Avalanche vs. Penguins Preview: The Second Half Starts Now!
The Pens return from the All-Star break to face the reigning Stanley Cup Champions.
Relaxed and refreshed from a week of off-time due to the NHL's All-Star Game, the Pittsburgh Penguins return to PPG Paints Arena Tuesday to face the current Stanley Cup Champions, the Colorado Avalanche. These franchises meet for the first time in 2022-23 when both are having trouble finding traction among the rest of the league despite being pre-season picks to contend. Colorado sits in 16th place in the standings and is 4th in the Central Division but is still knocking on the door of making the playoffs. They're trying to cease the second Western Conference wildcard berth that Calgary currently holds. Pittsburgh falls just behind the Avs in 18th place and is sitting in the 5th spot in the Metropolitan Division. They've got a playoff bid as of now but are barely holding on to the second Eastern Conference wildcard slot by the skin of their beaks. The Penguins are tied with the Islanders with 57 points so they could be bumped out of the post-season picture at any second with relative ease. Pittsburgh needs to start gathering points and doing it fast, as the Islanders just improved their roster by landing the top name on the trade market, Bo Horvat, from the Canucks. The playoff race is getting tight and the opposition is arming themselves with big guns.
In better news, some reinforcements are arriving for the Pens too! Josh Archibald and Kasperi Kapanen are set to return to the lineup vs. the Avalanche. They should provide a shot in the arm for the Penguins' struggling bottom six forwards. The checking line of Ryan Poehling-Teddy Bluger-Josh Archibald produced some significant results early on in the season but injuries to all three men during the year derailed their progression. Archibald's return will have that trio intact for the first time since the fall. The team is likely looking forward to seeing what they might have in that combination of players before shopping for depth players at the trade deadline.
While all that background action sets the scene, the real marquee matchup in this game is Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon clashing one-on-one for the 14th time in their careers. Nate has won seven games to Sid's six, so a tieing victory with surely be the focus of the endlessly competitive #87 as he faces his best friend MacKinnon again.
Crosby also might have a little revenge on his mind after this incident at the All-Star Game where MacKinnon, his skill competition partner, flubbed a shooting race and allowed fellow Avalanche player Mikko Rantanen to drop Sid into the dunk tank with some slick accuracy skills. Penguins do belong in the water, though. So Sidney really shouldn't be holding a grudge here!
Pens Game #50: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Colorado Avalanche
Date: February 7, 2022
Time: 7 PM (ET)
Place: Pittsburgh, PA
Venue: PPG Paints Arena
Social Media Hashtags #: #LetsGoPens #GoAvsGo
Penguins Broadcast: AT&T Sportsnet
Avalanche Broadcast: Altitude
Canadian Broadcast: TVAS
Online Stream: ESPN+
Penguins Radio: 105.9 The X/Penguins Radio Network
Avalanche Radio: Altitude SportsRadio
Records- PIT: 24-16-9, COL: 27-18-3
Last 10- PIT: 4-3-3, COL: 7-3-0
Streaks- PIT: 2 Losses, COL: 1 Win
Standings- PIT: 17th, COL: 15th
Points- PIT: 57, COL: 57
‘21/22 or Season Series- 2-0 COL
‘21/22 or Series Goals For- PIT: 6, COL: 9
Team Analytics Comparison:
Projected starting goalies-
-CASEY DESMITH- #1
Bio Info: 6' 0", 181 lbs. DOB: 8/13/1991 (31). From: Rochester, NH.
Drafted: Undrafted; Experience: 5th Season.
Record: 7-10-4, 3.35 GAA, .901 SV%
Career vs. COL: 1-0-0, 3.00 GAA, .933 SV%
-ALEXANDAR GEORGIEV- #40
Bio Info: 6' 1", 178 lbs. DOB: 2/10/1996 (26). From: Ruse, Bulgaria.
Drafted: Undrafted. Experience: 6th Season.
