For the second time in three games, the Pens head into the eye of the Hurricanes.
When last they met earlier this week the Carolina Hurricanes were ending the Penguins' seven-game win streak after Pittsburgh blew a 2-1 third-period lead. It's becoming a familiar scenario whenever the Canes' are on the opposite end of the ice.
The Hurricanes may just be the new "unbeatable" foe of the Penguins. They're reigning kings atop the Metro Division and are 2-0 vs. the Pens this season. Pittsburgh is only 1-4 in their last five games played against them overall going back through 2021-22.
It's a worrisome record vs. a franchise that is consistently one of the strongest in the league in recent years. They're a benchmark team, a measuring stick for contenders. And they could be a potential playoff opponent come spring. Most roads in the Eastern Division will lead to the Hurricanes in the first few rounds. They're a puzzle the Pens need to figure out. And they need to figure it out fast because they only have one regular season meeting left after tonight.
Carolina is also still on an incredible roll right now. They're on a six-game win streak. They have not lost in regulation in their last 10 games. And they have an additional 12-game point streak beyond that.
Although he's not the Hurricanes' starter tonight, they finally have stable goaltending in rookie sensation Pyotr Kochetkov. The net isn't the one glaring weak spot for Carolina anymore. But it's still an issue for Pittsburgh when playing Carolina. The Penguins' all-star goalie Tristan Jarry has uncharacteristically struggled against them historically. Jarry has only beaten Carolina once in the five seasons he's played a main goaltending role. His overall stats against them: 1-3-1, with a 3.43 goals-against average, and a .906 save percentage.
This is a major red flag when the road to advancing in the playoffs will very likely go through Raleigh. It's time for Jarry to change that story.
Jarry remains undefeated in regulation in the month of December and is on a seven-game win streak. And his win record is currently the longest active streak for a goalie in the league.
Momentum is on his and the Penguins' side this meeting after their huge playoff-avenging win against New York on Tuesday. They won't get more of an emotional boost heading into a game than this. It's illustrated below for the full gloating effect, click to expand for even more satisfaction:
Take a moment to reflect....Okay, good, now on to tonight's game details:
Pens Game #33: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Date: December 22, 2022
Time: 7 PM (ET)
Place: Pittsburgh, PA
Venue: PPG Paints Arena
Broadcasts: Local- ATTSN, National- ESPN+
Records- PIT: 19-9-4, CAR: 20-6-6
Last 10- PIT: 8-1-1, CAR: 9-0-1
Streaks- PIT: 1 Win, CAR: 6 Wins
Standings- PIT: 8th, CAR: 4th
Points- PIT: 42, CAR: 46
Season Series- 2-0 CAR
Series Goals For- PIT: 4, CAR: 6
Team Stats Comparison:
Projected 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: 15-3-3, 2.60 GAA, .922 SV%
Career vs. CAR: 1-3-1, 3.43 GAA, .906 SV%
-ANTTI RAANTA- #32
Bio Info: 6' 0", 198 lbs. DOB: 5/12/1989 (33). From: Pori, Finland.
Drafted: Undrafted. Experience: 10th Season.
Record: 5-2-2, 2.75 GAA, .891 SV%
Career vs. PIT: 3-5-0, 2.86 GAA, .909 SV%
After the Rangers game, the Pens now have powerplay goals in nine straight. It's their longest powerplay streak since the 2012-13 season. And Evgeni Malkin matches that nine-game streak number for points. His active point streak is the longest scoring streak of the year for any Penguin.
The recall of forward Drew O’Connor is looking especially fortunate as Ryan Poehling joins Josh Archibald and Jeff Petry on the Pens' injured list after Tuesday’s game against the Rangers. And "DOC" is definitely playing tonight as the Penguins are at their roster limit and the holiday freeze is in effect. Right now would also be the perfect time for O'Connor to make the leap to the NHL as a regular if he can settle into a role with the team. He has 8 goals, 14 assists, 22 points, is a +9, with a 12.1% shooting percentage in 20 games played in the AHL this year. That's on pace to be his career-best season. He also has some other notable resume points with two powerplay goals and three game-winning goals that indicate he’s maturing when playing in clutch moments. The Pens are also missing some dynamism on their third line that he could fulfill if he replicates his minor league play with any consistency. (And yes, I am looking at Jeff Carter as I type that "missing dynamism" line.)
In injury updates: Ryan Poehling (upper body) and Josh Archibald (lower body) remain out without any additional info on their status. They're both still designated as “day-to-day” by the team. Neither man took practice on Wednesday or the game-day skate. Jeff Petry (upper body) did get in an individual workout before the main team practice this morning. However, his timetable has not moved from a January return.
-Josh Archibald (F): lower body, day-to-day.
-Ryan Poehling (F): upper body, day-to-day.
-Jeff Petry (D): IR, upper body, out until January.
The projected Penguins lines for Thursday, December 22, 2022, vs. the Carolina Hurricanes:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Danton Heinen
Danton Heinen - Teddy Blueger - Drew O’Connor
Marcus Pettersson - Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin - Jan Rutta
P. O. Joseph - Chad Ruhwedel
PP1: Malkin, Crosby, Guentzel, Rakell, Letang
PP2: Carter, Rust, Heinen, Kapanen, Joseph
PK1: Blueger, McGinn, Dumoulin, Rutta
PK2: TBD, Rust, Ruhwedel, Letang
The Pens might get a big break tonight as Canes' star forward Sebastien Aho is questionable to play due to a lower-body injury. Aho would join fellow Hurricane stars Freddy Andersen, Max Pacioretty, and Ondrej Kase on the injured list.
The home-ice advantage of the Penguins isn't much help in this matchup. Carolina is a road-loving team, they have points in all of their last 10 road games.
One opposing team milestone to watch out for: Hurricanes' defenseman Brent Burns is looking for his 800th career point tonight vs. the Penguins, currently sitting at 799. Burns and the Pens have a history that goes way back, having duked it out during the Stanley Cup Finals that Pittsburgh ultimately won in 2016 when he played for the San Jose Sharks.
-Sebastien Aho (F): lower body, questionable.
-Frederik Andersen (G): IR, lower body, out week-to-week.
-Jake Gardiner (D): LTIR, hip, out for 2022-23.
-Ondrej Kase (F): IR, concussion, out week-to-week.
-Max Pacioretty (F): LTIR, achilles, out until February.
For The Penguins: Rickard Rakell. So many Penguins are rolling right that it's difficult to narrow it down to one choice. Tristan Jarry, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust all could be in this space for their current performances. But Rickard Rakell has been noticeably coming on stronger of late. He's on a three-game point streak, has points in four of the last five games, and he's only failed to score points in two games this December.
For The Hurricanes: Stefan Noesen. Surprisingly the former irrelevant, roster-fringe Penguin has found new life in Carolina under the tutelage of coach Rod Brind'Amour. Noesen never showed this level of usefulness in the NHL with any of his former teams and it's not often a forward has their "breakthrough" season at age 29. Some real magic has been unlocked for him with the Canes. He's on a four-game point streak which included tallying one against the Pens last Sunday.