The Penguins head to Seattle next on their nightmare of a road trip looking to stop a three game skid.
It’s almost a given that the Penguins likely didn’t get much shut-eye in Seattle last night. They’re on one of their worst road trips in recent years, not just due to losing but losing while exhibiting terrible decision-making and a total lack of cohesion between the players.
The Pens are 1-3-0 on this current journey that has taken them across the continent. They went completely winless in Western Canada at 0-3 and were outscored by 15-5 in those games.
If they lose this evening against the mediocre Seattle Kraken their record will drop to .500 on the season. Frustration is noticeably setting in with the team too. The post-game interviews with players were a solemn affair, they looked uncharacteristically shaken. Coach Mike Sullivan was in a reserved and dejected mode himself, simply stating the team wasn’t giving a full 60-minute effort in his comments. Losing to Vancouver, who only had one win on the year and was recently dead last in the league standings, has clearly shaken the Pens’ confidence to its core.
They’ll need to find some renewed energy in a hurry on the tail end of a very tiring trek on the road to stop this losing streak at three tonight.
Late in the game vs. the Canucks, struggling defenseman Brian Dumoulin was demoted from his top-pairing role alongside Kris Letang to the third pair. P.O. Joseph was swapped straight up into Dumoulin’s former position. It was a shocking turn of events as Dumo has held that spot next to Letang as the Penguins’ top two D-men since the start of the team's back-to-back Stanley Cup seasons in 2015-16. It's been a seven-year partnership in total give or take some time apart from occasional injuries. It’s unknown whether the team will stick with these new-look defense lines for the Kraken game or not as they canceled their gameday skate this morning. We won't find out who slots in where until warm-ups.
Old Friends, New Foes
One silver lining when stopping in Seattle is seeing some former pals. The Kraken might as well be known as the Western Penguins. There are so many familiar faces on Seattle’s team it’s almost like this is an actual team vs. alumni game. The former Pittsburgh players who will suit up for the Kraken tonight include: forwards Jared McCann (#19, line three RW), Brandon Tanev (#13, line three LW), and Daniel Sprong (#91, line four RW), plus defensemen Jamie Oleksiak (#24, line two LD) and Justin Schultz (#4, line two RD). For extra credit, the Kraken front office is run by Penguins legend Ron Francis and former three-time Cup-winning Pens assistant GM, Jason Botterill.
Pens Game #9: Penguins @ Kraken
Date: October 29, 2022
Time: 10 PM (ET)
Place: Seattle, WA
Venue: Climate Pledge Area
Broadcasts: Local- ATTSN, National- ESPN+
Records- PIT: 4-3-1, SEA: 3-4-2
Standings- PIT: 13th, SEA: 22nd
Points- PIT: 9, SEA: 8
Goals For/GP- PIT: 3.88 (3rd), SEA: 3.33 (11th)
Goals Against/GP- PIT: 3.25 (12th), SEA: 3.67 (7th)
Shots/GP- PIT: 37.8 (1st), SEA: 32.6 (12th)
PP Rank- PIT: 11th (24.2%), SEA: 5th (28.6%)
PK Rank- PIT: 28th (69.0%), SEA: 30th (64.5%)
‘21/22 Season Series- 1-1 Tie
‘21/22 Series Goals For- PIT: 7, SEA: 3
[()= League Ranking]
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: 0-1-1, 3.42 GAA, .907 SV%
Career vs. SEA: 1-0-0, 1.00 GAA, .966 SV%
-Martin Jones- #30
Bio Info: 6’4”, 190 lbs. DOB: 1/10/1990 (32). From: North Vancouver, BC.
Drafted: Undrafted. Experience: 10th Season.
Record: 3-3-1, 3.45 GAA, .858 SV%
Career vs. PIT: 6-5-0, 2.20 GAA, .924 SV%
Even though roster questions are up in the air after the canceled practice today, Jake Guentzel (head injury) seems unlikely to play. He is cleared for contact but has yet to take a full-contact practice so it's safe to assume he'll need to wait for at least one more game to return.
One growing worry for this team: the Pens' penalty kill is becoming a major concern, currently sitting as the 28th-ranked PK in the league. This is a tremendous fall from being the third-best penalty kill of the entire season last year. The question is what went wrong? Is this simply due to the absence of PK specialist Teddy Blueger due to injury? Or on a more worrisome note is this the effect of losing defenseman John Marino in a trade to New Jersey? The latter is a slightly more complicated matter to address.
-Teddy Blueger (F): LTIR, upper body, is out until 11/5 at least.
-Jake Guentzel (F): head, is out day-to-day.
-Jason Zucker (F): undisclosed, is out day-to-day.
The projected Penguins lines for Saturday, October 29, 2022, at the Seattle Kraken:
Danton Heinen - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Samuel Poulin/Drake Caggiula - Ryan Poehling - Josh Archibald
Pierre-Olivier Joseph - Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson - Jeff Petry
Brian Dumoulin - Jan Rutta
PP1: Crosby, Rust, Malkin, Letang, Petry
PP2: Carter, Zucker, Rakell, Heinen, Joseph
PK1: Carter, Archibald, Dumoulin, Rutta
PK2: Poehling, Kapanen, Petry, Pettersson
Seattle is a middle-of-the-road team in most stats and in the standings but by far their biggest, most dangerous asset is their powerplay. It's the fifth-best in the league converting at 28.6%. Jaden Schwartz leads the way there for them with four powerplay goals in just nine games. The Kraken are tied for the lead in most powerplay goals as a team too with 10, averaging over one PPG per game played this season.
In addition to having so many ex-Penguin in their ranks as an emotional boost for the Kraken, there are two brand new fathers on the team which is sure to put an extra hop in their step. Forward Jordan Eberle and goalie Martin Jones both welcomed sons into the world yesterday. (Congratulations to those families!)
Key players added: Forwards- Oliver Bjorkstrand, Andre Burakovsky. Defensemen- Justin Schultz, Michal Kempny. Goalie- Martin Jones.
Key players lost: Forwards- Riley Sheahan, Victor Rask. Defensemen- Haydn Fleury.
-Philipp Grubauer (G): IR, lower body, day-to-day.
-Joonas Donskoi (F): IR, upper body, out indefinitely.
-Chris Driedger (G): IR, torn ACL, out month-to-month.
For The Penguins: Rickard Rakell. Rakell has been strong for the Pens in almost every game and is the current co-leader in goals at four. He’s arguably the one Penguin giving the most consistent effort night in and night out this season. He also managed to produce three points in the last three games played during that particularly difficult Western Canada portion of this road trip.
For The Kraken: Jared McCann. The former Penguin, regrettably lost in a bungled trade before Seattle’s expansion draft, is leading the Kraken in points and goals and still holds a mighty big grudge against Pittsburgh from the circumstances surrounding his exit from the team. A situation he once curtly described as simply a scenario where “they didn’t want me”.