out four goals in the remaining 57:01 minutes to drop just their second game in the past nine. The Penguins tallied the opening goal just under three minutes into the game and seemed set for another explosive effort. Jake Guentzel (17) scored on a pass from Bryan Rust on a 2-on-1 after he started the breakout by forcing a turnover in the defensive zone. The goal held up into the first intermission, and for the 10th straight period, the Penguins exited with a lead.
The second period caused a shock among the star wars clad PPG Paints Arena crowd as Montreal score three goals to take a decisive lead. Montreal did not tie the game until over midway through the period but opened the flood gates once they did. Tomas Tatar (10) quickly ripped a short-side wrist shot on the power play to tie the game while Joel Armia stole the puck, skated into the zone and lifted a top-shelf wrister to give his team the lead 3:52 later. The Penguins tried to salvage the period down by one goal, but Shea Weber (10) forced a turnover and scored a wraparound to sour their chances.
Goaltending took over the third period for Montreal as the Penguins thrust themselves back into the game, but they could not manage another goal. Montreal capped off the scoring as Brendan Gallagher raced for a loose puck and swatted it into the empty for a 4-1 Montreal win.
Jarry started in net, made 22 saves, and saw his team record 177:14 shutout streak end in the second. Carey Price received first star honors for his 33 save effort for Montreal.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 21st goal of the year, but Columbus still won 5-2 against Washington, Monday. Columbus received two goals by Cam Atkinson and plenty of secondary scoring as Ryan Murray and Riley Nash also tallied goals. Ovechkin and linemate Nicklas Backstrom (5) provided the scoring for Washington. Joonas Korpisalo surrendered only two goals on 39 shots for Columbus while Braden Holtby stopped 33 of 37 shots in the loss.
Jack Johnson is set to appear in his 900th NHL game. Johnson, who was selected third overall by Carolina in the 2005 NHL Draft, will become the eighth member of his draft class to appear in 900 career games. Throughout his first 899 games split between Los Angeles, Columbus, and Pittsburgh, Johnson has recorded 68 goals and 227 assists for 295 points. His 295 points are fifth-most among defensemen in his draft class.
No Penguin has been more dominant against the Columbus Blue Jackets over the last three-plus seasons than Jake Guentzel. In 13 career regular-season games, he has 15 points. If you include his postseason stats against them, Guentzel has 13 goals and 21 points in 18 games.
Evgeni Malkin is still awaiting his 400th career NHL goal.
Scouts tonight (guess who’s back with 2?)
— Dan Kingerski (@TheDanKingerski) December 12, 2019
Sidney Crosby (Core Muscle, 6+ Weeks)
Nick Bjugstad (Core Muscle, 6+ Weeks)
Brian Dumoulin (Ankle, IR)
Patric Hornqvist (Lower Body, Longer term)
Evgeni Malkin (illness)
Columbus Blue Jackets
Emil Bemstrom (Upper Body)
|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|