Record: 20-11-3, 2.60 GAA, .919 SV%
Career vs. PIT: 3-3-1, 4.20 GAA, .883 SV%
Two forward comebacks are in the forecast for this evening. Josh Archibald (lower body) seems ready to return to play after missing seven weeks due to a lower-body injury. Archibald last played on December 18th in the Penguins' loss to the Hurricanes. He'll be a welcome addition to the Penguins' struggling bottom six. Kasperi Kapanen (lower body) is also good to go for tonight. Kapanen has been out due to injury since January 18th.
A return isn't in the cards Tuesday for the one player whose comeback is being anxiously awaited. As Tristan Jarry (upper body) appears set to spend another game sidelined. Dustin Tokarski has been recalled from WBS to back up Casey DeSmith in the meantime. The Penguins did move Jarry up from Long Term Injured Reserve to regular IR in preparation for his expected return.
Also on the sidelines is defenseman Jan Rutta (upper body), who took the optional gameday skate Tuesday morning in a full-contact jersey for the first time since injury. His LTIR designation does not run out until February 14th so Rutta will miss playing during the entirety of the Pens' upcoming three-game West Coast road trip.
-Tristan Jarry (G): upper body, day-to-day.
-Jan Rutta (D): LTIR, upper body, day-to-day.
The projected Penguins lines for Tuesday, February 7, 2023, vs. the Colorado Avalanche:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Ryan Poehling - Teddy Blueger - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson - Jeff Petry
P. O. Joseph - Chad Ruhwedel
PP1: Malkin, Crosby, Guentzel, Rakell, Letang
PP2: Carter, Rust, Zucker, Kapanen, Petry
PK1: Carter/Poehling, Rust, Dumoulin, Petry
PK2: Blueger, McGinn, Ruhwedel, Pettersson
Welcome back to our boy Evan Rodrigues who is sorely missed here in Pittsburgh since leaving to sign with Colorado last summer. "Erod" is having quite a year in his new home in the Mile High City. His analytics show a tremendous transition game still is one of his top attributes. That's something the Penguins sorely miss.
Rodrigues caught up with the always terrific Taylor Haase of DK Pittsburgh Sport (paywalled) to talk about leaving the Burgh and his thoughts on his ending with the Penguins. Unsurprisingly, he remains as joyful and enthusiastic as ever in his outlook despite departing the city. This is a must-read article for fans of one of the best guys in the game.
The Avalanche are getting a couple of returns in their ranks for Tuesday's game. They're huge returns at that. Two integral pieces of the 2022 Stanley Cup run are rejoining the team. Key defender Bowen Byram will play after rehabbing from an undisclosed ailment that has kept him on IR for three months. Val Nichuskin also re-enters the Avs' mix at forward after a less severe upper-body injury sustained just before the All-Star break.
[Players coming & going since last season]
Key players added: Forwards- Evan Rodrigues (from the Penguins), Lukas Sedlak. Defenseman- Brad Hunt. Goalie- Alexandar Georgiev.
Key players lost: Forwards- Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Andre Burakovsky, Nazem Kadri, Nico Sturm. Defensemen- Jack Johnson, Ryan Murray. Goalie- Darcy Kuemper.
-Darren Helm (F): lower-body, out indefinitely.
-Gabriel Landeskog (F): LTIR, knee surgery, out until March.
-Josh Manson (D): IR, lower body, out day-to-day.
For The Penguins: Sidney Crosby. Sidney, Sidney, Sidney! It’s always Sidney this season. He’s not just tearing it up his usual amount of extraordinary anymore but now he's on a seven-game point streak. This is Crosby’s eighth multi-game point streak of the year and his third streak consisting of four or more games. (Honorable mention to Jake Guentzel too. He has a five-game point streak going. Usually, that's more than good enough to take this title but not while Sidney Crosby's still on the scene.)
For The Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon. I wish I could say that this was planned, but MacKinnon is just as hot as his mentor and best friend Sidney Crosby right now as luck would have it. "The Great Nate" actually might be performing more impressively this season than Crosby which isn't easy to do. MacKinnon has not gone more than one game between scoring points all season. He has points in 10 of his last 11 games. And he only failed to score in two games during the entire month of January. We'll see what he has in store for February starting against the Pens.