Ducks vs. Penguins Preview: Battle Of The Birds
The Penguins welcome the Ducks, another struggling team who need a win.
The Penguins currently sit in a precarious place. After losing both games of their weekend back-to-back series they are now 17th in the standings and dropping quickly. They're in the league's most competitive division too. They also are missing a handful of critical players to injury or personal leave.
They have their two best weapons: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin but not much else. The players that remain around them are slumping and all of this is becoming more evident every time they step on the ice of late.
Pittsburgh must pick up the max points in their next three games vs. losing teams this week to stop the bleeding. That span starts with the Anaheim Ducks on Monday.
The only team performing worse than the Ducks in 2022-23 is the Blackhawks. Anaheim dropped three straight games last week by six or more goals. They're dead last in the league in both goals against per game at 4.16 and goals for per game at 2.26. So they're struggling on both ends of the ice, letting in anything and not scoring a lick. They currently are strong contenders to win the draft lottery to land the 2023 #1 overall draft pick Connor Bedard next June.
This game should be a gimme for the Pens. And in their tight-rope walking standings situation, they have to find a way to rise above the current circumstances to get those two points tonight against such a weaker opponent.
Head coach Mike Sullivan has made some significant line changes to try to do so by shifting the bottom six forwards around and all three defense pairings ahead of the game. There's a new face, rookie Jonathan Gruden, joining the roster. And defenseman Marcus Pettersson is set to return from illness too. The Penguins are hoping to find some spark to help rejuvenate their stale playing tempo. The new look line-up is below in the Penguins Update.
Pens Game #43: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Anaheim Ducks
Date: January 16, 2023
Time: 7 PM (ET)
Place: Pittsburgh, PA
Venue: PPG Paints Arena
Broadcasts: Local- ATTSN, National- ESPN+
Social Media Hashtags #: #LetsGoPens #LetsGoDucks
Records- PIT: 21-15-6, ANA: 12-27-4
Last 10- PIT: 2-6-2, ANA: 3-6-1
Streaks- PIT: 2 Losses, ANA: 3 Losses
Standings- PIT: 17th, ANA: 31st
Points- PIT: 48, ANA: 28
‘21/22 Season Series- 2-0 Pens
‘21/22 Series Goals For- PIT: 5, ANA: 1
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: 5-9-2, 3.10 GAA, .907 SV%
Career vs. ANA: 1-1-0, 1.51 GAA, .956 SV%
-JOHN GIBSON- #36
Bio Info: 6' 2", 207 lbs. DOB: 7/14/1993 (29). From: Pittsburgh, PA.
Drafted: 2011: Rd 2, Pk 39 (ANA). Experience: 9th Season.
Record: 7-19-3, 4.14 GAA, .894 SV%
Career vs. PIT: 5-6-0, 3.31 GAA, .897 SV%
The Penguins recalled forward Jonathan Gruden from the AHL on Sunday. This is the 23-year-old's first career call-up to the NHL so he'll be making his league debut. Gruden was an unexpected recall choice as he's a deep man on the Pens' depths chart but he's been on an impressive roll of late in the minor leagues scoring six points in just the last three games. Overall this season he has 11 goals and 5 assists in 32 games played for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Gruden is notable as the main prospect piece sent in return to the Penguins' from Ottawa in the trade for two-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Matt Murray in 2020.
Sports Forecaster's scouting report on Gruden:
"The son of former NHL defenseman John Gruden has natural point-producing acumen and good hockey sense. He is equally comfortable scoring goals himself or setting up linemates. Does not have ideal size for the National Hockey League, so he needs to add more bulk and get physically stronger in order to maximize output at the highest level. Also lacks consistency. Long Range Potential: Solid, point-producing forward with upside."
The Pens' injured player group all skated once again on their own before the game-day skate, which included Tristan Jarry, Josh Archibald, Ryan Poehling, and Jeff Petry. All of those men apparently remain status quo. The non-roster practice session was notable as the first time starting goalie Tristan Jarry has taken shots from his teammates since being injured with an undisclosed lower-body issue in the Winter Classic on January 2nd. This marks a small but key step in his progression to return to play.
Marcus Pettersson looks set to return from illness after missing the weekend series. Mark Friedman is the defenseman relegated to being a healthy scratch with Petey's comeback in store.
Outgoing off of the roster is Danton Heinen who will join the healthy scratch list Monday. Heinen is having a tough season and is on a remarkable cold streak. His last goal came 38 games ago in the opening month of the season on October 22nd at Columbus. And the Penguins have been benching him through large stretches of recent games including on Saturday when he did not step foot on the ice during the last half of play, recording his final shift at 9:14 in the second period.
The Ducks are not doing well, to say the least. After signing a handful of big-name free agents in Ryan Strome, John Klingberg, and Frank Vatrano last summer Anaheim's on-ice misfortune has not changed at all and they currently sit as the second-worst team in the league.
Anaheim only has one win in their last five games against the Penguins to add to their issues ahead of this clash with Pittsburgh.
Key players added: Forwards- Ryan Strome, Frank Vatrano. Defensemen- John Klingberg, Dmitry Kulikov.
Key players lost: Forwards- Zach Aston-Reese, Ryan Getzlaf, Sonny Milano, Sam Steel. Defensemen- Andrej Sustr.
-Jamie Drysdale (D): IR, shoulder, out 1-3 months.
-Derek Grant (F): IR, lower body, day-to-day.
-Justin Kirkland (F): IR, undisclosed, day-to-day.
-Isac Lundestrom (F): IR, finger, day-to-day.
For The Penguins: Rickard Rakell. "Raks" recorded the lone Pens goal against the Hurricanes on Saturday after clipping a carelessly juggled puck out of mid-air. It was a slick reminder of the kind of skill the Penguins do have when they're firing on all cylinders. It was also Rakell's third point and second goal in the last five games. He seems to be gradually revving up to his usual offensive production after it slowed for a spell in late December.
For The Ducks: Frank Vatrano. Yep, that former New York Ranger Frank Vatrano who was a perpetual thorn in the Penguins' side last season in the playoffs for NYR. He now resides in Anaheim and is always strong when playing the Pens no matter what team he's on. Vatrano hasn't scored since December 20th so he's overdue too. He's also approaching the official "Penguin killer" designation with 13 points in 16 career games vs. Pittsburgh, nine of which are goals. And many fans will recall he caught the Pens for two costly goals in particular during the round one playoff series last spring while on the way to eliminating the Penguins in seven games with New York.