The Pens pull into Columbus to start a crucial five-game trip without Jake Guentzel.
A routine road trip start vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets just got complicated for the Penguins after they lost the services of Jake Guentzel due to an apparent head injury sustained on Thursday vs. the Kings. The Pens season starting hot streak will be put to the test without Guentzel who had five points (3G, 2A) in four games played this year. His line has also combined for almost half of the teams' goals.
Heiner’ The Top Liner
Danton Heinen is will be the man called on to make up the difference and take Guentzel’s spot on line one. Heinen has also started strong this year (4P– 1G, 3A) but that performance all came on the third line with reduced minutes and pressure. Now he’ll be faced with the task of taking on a top-line role in one of the most important and grueling stretches of the season: the annual Western Canadian road trip.
The Pens are locked into what they can do to remedy their injury losses at forward. They currently lack the cap space to make a recall from the minor leagues unless they put a player on Injured Reserve. So Mike Sullivan’s Penguins will play with seven defensemen and only 11 forwards vs. Columbus. Chad Ruhwedel will be the extra player added.
Pens Game #5: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Columbus Blue Jackets
Date: October 22, 2022
Time: 7 PM (ET)
Place: Columbus, OH
Venue: Nationwide Arena
Broadcasts: Local- ATTSN, National- ESPN+
Records- PIT: 3-0-1, CBJ: 2-3-0
Standings- PIT: 5th, CBJ: 20th
Points- PIT: 7, CBJ: 4
Goals For/GP- PIT: 5.00 (1st), CBJ: 2.80 (22nd)
Goals Against/GP- PIT: 2.00 (31st), CBJ: 4.00 (6th)
Shots/GP- PIT: 40.0 (1st), CBJ: 32.0 (17th)
PP% Rank- PIT: 7th (31.3%), CBJ: 32nd (0.0%)
PK% Rank- PIT: 25th (72.2%), CBJ: 9th (86.7%)
‘21/22 Season Series- 4-0 PIT
‘21/22 Series Goals For- PIT: 18, CBJ: 8
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: 3-0-0, 1.34 GAA, .952 SV%
Career vs. CBJ: 4-1-0, 1.50 GAA, .944 SV%
-Elvis Merzlikins- #90
Bio Info: 6' 3", 181 lbs. DOB: 4/13/1994 (28). From: Riga, Latvia.
Drafted: 2014- Rd 3, Pk 76 (CBJ). Experience: 4th Season.
Record: 2-1-0, 2.62 GAA, .872 SV%
Career vs. PIT: 0-3-0, 4.18 GAA, .902 SV%
The Pens still lead the league in averaging five goals and 40 shots per game in 2022-23. Jake Guentzel is one of the most key parts of that goal generation though so his injury status may affect the high-flying offense going forward. That is unless Danton Heinen can do an excellent Jake Guentzel impersonation.
Like Jake Guentzel, Teddy Blueger has also been ruled out for tonight’s game vs. Columbus. He is practicing at full contact and it’s expected he’ll be able to make his season debut at some point soon on the team’s Western Canadian road trip. There was no time frame given for Jake Guentzel’s head injury in later updates from the team.
The projected Pens lines for Saturday, October 20, 2022, at the Columbus Blue Jackets:
Danton Heinen - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Ryan Poehling - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson - Jeff Petry
P.O. Joseph - Jan Rutta
PP1: Crosby, Rakell, Rust, Malkin, Letang
PK1: Poehling, McGinn, Dumoulin, Rutta
PK2: Kapanen, Archibald, Pettersson, Joseph
Blue Jackets Update:
Columbus has a major problem in just a few short games played: they’re a startling 0.0% on the powerplay after five games. They're dead last in the league and the only team sitting at zero powerplay goals yet this season. They also aren’t getting very many chances to even try, drawing only 2.60 PP/GP. Both numbers speak to a level of non-threatening offense that might make it a bumpy year in the Buckeye State.
Key players added: Forwards- Johnny Gaudreau. Defensemen- Erik Gudbranson, David Jiricek, Denton Mateychuk.
Key players lost: None.
Patrik Laine (elbow) remains out tonight for Columbus, although he's almost ready to return. Backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo is on IR after hip surgery and is reportedly nearly in playing shape too.
For The Penguins: Danton Heinen. Heinen is having a very strong start to 2022-23 while on the third line, he’s getting promoted to the wing on the top line in the absence of Jake Guentzel. There he'll get to play alongside the red-hot Sidney Crosby and Rickard Rakell.
For The Blue Jackets: Johnny Gaudreau. "Johnny Hockey" is making his regular-season home debut for the Blue Jackets against the Penguins. It's a big moment for the team and the man who's their biggest signing in ages. He already has four goals in five games played for CBJ on the road this year.