The Pittsburgh Penguins game on Saturday night will be the 1000th career game for 2005 first-overall pick Sidney Crosby. Some day, there will be a Crosby statue near 5th Ave., but for now, the Penguins have to win games.
The Penguins (8-6-1) may not have given much thought to the end of their 4-1 win over the New York Islanders (8-5-3) on Thursday night, but New York has given it thought and is not happy with Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson.
It could get hair-raising at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday night as the MassMutual East Division rivals finish their second two-game set this season. The Penguins have won two of the first three meetings, though New York is 1-1-1 because the Penguins won a shootout on Feb. 11.
New York essentially issued a public warning to Matheson after his penalized hit on New York star Mathew Barzal, which followed a high hit on now-retired New York defenseman Johnny Boychuck in the NHL postseason last August, when Matheson played for the Florida Panthers.
“He’s got a couple of our guys here,” New York head coach Barry Trotz said. “(Matt Martin) sent a message to him, but yeah, it’s going to get testy.”
Matheson was otherwise spectacular, including a self-pass to set up the game-winning goal.
New York forward Matt Martin, and defenseman Scott Mayfield received 10-minute misconduct penalties in the final seconds Thursday night for “sending a message” to the Penguins.
Despite the win on Thursday, the Penguins are still out of a playoff position in the East Division. They trail New York, Philadelphia, and Washington by two points for the fourth position. However, the Penguins have the fewest regulation wins, so they would currently lose the first tiebreaker, too.
What to Watch:
Just how serious are the Islanders about sending a message?
Matheson has been extraordinary and playing with brimming confidence. He made the Penguins engine fire on Thursday night and has provided the needed spark from the blue line. He has two assists in six games but has created a handful of goals.
The Penguins answered the New York physical challenge in the first period, but it faded as the game went along. The Penguins got the goals, but New York will again push the Penguins. The physical response, lack of response, or distracted response will be key.
The Penguins third line with Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, and Brandon Tanev clamped down on Barzal and the New York top line on Thursday, just as the Penguins third line has done to other top lines, too. If New York can’t get offense from their top line, they’re in trouble.
Scoring first or getting a lead is crucial for the Penguins game, so New York cannot occupy their defensive posture, at which they are excellent. PHN+ detailed the Penguins neutral zone wrinkle, which kept the Islanders off balance.
Tristan Jarry will make his fourth straight start in goal for the Penguins. Jarry has improved his record to 4-5-1, and his save percentage has climbed to .886 with a 3.44 GAA. Those numbers don’t look great, but he’s been solid, even brilliant in the last three games.
New York coach Barry Trotz did not name a starter, though it’s expected to be Semyon Varlamov.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Rickard Rakell||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jason Zucker||Jeff Carter||Danton Heinen|
|Brock McGinn||Teddy Blueger||Evan Rodrigues|
|Mike Matheson||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Mark Friedman||Chad Ruhwedel|
Expected New York Islanders Lines
|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||15.1% (11-73) 27th NHL||92.2% (5-64) 1st NHL|
|Anaheim Ducks||26.3% (20-76) 5th NHL||86.3% (10-76) 3rd NHL|
Position, Player (Consecutive Games Missed, Total Games Missed)
F Sam Miletic (15 consecutive, 15 total)
D Juuso Riikola (11 consecutive, 11 total)
F Evan Rodrigues (9 consecutive, 9 total)
D Brian Dumoulin (8 consecutive, 8 total)
F Jared McCann (4 consecutive, 4 total)
2020-21 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 91
Penguins Game Notes
*The Penguins recalled Jordy Bellerive, Josh Currie, and goalie Emil Larmi to the taxi squad. The Penguins sent Anthony Angello, Frederick Gaudreau, and goalie Maxime Lagace to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL). According to Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, the move was specifically to get the demoted crew into game action.
*The Penguins have points in eight of their last nine games against New York (5-1-3) and are 8-3-3 over the last 14 games versus the Islanders.
*Ten of Pittsburgh’s 11 games in February are against either the Washington Capitals or New York Islanders.
*The Penguins .857 points percentage at home (6-1-0 record) is tied for third-best in the NHL.
Pittsburgh Penguins Betting
The Penguins game is a toss-up on several levels. Our Penguins betting picks are 8-8 this season, as we missed the OVER on Thursday night. One more empty netter or another goal by the Islanders, but alas…
Open an account with BetMGM and get a $500 match. Send us the screenshot, and we’ll also give you a free PHN+ yearly subscription.
The Penguins are settling down, and New York is already stingy. This feels like another low-scoring game, and MGM is giving another O/U at 5.5. We’re going to take the…UNDER. A $10 bet pays $19.52.
Given how close this series and these games have been, we also like the play for OT. Taking the long shot! A $10 bet pays $41 (We’ll take that bet the next four games and probably hit at least once).
If you’re really into Penguins betting, Sidney Crosby is also a 1.75 to 1 shot to score a goal in his 1000th game.
How to Watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 105.9 The X