The Pens take their misfortune to Sin City after losing the Winter Classic and extending their losing skid to five games.
What’s worse than losing the Winter Classic? Losing your starting goaltender and the Winter Classic! That's the scenario the Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves in.
Tristan Jarry did not travel with the Penguins to Las Vegas after leaving the Winter Classic on Monday with what appeared to be a lower-body injury. He instead went back to Pittsburgh for further medical evaluation. That’s not the most promising update and indicates he could be dealing with a significant issue. This is an especially concerning development considering there's a preexisting leg injury history with Tristan. He missed the end of last season and the majority of the first round of the 2022 playoffs due to a fractured foot which was difficult to rehab. Jarry's foot injury from the spring greatly affected his transitional movements in net. Specifically lateral movement from post-to-post and switching from standing up in net to pads down, butterfly style, and back again. Or essentially the two key movement sequences to making saves at speed.
Those are the exact same range of movements we saw Jarry testing and struggling with after sustaining the injury in-game against the Bruins. The familiar look makes you curious if he refractured his prior break or potentially caused a compensation injury by trying to guard the recently healed bone. No matter what they're dealing with involving Jarry it's clear the Penguins' problems have suddenly gotten much more complex beyond a losing streak and a pile of injuries.
And regarding that pile of injuries, Wednesday's practice and the gameday skate on Thursday brought some updates. Jeff Petry (upper-body) did not practice on Wednesday with the team but skated separately later in Vegas. He has not played since December 10th when he injured his arm during a check into the boards against the Sabres. Two other Pens did not make the trip to Vegas with the team in addition to Jarry. Josh Archibald (lower-body) remains back in Pittsburgh due to his injury. And Kris Letang is still in Montreal on family leave after the passing of his father on Monday.
Marcus Pettersson missed practice on Wednesday for a maintenance day but was able to participate in Thursday's optional skate. The Penguins called him a game-time decision to play vs. Vegas though. So he's apparently dealing with an ailment that was unknown before now. This is another big blow for the team as he's their current emergency number-one defenseman while Kris Letang and Jeff Petry are unavailable.
Ryan Poehling, who the Pens confirmed is dealing with a nagging injury after the Winter Classic, did participate in practice on both days and took line rushes on Wednesday. He was also named a game-time decision for Thursday night.
Before we get into the game details there's a quick broadcast note. Since the team is out west Thursday's game has a late 10 PM start time back in the home market.
Pens Game #38: Pittsburgh Penguins at Vegas Golden Knights
Date: January 5, 2023
Time: 10 PM (ET)
Place: Las Vegas, NV
Venue: T-Mobile Arena
Broadcasts: Local- ATTSN
Records- PIT: 19-12-6, VGK: 26-12-2
Last 10- PIT: 4-4-2, VGK: 6-3-1
Streaks- PIT: 5 Losses, VGK: 2 Wins
Standings- PIT: 15th, VGK: 3rd
Points- PIT: 44, VGK: 54
Season Series- 1-0 PIT
Series Goals For- PIT: 4, VGK: 3
Team Stats 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: 4-7-2, 2.99 GAA, .911 SV%
Career vs. VGK: 1-1-0, 4.10 GAA, .887 SV%
-ADIN HILL- #33
[Vegas Golden Knights]
Bio Info: 6' 4", 203 lbs. DOB: 5/11/1996 (26). From: Calgary, AB.
Drafted: 2015: Rd 3, Pk 76 (ARI). Experience: 5th Season.
Record: 8-3-1, 2.78 GAA, .899 SV%
Career vs. PIT: 0-0-2, 2.40 GAA, .918 SV%
Dustin Tokarski was recalled from the minor leagues to back up Casey DeSmith for however long Tristan Jarry is sidelined. Tokarski has an 8-6-4 record with a 2.22 goals-against average and .926% save percentage in the AHL this season. He's a veteran backup at the NHL level with a record of 22-32-12 in 76 games played over eight seasons, a career 3.27 GAA, and .899% SV%. The upside to Tokarski is that he's a fairly predictable goalie. He almost always makes the easy, low-danger save. If insulated and not asked to do too much, he can win games if called to do so.
Some changes were made at center in practice. Jeff Carter is back in that position on the third line after playing wing in the Winter Classic. In turn, Teddy Blueger has been bumped down from the third-line centerman position back to his usual spot on the fourth line. The Pens are back to a 12-forward scheme once again too. Either intentionally after losing to the Bruins by one goal or simply due to the increasing lack of spare defensemen.
Forward Drew O’Connor seems set to remain a healthy scratch unless there is a need for an emergency injury replacement, despite producing in his brief ice time recently and even though the Penguins need to reinvigorate their stale play. It leaves a lot of questions about what exactly is the mysterious reasoning for sidelining what looks like a potentially useful contributor by Pens coach Mike Sullivan.
-Josh Archibald (F): lower body, day-to-day.
-Tristan Jarry (G): lower body, undisclosed.
-Jeff Petry (D): IR, upper body, week-to-week.
-Marcus Pettersson (D): undisclosed, game-time decision.
-Ryan Poehling (F): undisclosed, game-time decision.
The projected Penguins lines for Thursday, January 5, 2023, at the Vegas Golden Knights:
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Danton Heinen - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Ryan Poehling - Teddy Blueger - Brock McGinn
PP1: Malkin, Crosby, Guentzel, Rakell, Smith
PP2: Carter, Rust, Zucker, Kapanen, Joseph
Golden Knights Update:
Luckily for the ailing Penguins, the Knights are also coming into this game with a sizable injured list that includes a slew of defensemen. Four of their top seven d-men: Alex Martinez, Shea Theodore, Daniil Miromanov, and Zach Whitecloud are all sidelined. Eight Golden Knights in all are out due to injury right now.
Vegas will have forward dynamo Jack Eichel back in the lineup, however. He was activated from the injured list on Wednesday.
-Paul Cotter (F): IR, upper body, undisclosed.
-Brett Howden (F): LTIR, lower body, undisclosed.
-Robin Lehner (G): LTIR, hip, out for 2022-23.
-Alec Martinez (D): IR, lower body, undisclosed.
-Daniil Miromanov (D): lower body, day-to-day.
-Nolan Patrick (F): LTIR, upper body, out for 2022-23.
-Shea Theodore (D): leg, day-to-day.
-Zach Whitecloud (D): LTIR, lower body, week-to-week.
For The Penguins: Jeff Carter. This is a surprising choice clearly. Carter has recently been the target of well-earned criticism for his defensive liabilities and his inexplicable lapses in basic coverage that have directly resulted in the Penguins losing games. Specifically, the overtime loss to New Jersey. But Carter is beginning to break out offensively. Perhaps he's trying to compensate for his drop in stay-at-home, defensive centerman play or this is just overdue production after a particularly slow year in that regard for him. Either way, he's been on the scoresheet three games in a row. Carts has four points in the last three outings in fact. That includes an assist on Kasperi Kapanen's lone Pittsburgh Winter Classic goal and a two-point game vs. Detroit.
For The Golden Knights: Mark Stone. The Vegas Captain is on fire right now. Stone is on a six-game point streak. Half of those have been multi-point games. He had a three-point night just two games ago vs. Nashville on New Year's Eve. Stone also always performs well against the Pens. He has 20 points vs. Pittsburgh in 16 career games played against them with 10 goals and 10 assists. That's a 1.25 points-per-game pace. He's also nearly at a 30% shooting percentage all-time vs. the Pens at 28.6%. Expect a point or two out of Stone when the Penguins stop by Thursday.