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Golden Knights vs. Penguins Preview: Aftershock

The Penguins try to move forward after receiving stunning health news about Kris Letang.

Pittsburgh Penguins' Bryan Rust vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images.

An absolute bombshell hit the Penguins like the impact of a sudden meteor strike yesterday. The team announced that on Monday, for the second time in less than a decade, 35-year-old Kris Letang has suffered a stroke. He is out indefinitely while he begins to recover.


The Pens will now have to forge ahead without its all-time leading defenseman and 1/3rd of the “big three”. In a season that has hardly been easy, it’s a potentially devastating blow- emotionally and performance-wise. The importance of Kris Letang to this group cannot be understated. That will now be extremely evident for everyone to see. The Penguins will have to continue on without his leadership and the emotional spark he always provides.


Letang meanwhile is continuing to receive a battery of tests and is under intensive monitoring from specialists and team doctors. He is not cleared to play or practice in any way. But his untamable spirit and passion for the game couldn’t be stopped though even after this second major health scare. The story of his desire to play on Tuesday and the fact that he insisted on taking a light skate earlier today really speaks to how important what he does is to him. The so-called "twirl" on the ice was doctor-approved for Kris's mental health.


But right now hockey takes a back seat to the consideration of Kris Letang the human being, the family man, the father of two young children, and the Pittsburgh neighbor of over 17 years. This is what matters most. Priority number one has to be Kris’s well-being going forward in life, not the game. And with that understanding, you have to hope he’s cautious about his health and takes all the time he needs with this new challenge he faces.


Tonight his teammates prepare to faceoff with the Vegas Golden Knights without him. It’s certain to be an emotionally charged environment. The Pens are surely going to do everything in their power to win this one for “Tanger”. So let’s look at the game details to see where things stand:


Game Info:

Pens Game #24: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Vegas Golden Knights

Date: December 1, 2022

Time: 7 PM (ET)

Place: Pittsburgh, PA

Venue: PPG Paints Arena

Broadcasts: Local- ATTSN, National- ESPN+

Social Media Hashtags #: #LetsGoPens #VegasBorn


Team Matchup:

Records- PIT: 11-8-4, VGK: 17-6-1

Last 10- PIT: 6-2-2, VGK: 5-4-1

Standings- PIT: 14th, VGK: 3rd

Points- PIT: 26, VGK: 35

Streaks- PIT: 2 Losses, VGK: 1 Win

‘21/22 Season Series- 2-0 PIT

‘21/22 Series Goals For- PIT: 10, VGK: 5


Team Analytics Comparison:

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Vegas Golden Knights Stats
Analytics by JFresh Hockey.

Goalie Matchup:

Projected starting goalies-

-TRISTAN JARRY- #35

[Pittsburgh Penguins]

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: 8-3-3, 2.91 GAA, .914 SV%

Career vs. VGK: 3-1-0, 2.27 GAA, .927 SV%

🆚

-LOGAN THOMPSON- #36

[Vegas Golden Knights]

Bio Info: 6' 4", 190 lbs. DOB: 2/25/1997 (25). From: Calgary, AB.

Drafted: Undrafted. Experience: 2nd Season.

Record: 12-4-0, 2.44 GAA, .921 SV%

Career vs. PIT: Debut


Penguins Update:

The Penguins swept the season series 2-0 vs. Vegas in 2021-22. They scored five goals in both of those games and held the Knights to three or fewer in each. The season series scoring ended up in a margin of 2:1.


All-time vs. the newer Vegas franchise the Pens have controlled the early games between these teams. They are 3-1-0 at home and 5-3-0 overall against the Knights.


With Kris Letang unavailable due to his health situation, Jeff Petry has been elevated to the role of number one defenseman. He's anchoring the top powerplay unit on the point in place of #58 as well.


This is the sixth consecutive game the Penguins will face a rookie netminder as they go up against Vegas's Logan Thompson. This streak stretches back to November 20th vs. Chicago. They have a 3-2 record in those games, with two contests being forced into past regulation.


Kasperi Kapanen returned to the Penguins lineup on Tuesday and appears to be staying there for tonight's game. His presence wasn't very effective in producing points but he managed three shots on goal and three hits in 12:55 of ice time, so he contributed something to the team's effort in his return from being a healthy scratch.


-Injury Report-

-Kris Letang (D): stroke, out indefinitely.


-Pens Lines-

The projected Penguins lines for Thursday, December 1, 2022, vs. the Vegas Golden Knights:


(Forwards)

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell

Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust

Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen

Ryan Poehling - Teddy Blueger - Josh Archibald


(Defense)

Brian Dumoulin - Jeff Petry

Marcus Pettersson - Jan Rutta

P.O. Joseph - Chad Ruhwedel


(Special Teams)

PP1: Malkin, Crosby, Guentzel, Rust, Petry

PP2: Carter, Rakell, Zucker, Kapanen, Joseph

PK1: Blueger, McGinn, Dumoulin, Rutta

PK2: Poehling, Archibald, Petry, Pettersson


Golden Knights Update:

Vegas stands as the third-best team in the league and has been consistently atop the standings since early this season. New coach Bruce Cassidy is getting the most out of this group including somewhat rebellious players like Jack Eichel and Phil Kessel and has also surprised with his ability to produce solid performances with his two rookie netminders Logan Thompson and Adin Hill.


Knights assistant captain Alex Pietrangelo will not play tonight as he remains out on a game-to-game basis tending to a personal matter. He's usually given the highest priority duty of shadowing Sidney Crosby so his absence is a significant loss for Vegas.


Former fan favorite Penguin Phil Kessel will make his debut with his new Knights team against the squad he won back-to-back Stanley Cups with back in 2016 and 2017 in this game. In his career Kessel playing against the Penguins he has 24 points in 36 games.


-Offseason Update-

Key players added: Forward- Phil Kessel. Goalie- Adin Hill.

Key players lost: Forwards- Evgenii Dadonov, Mattias Janmark, Max Pacioretty. Defenseman- Dylan Coghlan.

New coach: Bruce Cassidy.


-Injury Report-

-Brett Howden (C): IR, lower body, week-to-week.

-Robin Lehner (G): LTIR, hip surgery, out for 2022-23.

-Nolan Patrick (C): LTIR, upper body, out for 2022-23.


For The Penguins: Sidney Crosby. Crosby has owned this space in 2022-23 and tonight is no different. Sid comes into Thursday's game as hot as he's been all year with four points in the last three games alone including a two-point night against the Hurricanes. He has points in the last seven of eight games. It can't be emphasized enough how he's truly playing some of the best hockey of his 17-year NHL career right now. It's something that fans and the team cannot take for granted.


For The Golden Knights: Jonathan Marchessault. The Knights forward has four points in the last five games and points in six of the last eight. Marchessault usually shows well against the Penguins too. He has 13 points in 10 career games played against Pittsburgh, a 1.3 point per game pace. That's concerning news for the Pens.


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