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Penguins Game 81 Preview: Sullivan Puts Lines in a Blender, Crosby v. McDavid

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Pittsburgh Penguins Game vs. Edmonton Oilers

But once a year, hockey fans in Pittsburgh are treated to the Connor McDavid show. Of course, Penguins fans get 41 homes games a year with one of the greatest of all time, Sidney Crosby. The second fiddles aren’t too bad either, as Leon Draisaitl and Evgeni Malkin are involved. The Pittsburgh Penguins host the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena in a battle of historically talented franchises.

The puck drops just after 7 p.m.

The Penguins are just one point ahead of the Washington Capitals for third place in the Metro and Washington has one game in hand. The Penguins trail the Boston Bruins by two points in a possible battle for the top wild card.

On Saturday, the Penguins crushed the hapless Detroit Red Wings 7-2 but faceplanted against the equally hapless Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, 4-1.

“We weren’t good enough to win,” was about all head coach Mike Sullivan could muster about his team’s disinterested loss.

Tuesday morning, head coach Mike Sullivan put his lines in a blender, and none of the four lines are intact. A week after Sullivan said Bryan Rust helped keep Evgeni Malkin on track, Rust will return to the top line with Sidney Crosby.

Rickard Rakell, who had three points on Saturday, will play with Malkin, and those are just the start of the changes.

The Edmonton Oilers have dominated the second half of the season. They’re 24-11-3 (7th, NHL) since Feb. 1 and 8-2-1 (5th, NHL) since April 1. In a display of offense not seen since the early days of Crosby-Malkin, McDavid and Draisaitl have soared past 100 points. McDavid has 43 goals and 118 points, while Draisaitl has 55 goals and 108 points.

Draisaitl also broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for power-play goals. Draisaitl has 24, breaking Gretzky’s mark of 20.

It should be a lot of fun.

“The transition game becomes that much more important. Our transition has to be quick and efficient. We have to make good decisions with puck not to feed their transition,” Sullivan said.

Casey DeSmith will likely start for the Penguins.

Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines:

LWCRW
Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyBryan Rust
Rickard RakellEvgeni MalkinKasperi Kapanen
Jason ZuckerJeff CarterDanton Heinen
Brock McGinnTeddy BluegerEvan Rodrigues
LDRD
Mike MathesonKris Letang
Marcus PetterssonJohn Marino
Mark FriedmanChad Ruhwedel
Goalie
Tristan Jarry
Louis Domingue

Expected Oilers Lines per PuckPedia.com:

Kane-McDavid-Yamamoto

McLeod-Draisaitl-Hyman

Foegele–Nugent-Hopkins–Ryan

Brassard-Shore-Kassian

Defence:

Keith-Bouchard

Kulak-Barrie

Russel-Ceci

Goalie:

Mike Smith (expected)

Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes

*It’s the first meeting between the teams in Pittsburgh since Nov. 2, 2019.

*The Penguins have points in 19 of their last 20 games against the Oilers (15-1-4) dating back to December 5, 2007, with the lone regulation loss coming earlier this season.

*Rickard Rakell has 24 points (11-13-24) in 28 games against Edmonton in his career. Both of his two career hat tricks were against the Oilers (Feb. 25, 2018, and Mar. 30, 2019.

*Despite only playing in 39 games this season, Evgeni Malkin sits one goal shy of hitting the 20-goal plateau for the 13th time in his career.

*It’s the ninth head-to-head matchup of Crosby and McDavid. Although McDavid has the edge in points (14-5), Crosby and the Penguins are 7-1-0, dating back to their first head-to-head matchup on Nov. 8, 2016.

*In 36 career games versus the Oilers, Carter has recorded 36 points (22-14-36).

*Edmonton has the fourth-ranked power play (25.7%) but the 18th-ranked PK (79.2%). The Penguins PK remains second (85.7%), but the power play has fallen to 18th (20.7%).

Pittsburgh Penguins Betting, DraftKings Promo:

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The “Bet Against Dan and Make Money” pick on Sunday was perfect if you bet against me. The picks today are all about offense. McDavid against the Penguins defense and Casey DeSmith…I’m going to take a big flyer on McDavid.

First, Jeff Carter has 22 goals in 36 career games against Edmonton. We’re taking Big Jeff to knock one home (+240).

We also like the draw after 60 minutes. If the game is close, neither team will risk a point–that’s the problem with an out-of-conference game at the end of the season. If the game hits OT, that pays (+350).

But, the Oilers are a big payday to win (+140). So, I’m taking the Oilers in OT.

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How to Watch:

TV: ESPN; Radio: 105.9 The X

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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gbg
gbg
25 days ago

Unless Matheson is hurt this is mismanagement putting him at the end of the line.

Ethan
Ethan
25 days ago
Reply to  gbg

I hope gbg stands for Greensburg! Go Lions! You are right–seems like tonight is going to be a track meet and the Pens better bring their running shoes/skates. Matheson sure looks like fastest skater on team–so why not free up your fastest horse?

Michael Hanczar
Michael Hanczar
25 days ago

Play Friedman, he will drive Kane crazy.

Katz is Dumb
Katz is Dumb
25 days ago

Friedman is much better option than watching McDavid and Draisaitl on breakaways while Pettersson trips over his own skates.

Chris R
Chris R
25 days ago

Bryan Rust hasn’t been looking that happy.

Mike Donnelly
Mike Donnelly
25 days ago
Reply to  Chris R

He never looks happy. I think his style (drive in deep, boardwork) fits the first line better than the second.

Ethan
Ethan
25 days ago
Reply to  Chris R

Perhaps he feels like being on 2nd line has cost him some points/dough in free agency. I still maintain that Rust on 2nd adds better balance to top–but at least he might get to chase McDavid in 1st and 3rd now. Perhaps doesn’t need to be on both PK and top PP unit. Seems like his points dip coincides with PK as much as line change.

Chris R
Chris R
25 days ago
Reply to  Ethan

With all the articles about who to target in free agency, I never see his name come up. You’d think he’d be on people’s radar.

Crazyhorse87
Crazyhorse87
25 days ago

Brassard probably wants to be traded because he’s on the 4th line.

JICS
JICS
25 days ago

Every time Crosby has good chemistry with a new player, Malkin wants him and gets him, every time! or he pouts. He is supposed to have good chemistry with Rust, but Rust is in a slump, so he wants Rakell. And Sullivan gives him whatever he wants! That’s great (not) when Sid will be playing against McDavid, to lose Rakell.

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