Whatever gains the Pittsburgh Penguins have made in enhancing their 200-foot game over their recent surge could come in handy Thursday when the Vancouver Canucks visit PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins (20-15-4) will be facing the top scoring team in the NHL. The Canucks (27-11-3) average 3.9 goals a game, the most in the league, and are making a solid push to move to the top of the overall standings.
The game starts a little after 7 p.m.
The Penguins are making a run to climb into a solid playoff spot but are still a bit on the outside in a crowded group of teams bunched around the playoff cutoff.
They are 9-3-1 in their past 13 games.
They have allowed 16 goals over their past seven games. That’s the kind of limited opposing offense they could use against Vancouver.
The team also seems to be closing in on more ideal lineup combinations, most recently switching Drew O’Connor to second-line right wing with Reilly Smith moving to third-line right wing. On defense, Ryan Graves seems to be playing a bit more of a steady game since moving down to the third pairing.
interestingly, the Penguins are going with Alex Nedeljkovich in net.
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The Canucks, who will kick off the second half of their season with this game, are 3-1 on their longest road trip of the season, a seven-game jaunt. They had an impressive three-games-in-four-nights set in the greater New York area most recently, winning at New Jersey and then, on successive nights, beating the Rangers and Islanders.
“To win three games in New Jersey and New York is tough to do,” said Vancouver coach Rick Tocchet, a former Penguins player and assistant and one of many in the Canucks organization with ties to the Penguins or Pittsburgh.
Tocchet reunited the “Lotto Line” of Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller for the New Jersey game, and in the three wins they combined for 18 points, with Pettersson collecting eight points over those three games.
Expected Penguins Lines
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Rickard Rakell
Drew O’Connor-Evgeni Malkin-Bryan Rust
Reilly Smith-Lars Eller-Valtteri Puustinen
Jansen Harkins-Noel Acciari-Jeff Carter
Marcus Pettersson-Kris Letang
P.O Joseph-Erik Karlsson
Ryan Graves-Chad Ruhwedel
Expected Canucks Lines
Elias Pettersson-J.T. Miller-Brock Boeser
Ilya Mikheyev-Pius Suter-Andrei Kuzmenko
Dakota Joshua-Teddy Blueger-Conor Garland
Nils Hoglander-Nils Aman-Sam Lafferty
Quinn Hughes-Filip Hronek
Carson Soucy-Tyler Myers
Nikita Zodorov-Ian Cole
Penguins Special Teams
Penguins power play: 14.7%, 25th
Penguins penalty kill: 82.5%, 9th
Canucks power play: 23.1%, 12th
Canucks penalty kill: 77.5%, 23rd
Penguins Game Notes
The Penguins are 9-4-1 in their past 14 games against Vancouver, 5-1-1 in their past seven home games against the Canucks.
In their past nine home games overall, the Penguins are 6-2-1.
Sidney Crosby has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 21 career games against Vancouver.
Jake Guentzel has 19 points (12 goals, 7 assists) in 11 career games against Vancouver.
Evgeni Malkin has 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in his past 10 games.
Drew O’Connor has five points (2 goals, 3 assists) over his past six games.
Erik Karlsson has a four-game point streak (1 goal, 4 assists).
The Penguins have 12 power-play goals over their past 13 games, with a 21.8% success rate in that stretch.
Crosby has 572 career goals, one shy of tying Mike Bossy for 22nd overall in the NHL.
How to Watch
TV: SportsNet Pittsburgh
Radio: 105.9 FM The X