Game Day Preview: Bruins at Penguins
In one of the more physical and entertaining games of the 2016-17 season, the Bruins snapped their three-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Canadiens on a night where Claude Julien gave his team some much-needed line changes. Things won’t get any easier for the Black and Gold, however, as they finish their brief two-game road trip tonight in Pittsburgh for their first matchup of the year against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
Both of Monday’s goals against the rival Canadiens came from the third line. Austin Czarnik scored on his birthday to give the Bruins the 1-0 second period lead, while Ryan Spooner scored the game-winner in the 3-on-3 overtime session to come away with a needed two points.
It will take more than two, however, to beat the high-powered Penguins sparked by Sidney Crosby’s league-leading 21 goals (in only 23 games). The Pens 102 goals are good for second place – four behind the league-leading Rangers – but their defensive vulnerability could present an opportunity for the Black and Gold to sustain an offensive rhythm. Crosby and company are giving up an average of 2.83 goals per contest (10th most in the league) and are ranked 27th on the penalty kill with a success rate of 76.7 percent.
The Bruins swept all three games last season and carry a five-game winning streak versus the Pens dating back to the 2014-15 campaign.
Gametime: 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: NBCSN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 16-12-2 (34 points), Penguins 19-7-3 (41 points)
Location: PPG Paints Arena
Bruins Projected lines
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Backes
Tim Schaller-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Austin Czarnik-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes
Dominic Moore-Riley Nash-Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara-Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller-Colin Miller
Penguins projected lines
Connor Sheary-Sidney Crosby-Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin-Evgeni Malkin-Phil Kessel
Chris Kunitz-Nick Bonino-Bryan Rust
Scott Wilson-Matt Cullen-Tom Kuhnhackl
Brian Dumoulin-Kris Letang
Olli Maatta-Trevor Daly
Ian Cole-Justin Schultz
– It may not get as much hype as Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin, Crosby vs. Connor McDavid or any other superstar, but it will be a joy to see the Penguins captain face off against the second leading goal scorer in the league in David Pastrnak. Of course, a matchup featuring the top two goal scorers in the league deserves recognition in and of itself, but the way they’ve been scoring is pretty impressive. As mentioned above, Crosby has scored in all but two of the games he’s played in so far, while Pastrnak’s 18 goals have come in 25 games. The Bruins’ first round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft (taking place in Pittsburgh) hasn’t scored in two straight games, while Crosby has lit the lamp five times in his last four. On a night where goals may not be too hard to come by, these two should provide some fireworks in front of a nationally televised audience.
– The Bruins called up Matt Grezclyk from Providence in time for tonight’s game. Whether the former Boston University captain and 2012 third round pick makes his NHL debut in Pittsburgh remains to be seen, but if he does this would give Julien another blue-liner to perhaps help out offensively. In 23 games with the P-Bruins, the Charlestown native tallied 12 points (1 goal, 11 assists). To make move for Grzeclyk, the Bruins put Matt Beleskey (knee) on long-term injured reserve.
– With another set of back to backs and their second game of a three-in-four-day stretch, Tuukka Rask will get the call against the Pens tonight while Anton Khudobin will likely get the nod tomorrow against his former Ducks teammates. The 2014 Vezina winner is coming off a 30-save performance in his goaltending duel with Carey Price. In 14 career regular season games against Pittsburgh, Rask is 8-5-1 to go along with a pair of shutouts, a 2.08 goals against average and .934 save percentage. Not bad against the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and company.