No it is not Groundhog’s Day, and you are not Bill Murray. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators will close out their home and home series with a game at PPG Paints Arena, Saturday. Despite the injuries that have scarred their lineup, the Penguins remain solidly in a playoff position as the first half of the season wanes and are currently in third place in the Metro Division.
Head coach Mike Sullivan also confirmed rugged winger Patric Hornqvist will be in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 30. Hornqvist skated with the team for the first time Friday morning.
The Penguins have a league-leading eight wins in December and have lost only a league-low two games this month. At home, the Penguins have won in three of their last four games, and have points in seven of their last nine games against Nashville.
Sullivan confirmed Matt Murray will start in net for the Penguins. Nashville did not announce a starting goalie.
The Penguins dominated Nashville in 5-2 win on Friday. Despite their first action since last Saturday, the Penguins used unlikely sources to tally their eighth win in December. The Penguins found the net early just 2:17 after puck drop to take the first lead of the game. Pens Twitter favorite Dominik Simon skated down the wing and released a quick but low shot to tally his first goal in 24 games. Nashville promptly answered with a Craig Smith redirection off a Matias Ekholm shot. Penguins Alex Galchenyuk (3) and Teddy Blueger (5) added goals late to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead into the intermission.
The Penguins would never surrender the lead, but that did not stop them from adding on in the second. Bryan Rust continued his welcomed production with his 14th goal of the season. Rust sent the puck into an open net, but a beautiful feed from Jake Guentzel made it happen. The Penguins added on late with a goal from a previously quiet player. Juuso Riikola found his own rebound and shot top-left corner for his first goal of the season, extending the lead. Nashville cut the lead to three in the third with a Viktor Arvidsson (8) marker at the midway point. The goal was Arvidsson’s second in as many games.
Tristan Jarry started in net for the Penguins and made 30 saves in the win. The win was his eighth-consecutive against the Western Conference. Per NHLPR, he is just the second goalie in Penguins’ history to accomplish this feat. Pekka Rinne started for Nashville but was pulled after only three saves on six shots. Juuse Saros stopped 17 of 19 shots in relief.
In Friday’s Penguins game, the Penguins had 14 different players record a point, nine in the first period alone, marking the first time this season that has occurred. The previous season-high was 12 different point-getters set three times (Oct. 29 vs. PHI; Oct. 13 at WPG; Oct. 5 vs.CBJ).
As the calendar year comes to a close, Pittsburgh has once again shown to be one of the most productive teams in the NHL. The Penguins rank in the top-10 in multiple categories in 2019, including wins (45, 8th), shutouts (7, T-7th), goals-against average (2.79,8th), goals (262, t-8th) and shorthanded goals (15, 1st).
Scout list Pens v Nashville:
Carolina didn’t just bring 1 tonight. Buffalo is back, too…
— Dan Kingerski (@TheDanKingerski) December 28, 2019
Sidney Crosby (Core Muscle, skating)
Nick Bjugstad (Core Muscle, skating)
Brian Dumoulin (Ankle, IR)
Justin Schultz (Lower Body, Longer term)
Dan Hamhuis (Face)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||20.3% (16th NHL)||82.4% (7th NHL)|
|New Jersey Devils||17.7% (22nd NHL)||82.0% (10th NHL)|
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jason Zucker||Sidney Crosby||Conor Sheary|
|Patrick Marleau||Evgeni Malkin||Bryan Rust|
|Evan Rodrigues||Jared McCann||Patric Hornqvist|
|Brandon Tanev||Teddy Blueger||Sam Lafferty|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|