The Pittsburgh Penguins (27-13-2) have a chance to put a dagger through the heart of the Philadelphia Flyers (19-17-6) season on Thursday. The Penguins’ magic number to eliminate the Flyers from being able to catch the Penguins in the East is 15 points. A regulation win in a four-point game would chop that to only 11 points with 12 games remaining.
Overall, the Boston Bruins magic number to eliminate Philadelphia is down to just 21 points and Boston has 16 games remaining.
Puck drop at PPG Paints Arena is just after 7 p.m.
Newly acquired Jeff Carter, whom the Penguins acquired on Monday morning for a 2022 third-round pick and a 2023 fourth-rounder, will debut for the Penguins. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan slotted Carter at center on Wednesday and flipped Jason Zucker to RW beside Carter and Jared McCann.
“This is going to be a little bit of an exploration process here till we figure out what we think is the best combination and where people fit to make us the most competitive,” Sullivan said.
After winning three games in a row, the Penguins had a whopping three days off. THREE! It’s the longest break since the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils team-wide COVID protocols also paused the Penguins season in January.
In addition to getting vaccinated on Monday, they did welcome Jeff Carter into the locker room on Tuesday.
Sullivan said Tristan Jarry would start in goal. Jarry has won five of his last six starts. His only non-win was a no-decision when he left the game after the first period against the New York Rangers on April 6. He Jarry hasn’t lost in regulation since March 18. He’s 10-2-1 in his last 14 starts.
Carter Hart will likely start for Philadelphia. Hart’s season of promise came off the rails. Since Feb. 27, Hart has an .853 save percentage and a jaw-dropping 3.89 GAA.
If you need to know why the Flyers season sank to the bottom of the Delaware river like a stoolie who talked too much, look no further. However, Hart is far from the Flyers’ only problem.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines & Special Teams
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jared McCann||Jeff Carter||Freddy Gaudreau|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brandon Tanev|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Mike Matheson||Cody Ceci|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
Philadelphia Flyers Lines
|Claude Giroux||Sean Couturier||Jakub Voracek|
|Joel Farabee||Kevin Hayes||Travis Konecny|
|James Van Riemsdyk||Nolan Patrick||Nicolas Aube-Kubel|
|Oskar Lindblom||Scott Laughton||Wade Allison|
|Ivan Provorov||Justin Braun|
|Travis Sanheim||Philippe Myers|
|Shayne Gostisbehere||Robert Hagg|
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||23.7%, 4th NHL||77.4%, 27th NHL|
|New York Islanders||18.8%, 21st NHL||83.7%, 6th NHL|
What to Watch
The Penguins’ new lineup should both provide a jolt of energy and a little bit of disorganization. Jason Zucker will have to adjust to RW. Jeff Carter will have to re-adjust to center and the Penguins system.
Keeping their game simple, the Penguins will not only need some offense from the Sidney Crosby line but from the bottom-six as well. The Penguins down lines have been filling the net, including 6-foot-6 rookie Radim Zohorna, who had four points (2g, 2a) in his first six games.
The Penguins have a chance to squash the Flyers. The faster the Penguins get on top of the Flyers, the sooner the game will be over. If the Penguins let Philadelphia hang around, the rivalry will intensify. The Penguins do not want to give Philadelphia life in the game or the season.
On the ice, the Flyers like to bring a defenseman behind the rush for offensive chances. The Penguins practiced covering the extra man on Wednesday.
For the Penguins, they destroyed the Philadelphia forecheck when the teams last met in March. Absolutely destroyed it. The Penguins raced past Philadelphia’s forecheck and zoomed through the 1-3-1 counter-attack that coach Alain Vigneault loves to deploy.
The Penguins were able to score on the rush against Philadelphia last month. Without Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen, who were instrumental in the rush, the Penguins will need a simplified game. Philadelphia’s defense is meant to score, but they’re not as strong in their own end. The Penguins have to get pucks behind them, win those battles, and force Philadelphia to defend.
If the Penguins can use their speed to get beneath Philadelphia, game-set-match.
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
INJURIES: Position, Player (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)
D Mark Friedman (20 consecutive, 20 total)
F Evgeni Malkin (13 consecutive, 13 total)
F Kasperi Kapanen (9 consecutive, 9 total)
F Brandon Tanev (4 consecutive, 10 total) 2020-21
Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 222
*D Juuso Riikola re-assigned to the taxi squad. F Drew O’Connor re-assigned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL).
*The Penguins have points in five of their last six home games against the Flyers (4-1-1) and are 9-3-1 over their last 13 home games vs. Philadelphia.
*The Penguins scored four or more goals in six straight games. The team’s longest streak of scoring at least four goals since a seven-game streak from Dec. 1-14, 2016.
*Brian Dumoulin currently has a career-long five-game point streak (2g, 3a). Dumoulin’s streak is the longest active point streak by an NHL defenseman.
*Winger Jake Guentzel hit the 20-goal plateau for the fourth-straight season. Only Guentzel, Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, and Alex Ovechkin have recorded four 20-goal campaigns since the 2017-18 season.
*Mike Matheson has three multi-point games in the last seven games. Matheson’s eight points (2g, 6a) since March 29 are tied for the second-most among NHL defensemen
*Since March 1, the Penguins are tied for the second-most wins (16) and points (33).
Pittsburgh Penguins Taxi Squad:
F – Anthony Angello
D – Juuso Riikola
D – Yannick Weber
G – Emil Larmi
How to Watch, 7 p.m.:
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 105.9 The X