To steal the phrase from Pittsburgh Penguins PA announcer Ryan Mill, and here we go. The Penguins (21-11-2) won two straight over the Buffalo Sabres without centers Evgeni Malkin and Teddy Blueger. But the Penguins game was largely unchallenged against the lowly, lowly Buffalo Sabres on a 16-game winless streak. Now the real tests begin against the toughest teams in the MassMutual East Division.
The Penguins face the first-place New York Islanders (22-8-4) on Saturday night at 7 p.m. The Islanders currently have the best odds to win the East Division.
The Penguins game by game lineup continues to be a patchwork quilt with more holes than grandma’s moth-eaten blanket. In addition to Malkin and Blueger, the Penguins will be without Jason Zucker, Kasperi Kapanen, and Brandon Tanev.
Update: Mark Jankowski missed the morning skate. The Penguins will have more information this afternoon.
This season, the Penguins are 4-2-0 against New York, but New York is 2-2-2 against the Penguins after a pair of extra-time games.
The Penguins playoff prospects have not only received a boost from winning nine of their last 12 (9-2-1), but also because of the Philadelphia Flyers implosion over the last 10 games (3-6-1). The Penguins have a 10-point lead over Philadelphia and the New York Rangers for the final playoff spot in the East.
The Penguins are a 68.4% bet to make the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan will start Tristan Jarry in net. Jarry is 13-8-2 with a .909 save percentage and 2.82 GAA.
The New York Islanders will likely counter with Semyon Varlamov in net. Varlamov is 14-6-3 with a 2.20 GAA and a .923 save percentage.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines:
|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|
Expected New York Islanders Lines
|Leo Komarov||Mathew Barzal||Jordan Eberle|
|Anthony Beauvillier||Brock Nelson||Josh Bailey|
|Kieffer Bellows||J-G Pageau||Oliver Wahlstrom|
|Matt Martin||Casey Czikas||Cal Clutterbuck|
|Adam Pelech||Ryan Pulock|
|Nick Leddy||Scott Mayfield|
|Thomas Hickey||Andy Greene|
|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 Islanders are a team that specializes in taking away what opponents do well. They are structurally rigid and well-coached by Barry Trotz, but the Penguins also found ways to get to them this season. Each team has two regulation wins against the other.
The Penguins game is not to play on the rush, at least not without Evgeni Malkin and Teddy Blueger in the middle. So, the Penguins did a good job of getting pucks deep and retrieving them against Buffalo. However, doing it against the New York Islanders will be a more difficult task.
The Islanders could cede the neutral zone in exchange for extra bodies to take away the Penguins possession down low.
How will the Penguins manufacture offense against a good team and a good goalie? The Penguins didn’t score so well against New Jersey last week.
The game will be decided upon the Penguins’ ability to get to three goals. Or, they must hope Tristan Jarry is a wizard in goal.
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
Position, Player (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)
F Jason Zucker (17 consecutive, 17 total)
D Mark Friedman (12 consecutive, 12 total)
F Teddy Blueger (6 consecutive, 6 total)
F Evgeni Malkin (5 consecutive, 5 total)
F Brandon Tanev (4 consecutive, 4 total)
F Kasperi Kapanen (1 consecutive, 1 total)
2020-21 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 181
*The Penguins have points in 10 of their last 12 games against New York (7-2-3), and are 10-4-3 over its last 17 games versus the Islanders.
*The Penguins have earned points in 10 of their last 12 games overall (9-2-1).
*With Frederick Gaudreau in the lineup, the Penguins are 13-for-13 (100%) on the penalty kill.
*Jake Guentzel has points in nine of his last 10 games (7g, 4a)
*Radim Zohorna scored his first NHL goal in his NHL debut on Thursday against Buffalo. Zohorna is the third Penguins player to score his first NHL goal this season, joining P.O Joseph (Feb. 6 at New York Islanders) and Mark Friedman (Mar. 4 vs. Philadelphia).
*Sidney Crosby had three assists on Thursday. He is now one of three active players with 1,300+ points (Joe Thornton, 1,521; Alex Ovechkin, 1,305) and is the eighth-fastest player in NHL history to 1,300 points.
*Since Feb. 1, no team in the NHL has a better combined save percentage than the Penguins duo of Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry (.928). The Islanders are second (.927).
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+;
Radio: 105.9 The X