The Pens' depth players keep making statements in a critical period for the team.
The Penguins are forging ahead without Kris Letang for the foreseeable future, and their problems are compounding with illness and other injuries now also hitting the team in bulk quantities. That includes some pretty key players. So Tuesday's game against Columbus is more of a battle of the will within the team.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Casey DeSmith were all out yesterday due to illness. They're all termed as "likely" to play tonight. If either Crosby or Malkin can't go the Penguins will have to play with only 10 forwards as they're at their roster limit and a team must play at least one game a man down before being permitted an emergency call-up. And their extra forward Danton Heinen is already entering the lineup in place of the injured Ryan Poehling.
We won't know until warm-ups or maybe even right down to game time who is well enough to play for certain which makes tonight's roster extra intriguing. Without #87 or #71, the two of the top three Penguins' scorers, the rest of the team will have to fill in the gaps of their play-generating abilities. A more even effort throughout the lines will be the name of the game to balance that workload.
The Penguins are trying to stretch their past two wins into a three-game streak vs. the Blue Jackets, a basement-dwelling team. If Pittsburgh has their usual personnel they should have a good shot to get it done.
Pens Game #26: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Date: December 6, 2022
Time: 7 PM (ET)
Place: Pittsburgh, PA
Venue: PPG Paints Arena
Broadcasts: Local- ATTSN, National- ESPN+
Records- PIT: 13-8-4, CBJ: 8-13-2
Last 10- PIT: 7-2-1, CBJ: 4-4-2
Standings- PIT: 12th, CBJ: 29th
Points- PIT: 30, CBJ: 18
Streaks- PIT: 2 Wins, CBJ: 1 Loss
Season Series- 1-0 PIT
Series Goals For- PIT: 6, CBJ: 3
Team Stats Comparison:
Confirmed Starting Goalies-
-TRISTAN JARRY- #35
Bio Info: 6' 2", 194 lbs. DOB: 4/29/1995 (27). From: Surrey, BC.
Drafted: 2013- Rd 2, Pk 44 (PIT). Experience: 7th Season.
Record: 10-3-3, 2.86 GAA, .915 SV%
Career vs. CBJ: 5-1-0, .936 GAA, 1.77 SV%
-ELVIS MERZLIKINS- #90
[Columbus Blue Jackets]
Bio Info: 6'3", 180 lbs. DOB: 4/13/1994 (28). From: Riga, Latvia.
Drafted: 2014- Rd 3, Pk 76 (CBJ). Experience: 4th Season.
Record: 2-5-0, 4.74 GAA, .864 SV%
Career vs. PIT: 0-4-0, 4.65 GAA, .888 SV%
Out of all the Pens hit by illness, Sidney Crosby was the only one who wasn't able to practice today. What that means for his availability tonight remains to be seen as the team did not update his status.
Ryan Poehling's injury means Danton Heinen will return to the lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch for three games.
There is no update on Kris Letang's recovery but he remains present with the team off-ice.
-Kris Letang (D): stroke, out indefinitely.
-Ryan Poehling (F): upper-body, day-to-day.
The projected Penguins lines for Tuesday, December 6th vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Danton Heinen - Teddy Blueger - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin - Jeff Petry
Marcus Pettersson - Jan Rutta
P.O. Joseph - Chad Ruhwedel
PP1: Malkin, Crosby, Guentzel, Rust, Petry
PP2: Carter, Rakell, Zucker, Kapanen, Joseph
PK1: Blueger, McGinn, Dumoulin, Rutta
PK2: TBD, Archibald, Petry, Pettersson
Blue Jackets Update:
The Blue Jackets come in a bottom-five team in the league, at 29th place. They have just one win in their last five games. Not the stoutest opponent in this home stretch that the Pens hope to squeeze as many wins from as they can.
Columbus is starting Elvis Merzlikins who has never beaten the Penguins in four career games played against them, stacking the odds in the Pens' favor even more.
There are three Jackets out for the season or indefinitely making quite a dent in their roster. Those names include their number one defenseman Zach Werenski. A hard loss for CBJ but a great advantage for the Pens.
-Jake Bean (D): IR, shoulder, out until March.
-Nick Blankenburg (D): IR, ankle, week-to-week.
-Adam Boqvist (D): LTIR, broken foot, week-to-week.
-Justin Danforth (F): IR, shoulder, our for 2022-23.
-Jakub Voracek (F): IR, concussion out indefinitely.
-Zach Werenski (D): LTIR, shoulder, out for 2022-23.
For The Penguins: Kasperi Kapanen. Wait, what?! Yes! "Kappy" is perhaps the most unlikely one to watch we've had in this space. From press box to hat trick, it's been quite the renaissance for Mr. Kapanen in a short span of time. He has four goals and five points in the last two games all after sitting out due to poor performance for nearly the entire month of November. There's no reason to think he's going to cool down now that he's found his game again.
For The Blue Jackets: Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau has finally found top form for his new franchise. He's churning out multi-point games with some regularity of late: three in his last six played. He's also on a four-game point streak, scoring eight points in that span. Gaudreau is the guy who could be the difference-maker for Columbus tonight.