On an ugly six game losing streak, the Pens urgently need a win.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have quite a streak going but this isn't one to write home about. For the second time in 2022-23, they're on a six-game losing skid. They've been outscored by 25 to 13 in that span. And they have given up four or more goals in five of those six lost games.
This is the first time the Mike Sullivan-coached Pens have ever had two streaks of six or more losses in a single season since he began his tenure as head coach in December 2015. Current fill-in starting goalie Casey DeSmith is on his own personal loss streak too which is now at his last four straight.
If there's a positive in this situation it's that the Penguins are about to face two of the worst teams in the league: the Arizona Coyotes and the Vancouver Canucks. But that scheduling cuts both ways right now. Losses to two of the worst teams in the league might just be the final nail in the coffin that brings drastic changes to the Penguins organization if they continue their current skid in the next few games.
Any and all changes would be on the table: new GM, new coaches, and significant trades. The Penguins' parent company Fenway Sports Group isn't an organization that accepts failure. They win championships. And the final peak years of the "Big Three" of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are clearly the company's number one priority after they committed a total of $87,100,000 to those players for the next six seasons back in the summer.
This isn't even considering the fact that the official halfway point of the season also coincidentally looms ahead. Game #41 is just two away and that's the traditional point where organizations assess their teams, their playoff positioning, and make their deadline plans. This current Penguins group is skating on thin ice at the exact time performance evaluation is coming under the microscope. It's going to be a wild couple of weeks no matter what happens next but let's hope getting back to winning is what's on the horizon.
Pens Game #39: Pittsburgh Penguins at Arizona Coyotes
Date: January 8, 2023
Time: 7 PM (ET)
Place: Tempe, AZ
Venue: Mullet Arena
Broadcasts: Local- ATTSN, National- ESPN+
Records- PIT: 19-13-6, ARI: 13-20-5
Last 10- PIT: 3-5-2, ARI: 3-6-1
Streaks- PIT: 6 Losses, ARI: 4 Losses
Standings- PIT: 17th, ARI: 29th
Points- PIT: 44, ARI: 31
Season Series- 1-0 PIT
Series Goals For- PIT: 6, ARI: 2
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: 4-8-2, 3.14 GAA, .907 SV%
Career vs. ARI: 1-0-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV%
-KAREL VALJELMKA- #70
Bio Info: 6' 3", 202 lbs. DOB: 5/25/1996 (26). From: Trebic, Czechia.
Drafted: 2015- Rd 5, Pk 145 (NSH). Experience: 2nd Season.
Record: 11-12-4, 3.33 GAA, .903 SV%
Career vs. PIT: 0-2-0 , 6.02 GAA, .865 SV%
The Pens have been consistently strong against Arizona for several years. They are undefeated in their last nine games vs. the Coyotes. And haven't lost in regulation against them in their last 12 meetings, with a record of 11-0-1.
Updates on the injured Pens: Ryan Poehling did not practice with the team on Saturday and was ruled out for Sunday's game. He's been sidelined with an upper-body injury. The Penguins mentioned he only remains out "day-to-day" at this point. Jeff Petry skated separately after the Penguins practice once again on Saturday, suggesting he's still not ready to return as he continues to miss team practice.
It's the status quo for the injured Pens who remain in Pittsburgh. Tristan Jarry and Josh Archibald both continue to rehab per the team. There are still no updates on their injury timetables.
Kris Letang remains at home in Montreal on family leave.
Ty Smith got his first goal with the Penguins in the loss to the Golden Knights on Thursday.
Casey DeSmith has lost his last four games straight as mentioned at the outset: 1/5/23 @ VGK, 1/2/23 @ BOS, 12/28/22 vs. DET (in OT), and 12/18/22 @ CAR. He now has double the losses as wins on the season at 4-8-2.
Sidney Crosby, the newly named All-Star (for the ninth time in his career, trailing only Mario Lemieux in most appearances by a Penguin), hit a couple of milestones in the game against Vegas:
His goal made him the second active player with 15-plus 20-goal seasons along with ever-present rival Alexander Ovechkin (18 seasons).
With his 16 faceoff wins in the game, Sidney Crosby has recorded 13,012 career faceoff wins which makes him the third player since 1997-98 (when faceoffs began being officially tracked) and only the second active player to hit 13,000 or more faceoff wins. He joins Boston's Patrice Bergeron (14,665) and Joe Thornton (13,408) in earning that designation.
-Josh Archibald (F): lower-body, day-to-day.
-Tristan Jarry (G): lower-body, undisclosed.
-Jeff Petry (D): IR, upper-body, week-to-week.
-Ryan Poehling (F): upper-body, day-to-day.
The projected Penguins lines for Sunday, January 8, 2023, at the Arizona Coyotes:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Danton Heinen - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Drew O’Connor - Teddy Blueger - Brock McGinn
Marcus Pettersson - Jan Rutta
Brian Dumoulin - Ty Smith
P. O. Joseph - Chad Ruhwedel
PP1: Malkin, Crosby, Guentzel, Rakell, Smith
PP2: Carter, Rust, Heinen, Kapanen, Joseph
PK1: Blueger, McGinn, Dumoulin, Rutta
PK2: Carter, Rust, Ruhwedel, Pettersson
The Coyotes don’t got much, but they got youth! They have five players born past the year 2000 (Dylan Guenther, Barrett Hayton, Matias Maccelli, Jack McBain, J.J. Moser) on their roster this year.
They also have a super small college hockey venue as their home ice while the await a new NHL-sized arena. This is the Penguins' first time playing at the Coyotes' temporary home the 5,000-seat Mullet Arena on the campus of Arizona State in Tempe. It's supposedly a unique atmosphere and given how well-traveled Pens nation is it should be crammed with Pens fans on Sunday.
-Andrew Ladd (F): LTIR, out for 2022-23.
-Matias Maccelli (F): lower-body, out six weeks.
-Liam O'Brien (F): upper-body, day-to-day.
For The Penguins: Jake Guentzel. Guentzel has not been on a hot streak recently at all but he finally got off of a four-game point drought in Las Vegas with a two-assist night. Jake has nine points in nine career games played against Arizona all-time too. With him just getting back to his old self on the scoresheet and having a point-per-game pace vs. the Coyotes franchise he seems like the prime Pen to watch in Tempe.
For The Coyotes: Barrett Hayton. The 22-year-old Hayton scored 10 goals and 14 assists in a solid rookie campaign last season for the Yotes. He's got six points in his last six games including two multi-point nights. Hayton had a goal and two assists vs. Toronto just before the New Year and had two assists vs. Philadelphia just a few games ago. Two of the teams he faced in his point-collecting run, the Leafs and Lightning, aren't pushovers either so keep an eye on this young gun on Sunday.