Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jason Zucker may return on Monday night against the New York Islanders at PPG Paints Arena. So, too might Mark Jankowski, whose 24-hour stay on the COVID protocol list ended on Sunday. The Penguins have a chance to tie the New York Islanders for second place in the MassMutual East Division and pull within two points of the Washington Capitals for the division lead.
Update: The Penguins activated Zucker at 5 p.m.
The Penguins have won three games in a row and outscored their opponents 15-6. If not for a few Islanders’ third period goals on Saturday, that score would have been even more lopsided.
The Penguins’ top line with Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust, and Jake Guentzel has led the charge, but unsung heroes deeper in the Penguins lineup are also scoring, including center Frederick Gaudreau who netted his first NHL goal since Dec. 31, 2018.
The Penguins beat New York 6-3 on Saturday, and Gaudreau opened the scoring for the Penguins’ third win in a row.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said Tristan Jarry would start for the Penguins on Monday. Jarry is 14-8-2 with a 2.83 GAA and .909 save percentage.
Zucker is officially a game-time decision. Teddy Blueger and Brandon Tanev skated with Skills Coach Ty Hennes before the morning skate and then joined the optional morning skate. Defenseman Mark Friedman also joined the optional morning skate.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz pulled starting goalie Ilya Sorokin for Semyon Varlamov on Saturday. Varlamov is expected to go for New York. This season, he has a 14-6-3 record with a 2.20 GAA and a .922 save percentage.
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|
|Expected Islanders Lines|
|Leo Komarov||Mathew Barzal||Jordan Eberle|
|Anthony Beauvillier||Brock Nelson||Josh Bailey|
|Kyle Palmieri||J-G Pageau||Oliver Wahlstrom|
|Matt Martin||Casey Czikas||Cal Clutterbuck|
|Adam Pelech||Ryan Pulock|
|Nick Leddy||Scott Mayfield|
|Andy Greene||Noah Dobson|
|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|
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
*Position, Player (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)
F Jason Zucker (18 consecutive, 18 total)
D Mark Friedman (13 consecutive, 13 total)
F Teddy Blueger (7 consecutive, 7 total)
F Evgeni Malkin (6 consecutive, 6 total)
F Brandon Tanev (5 consecutive, 5 total)
F Kasperi Kapanen (2 consecutive, 2 total)
F Mark Jankowski (1 consecutive, 4 total)
2020-21 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 188
*Penguins Taxi Squad:
F – Anthony Angello F – Drew O’Connor D – Yannick Weber G – Emil Larmi
*On Saturday, the Penguins were 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and have successfully killed off their last 17 penalties dating back to March 20.
*Kris Letang tallied his eighth multi-point game of the season, the third-most by a defenseman in the league. Letang’s 27 points (6g, 12a) are tied for the fifth-most among NHL defensemen.
*Jared McCann has two straight multi-point games.
*The Penguins have points in 11 of their last 13 games against New York (8-2-3) and is 11-4-3 over its last 18 games vs. the Islanders.
*The Penguins are 10-2-1 in their last 13 games overall.
*Jake Guentzel is on a six-game scoring streak (3g, 5a).
*Frederick Gaudreau has a three-game scoring streak, which is the longest of his career (1g, 2a).
What to Watch
The makeshift Penguins lines and torrid offense without Evgeni Malkin, Kasperi Kapanen, and Teddy Blueger cannot continue, can it? The Penguins have momentum and confidence.
“For me, every night is a new challenge. We’ve got to create our own momentum tonight when the puck drops, and that’s the most important takeaway for me,” Sullivan said. “Those are the discussions we have with our players. We know we’re going to get a tough Islanders team…”
The Islanders are tied for the fifth-fewest goals allowed in the NHL. They would be third or fourth had the Penguins not hung a six-spot on them on Saturday.
The Penguins breakouts were, in part, set up by their simple play in the first period. The Penguins took what the Islanders gave them in the neutral zone, chipped it deep, and chased it hard. The Penguins’ forecheck had some success, which got the Penguins on the attack and opened the game. The first goal was a textbook breakout, and the Penguins had speed into the zone.
If the Islanders get on the Penguins, the game will turn, and the Penguins will be forced to defend.
As with much of this season, and certainly the last 15 games, the Pittsburgh Penguins breakouts usually determine their fate.
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+
Radio: 105.9 The X