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Game 20 Preview: Pens @ Sens

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The scuffling Penguins pay a visit to Ottawa

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t imagine too many folks predicted that the Ottawa Senators would be ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference standings as we approach the quarter point of the season, but that’s where we find ourselves today. So while the Sens’ mediocre record has been a pleasant surprise given pre-season expectations, the Pens’ current position stands as a serious disappointment. Pittsburgh might not be the powerhouse of yesteryear, but they’re just two years removed from a Stanley Cup banner, and they were one of the ten or so best teams in the league last season. A lot of their familiar faces remain, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, but the results just haven’t been there so far. The underlying numbers don’t tell the story of an unlucky team ready to break out at any minute, either: the Pens are 17th in CF% at 5v5 and are sub 50% for the year. They just....haven’t been that good. Are they in the midst of a slow start, or are we witnessing the beginning of the end of this iteration of Pens’ dominance of the East? These are the kinds of questions that get asked when you’re tied for last in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, Ottawa comes into tonight’s game fresh off a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings that was punctuated by Drake Batherson’s first career goal and Craig Anderson stopping two penalty shots in the same period. The Sens don’t quite have play-off aspirations just yet, but a .500 record is buying them some amount of goodwill with the fanbase.

Guy Boucher confirmed this morning that Ottawa will go with the same line-up as Thursday night to start this one:

Tkachuk - White - Stone
Boedker - Duchene - Batherson
Dzingel - Tierney - Ryan
Pyatt - Smith - Paajarvi

Chabot - DeMelo
Lajoie - Ceci
Borowiecki - Wideman

Anderson (starter)
McKenna

Extras: Max McCormick

As for the Pens, here’s how we expect they might line up courtesy of fellow SB Nation blog Pensburgh (though these lines have yet to be confirmed):

Pearson - Malkin - Hornqvist
Guentzel - Brassard - Kessel
Simon - Sheahan - Rust
Wilson - Cullen - Aston-Reece

Johnson - Letang
Dumoulin - Ruhwedel
Maatta - Oleksiak

Murray (starter)
DeSmith

Game Notes:

-Derick Brassard is expected to play his first game back in Ottawa since the trade last spring that sent him to Pittsburgh. Although his tenure with the Sens was short-lived, he played a key role in the run to the Conference Finals in 2017 and I expect the fans will give him a nice ovation.

-Sidney Crosby remains out of the line-up with an unspecified upper body injury. The Pens’ captain skated this morning at the Canadian Tire Centre but was ruled out shortly thereafter.

-It seems strange to say, but with Chabot’s breakout season and the emergence of some of the team’s young talent, Mark Stone’s stellar season has been perhaps a bit overlooked. Stone’s gone for 21 points in 19 games and the Sens are getting more of the shots when he’s on the ice at 5v5. To put that in context, as a team the Sens have a horrid 42.89% share of the shots at 5v5 but when Stone is on the ice that number jumps all the way up to 52.62%. Ottawa’s basically playing two different games: one when Stone is on the ice, and one when he’s off of it. He should be a candidate for the Selke this year, I’m just saying it now.

Some Stats:

Player Stats

Ottawa Senators Minnesota Wild
Ottawa Senators Minnesota Wild
-- Player # Player #
Goals Matt Duchene 10 Mikael Granlund 10
Assists Thomas Chabot 19 Mikko Koivu 14
Points Matt Duchene 27 Mikael Granlund 19
Shots Thomas Chabot 62 Matt Dumba 67
TOI/GP Thomas Chabot 23:27 Ryan Suter 25:53

Team Stats

Category Ottawa Senators Minnesota Wild
Category Ottawa Senators Minnesota Wild
-- Value Rank Value Rank
Goals/GP 3.57 1st 3.10 16th
Goals Against/GP 4.19 31st 2.67 7th
Shots/GP 30.1 23rd 31.5 16th
Shots Against/GP 38.0 31st 31.1 13th
Powerplay % 25.0 7th 21.7 12th
Penalty Kill % 68.2 31st 84.9 3rd
Corsi (5v5, Score & Venue Adjusted) 42.92 30th 49.39 19th
Fenwick (5v5, SVA) 43.65 30th 40.45 15th