In eight previous games, the Pittsburgh Penguins (4-3-1) have not led after 40 minutes. The team has trailed in all eight games and trailed by two or more in six of the previous eight games. It’s been a rough ride for the Penguins, who have carved out a winning record with five third-period comebacks, but they’d like a lead against the New York Rangers (2-4-1) on Saturday night.
Earlier this week, the Penguins beat the Rangers twice at PPG Paints Arena.
The team is getting anxious, and Evgeni Malkin took some blame on Thursday night after the Penguins were squashed 4-1 by the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Despite possessing the puck for most of the second period, defensive mistakes submarined the Penguins, who surrendered Patrice Bergeron’s backbreaking goal midway through the third period.
Here’s the PHN Turning Point (Pittsburgh Hockey Now)
After the game, Evgeni Malkin answered the question, “What’s wrong with Evgeni Malkin?” (PHN+)
The Penguins could have five right-handed defensemen in the lineup on Saturday. Yannick Weber joined the team Saturday after he cleared waivers on Thursday but was caught in a snowstorm in Kentucky as he drove from Nashville to Boston.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan had Weber when Sullivan was an assistant to John Tortorella in Vancouver.
“…So I have an established relationship with him. He’s a good solid player,” Sullivan said. “He’s got a good shot from the offensive blue line. He sees the ice pretty well. When I had him in Vancouver, he played on one of our power-play units.”
However, Weber is right-handed, so the Penguins could have two defensive pairs with only righties. P-O Joseph could be the only lefty in the lineup. Kevin Czuczman is the other LHD on the roster. On Saturday, the Penguins changed Czuczman’s and Joseph’s recall statuses from emergency recall to regular recall.
Goalies & Special Teams
Sullivan also said Casey DeSmith would start in goal for the Penguins after Tristan Jarry started four straight. DeSmith is 2-0-0 with an .871 save percentage and a 2.76 goals against average.
New York will put Alexandar Georgiev in the net. Georgiev is 1-2-0, with a 2.76 GAA and .896 save percentage.
Neither team has been good on special teams, though New York starting goalie Igor Shesterkin gifted the Penguins a couple of soft power-play tallies.
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||(28 for 125) 22.4% 10th NHL||(99 for 128) 77.3% 22nd NHL|
|Buffalo Sabres||(22 for 107) 20.6% 14th NHL||(87 for 111) 78.4% 20th NHL|
What to Watch
The Pittsburgh Penguins spotty defense gifted the New York Rangers more than few goals in their two-game set this week. However, it was the New York speed to get after the Penguins defensemen and New York’s quick transition game that put pressure on the Penguins and caused the mistakes.
When settled, the Penguins were able to overwhelm New York. The Penguins are stronger and perhaps a little faster when their game is synced.
The Penguins have been outscored 14-7 in first periods this season.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines: UPDATED 6:50 p.m.
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jared McCann||Jeff Carter||Jason Zucker|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Evan Rodrigues|
|Radim Zohorna||Mark Jankowski||Colton Sceviour|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Mike Matheson||Cody Ceci|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Chris Kreider||Mika Zibanejad||Pavel Buchnevich|
|Artemi Panarin||Ryan Strome||Colin Blackwell|
|Alexis Lafreniere||Filip Chytil||Kappo Kaako|
|Philip Di Giuseppi||Kevin Rooney||Vitali Kravstov|
|Ryan Lindgren||Adam Fox|
|K'Andre Miller||Jacob Trouba|
|Libor Hajek||Brendan Smith|
*Sidney Crosby (7), Bryan Rust (6), and Teddy Blueger (5) are the Penguins leading scorers.
*Mike Sullivan served as an Assistant Coach with the Rangers for four seasons (2009-10 – 2012-13). New York selected Sullivan in the fourth round (69th overall) of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft.
*Mike Sullivan and New York head coach David Quinn were teammates at Boston University for two seasons (1986-87 and 1987-88; Quinn did not play in 1987-88 due to injury).
*The average age of a player on the Rangers’ active roster this season is 25.6 years old, which is the youngest in the NHL
*New York has outshot their opponent in each of the last six games, registering 211 shots on goal and allowing 147 shots.
*Thursday night, Cody Ceci became the 14th unique goal scorer for the Penguins this season.
*The Penguins have just one regulation loss in their last 10 trips to Madison Square Garden.
*Kris Letang’s 27:01 minutes of time-on-ice per game is third-most in the NHL, trailing Drew Doughty (27:39) and Brent Burns (27:28).
*Brandon Tanev leads the NHL in hits (44).
Penguins Betting Odds
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Our record this year is 4-4 after we split our advice on Thursday (Boston +1.5, OVER 5.5). We were right on Boston but wrong on the over.
The Penguins are still a patchwork quilt on defense, which isn’t good, especially against a fast team like the New York Rangers. However, the Penguins forwards should be rounding into form and help the Penguins defense, even if the Penguins dress five righties.
The over/under is currently 6 at Bet Rivers, so we’ll jump on that all day.
If you want to have a little fun, take the Penguins to score the first goal. They’ve been absolutely crushed in the first period this season, but we’re willing to suggest the Penguins score first. A $10 bet gets an $18 payout.
How to Watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 105.9 The X