Penguins (14-11-6) vs. Kings (11-20-2)
PPG Paints Arena – Pittsburgh, PA
7:00PM Eastern – NHL-N | AT&TSN | FS-W
Tonight, in the 2nd of 3 games in this mini-homestand, the Penguins take on the 31st ranked team for the second time this week as the LA Kings come to town for the Pens’ first of 6 matchups against the California teams.
The Penguins will be coming into this second of a back-to-back looking to build off the 5-3 win against Boston last night, a victory that put them two points clear of the Islanders, who have a game in hand, for 3rd place in the Metro and just 2 points back of the 2nd place Blue Jackets. Much like the Penguins, both teams in their immediate vicinity have trap games tonight to keep an eye on as the Isles welcome the Wings and the Jackets play host to the Ducks, who will be in Pittsburgh on Monday night.
What’s more, while the Penguins haven’t played particularly well 40% of the way through the season, they’ve been finding ways to get results lately, going 6-3-1 in their last 10. We can’t say the same thing about LA, who are a lowly 3-6-1 in their last 10, having won just 4 games on the road all season long.
They should be there for the taking.
Impossible to know what’s going on with Kris Letang, who left last night’s game with an apparent knee injury.
If he can’t go, you’d expect Juuso Riikola to find his way back into the lineup, a player that was particularly good before Marcus Pettersson arrived.
Meanwhile, Matt Murray looks set to get the start tonight in his first bit of game action since November 17th. The second of a back-to-back isn’t the best situation for him to be coming back into after not playing for a month, but if the Penguins can insulate him as they have with DeSmith, it’ll make his life just a bit easier.
Guentzel – Crosby – Rust
Aston-Reese – Malkin – Kessel
Pearson – Brassard – Sheahan
Grant – Cullen – Wilson
Dumoulin – Riikola
Pettersson – Johnson
On the other side of the ice, a bad and fragile LA Kings team will be looking to climb out of the league’s basement in hope of doing….something this season. Their growing list of injuries won’t help as they’ll be without the services of Ilya Kovalchuk, Carl Hagelin (RIP), Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Dion Phaneuf, Alec Martinez, and Jack Campbell. They also come into this having scored the fewest number of goals in the league (71) and 3rd fewest at 5v5 (49). A perennial powerhouse is anything but this season. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown
Leipsic – Carter – Luff
Scherbak – Kempe – Toffoli
Wagner – Thompson – Amadio
Fantenberg – Doughty
Muzzin – LaDue
Forbort – Walker
What to watch for
- Tanner Pearson – This will be Pearson’s first look against the team that drafted him in the first round in 2012 and you can probably bank on him wanting a goal against his former club. After netting just 1 assist in 17 games with LA, he’s put up a respectable 3G-2A in 15 games with the Penguins since the trade, while averaging just a hair over 2 shots on goal per game.
- Kris Letang’s Impact – While we don’t know Letang’s status quite yet (Rossi reported he was seen walking around the arena without crutches or a brace), his impact will be felt regardless. If he plays, the Pens may score over 9000 goals tonight. If he doesn’t, we may see exactly 0 goals, despite LA having given up the 9th most goals against this season. No one has been on the ice for more Penguins goals for than Letang (53 of 105, 50.47%). Suffice it to say, he’s the straw that stirs the drink on this team and any absence is bad and also not good.
- Matt Murray – It’ll be a welcomed sight to see him back in the crease and presumably fully healthy. As mentioned, the Penguins will have to play better in front of him and limit high danger shots and chances against, but as we saw in 2017, an elite performing Matt Murray can help fill some voids left by Letang missing from the lineup.
- Special Teams – The Penguins come into this matchup with the 10th best PP conversion rate (22.4%) and 7th best Penalty Kill rate (83.3%). Meanwhile, LA possesses the 28th ranked PP (13.7%) and 28th ranked PK (74.3%) and have scored just 2 shorthanded goals all season, which will be a welcomed sight for the Pens.. LA has been shorthanded 101 times this season, tied for 11th most. Even with the possibility of Letang missing, the Penguins should be able to pick the Kings apart with the man-advantage.
Behead the Kings.