It is time to go for nine as the Pittsburgh Penguins (23-12-6) play the Chicago Blackhawks (15-21-7) tonight at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins have a chance to not only extend their streak but start the second half the season with a win. The Penguins have won nine of their last 10 games, playing their best stretch of hockey so far this season and are one of the NHL’s hottest teams.
The Penguins can seize the top spot in the Metropolitan Division with a win and a Washington Capitals loss tonight. The Capitals are in Detroit. Despite the Penguins streak, they have been unable to gain more than a game lead against any team behind them as the Columbus Blue Jackets only trail the Penguins by a point. The New York Islanders trail by two points with a game in hand.
Casey DeSmith will start tonight for the Penguins.
Chicago and the Penguins met on Dec. 12th in Chicago. The Blackhawks scored three third period seal to a 6-3 victory and render a Bryan Rust hat trick less meaningful. Casey DeSmith stopped 23 of 27 shots in the loss. Corey Crawford stopped 40 of 43 shots and Jonathan Toews scored three points.
Friday night, the Penguins shutout the Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets 4-0. The Penguins found scoring from unlikely places as they scored two goals in the first period and never looked back. Olli Maatta (1) scored his first goal of season on the power play and Matt Cullen (4) extended the lead 33 seconds later. Dominik Simon (6) scored in the second period on a video overturn which became his second goal in two games. Kris Letang (10) scored in the third period to give him his sixth double-digit goal season; he is on pace for 20 goals.
Goaltender Matt Murray recorded the shutout by turning away all 33 shots for his 11th win. Seven players assisted Murray with multiple blocked shots. The Penguins overall blocked 25 shots. Marcus Pettersson led with 4 blocks and added his third assist since being acquired by the Penguins last month. The shutout was Penguins fifth of the season. They trail only the Vegas Golden Knights (6) for most in the NHL.
Chicago didn’t help the Penguins Thursday when they lost to the New York Islanders 3-2 in overtime. Chicago forward Dominik Kahun (6) scored a goal four minutes into the game but Chicago couldn’t hold the lead. Islanders All-Star Matt Barzal (11, 12) scored both regulation goals for the New York. Chicago sniper Patrick Kane (23) also scored. New York rookie defenseman Devon Toews (1) scored the OT winner, the first goal of his NHL career.
Collin Delia saved 47 of 50 shots for the Blackhawks. The overtime loss was the first of Delia career.
Injured defenseman Justin Schultz has started skating by himself in practice as he nears a return. Schultz is recovering from a broken leg he suffered on October 13th.
This is the 145th time the Blackhawks and Penguins will be playing each other. The Blackhawks have dominated the series 48-79-17 and have currently won 9 games straight dating back to 2014.
Justin Schultz (Fractured Leg. IR)
Brandon Davidson (Leg)
Corey Crawford ( Concussion, IR)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||12.5% (12th NHL)||80.0% (9th NHL)|
|New York Islanders||20.0% (8th NHL)||87.5% (4th NHL)|
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Dominik Kahun|
|Alex Galchenyuk||Evgeni Malkin||Bryan Rust|
|Jared McCann||Nick Bjugstad||Patric Hornqvist|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brandon Tanev|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|
|Marcus Pettersson||Erik Gudbranson|