Jan 22, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Jussi Jokinen (middle) celebrates his second goal of the game with center Evgeni Malkin (left) and left wing James Neal (18) against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens

 

The Pittsburgh Penguins, who are getting set to play their first game post Olympic break, will look to get off on the right foot against the Montreal Canadiens.

After losing last night to the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in overtime, Montreal will surely be bringing their ‘A’ game against Pittsburgh tonight.

So far this season between these two clubs, each have claimed a victory.

In their first matchup, Habs’ forward Max Pacioretty got the best of them, scoring what would go on to be the game-winning goal in the third period, topping Pittsburgh 3-2. And then in their second tilt, the tables were turned.

Taking a 2-1 lead heading into the second period, the Pens never looked back. Registering three tallies following, Pittsburgh went on to beat the Canadiens 5-1 in dominating fashion.

Who will take the rubber match?

History suggests the Pens are primed for another victory tonight, because Pittsburgh’s won the last five outings against Montreal at the CONSOL Energy Center. Although, knowing the Pens perhaps may be still feeling the effects of flying and playing overseas, it’ll certainly be an interesting matchup.

Here are a few notes to pass along on who’s hot and who’s not:

Penguins

Hot:

Olli Maatta – collecting five points (3G, 2A) during the Olympics, Maatta was brilliant. Showing no signs of slowing down throughout the tournament, he played a big part in Finland’s bronze medal achievement. Before he left for the tournament, he garnered two points (1G, 1A) in the Pens’ last outing against the New York Rangers. He has one helper against Montreal this season.

Jussi Jokinen - like Maatta, he too recorded five points (2G, 3A), and contributed to Finland’s third-place finish. In Jokinen’s last five games for Pittsburgh, he’s registered six points (1G, 5A), and he ranks fifth on the team in scoring (42 points).

Evgeni Malkin - despite a disappointing tournament in Sochi, Russia, Malkin left for the break on a high note. Compiling seven points (4G, 3A) over his previous five contests for Pittsburgh, Malkin should come into tonight’s game determined as ever.

Cold:

Brandon Sutter - over his last seven games, Sutter’s put up just one assist. Having trouble generating any offense, Sutter has recorded points in back-to-back games just four times this season, and the Pens need him to get going. He does not have a point against Montreal this season.

Taylor Pyatt - in fairness, Pyatt’s been relatively cold all year, but the newest Pens’ addition hasn’t collected a point in his last six games. Skating to a minus-2 rating in those tilts, Pyatt has only mustered three shots. He must begin producing, or he may be benched come playoff time.

Chuck Kobasew - with high hopes heading into the season after earning a contract, Kobasew hasn’t done much of anything. Scoring goals in each of his first two contests to lead of the 2013-14 campaign, both being game-winners, that’s all Kobasew’s contributed. Like Pyatt, Kobasew’s time could be limited if he doesn’t start contributing.

Canadiens

Hot:

David Desharnais - potting five points (3G, 2A) over the course of his last five games, he sits tied for fourth on the Canadiens with 32 points (11G, 21A). He has not scored against Pittsburgh yet this season.

Brendan Gallagher - although he hasn’t been the most consistent player this season, Gallagher has still contributed sporadically for Montreal. Over his last three games, Gallagher has collected four helpers, and skated a plus-5 rating. He, like Desharnais, has not scored against Pittsburgh this season.

Andrei Markov - like Malkin, Markov is probably feeling a little down after Russia’s ouster at the Olympics, however, he’s been playing great for the Canadiens. In his last five games, Markov has collected four helpers, and over the past eight outings he’s garnered six assists. He has one assist against Pittsburgh this season.

Cold:

Alex Galchenyuk - you want to talk about one of the hottest players at the start of the season, this guy was it, but he’s since cooled off mightily. Especially over his last ten games. In those ten contests, Galchenyuk’s garnered just one assist, and is skated to a disappointing minus-5 rating. He has not scored against Pittsburgh this season.

Lars Eller - this is another player who began the season on a tear, only to see it disappear. Piling up seven points over his first five games, he just has 14 points over his last 55 contests. And to shrink that down, he’s recorded just one assist over his last 18 games. Ouch.

Tomas Plekanec - although he’s listed as one of Montreal’s biggest contributors, Plekanec has fallen under a cold spell of late. Over his last 12 games, he’s posted just three points (1G, 2A), despite firing 29 shots on goal. He has one goal against Pittsburgh this season.

Pittsburgh will be getting forwards Taylor Pyatt and Joe Vitale back into the lineup tonight. Pyatt’s been out since Feb. 3 with a lower-body injury, and Vitale’s missed the last 12 games with a upper-body ailment.

Here’s how the lines shook out at the Pens’ morning practice – according to Sam Kasan of the Pens’ website:

Forwards

  1. Kunitz – Crosby – Gibbons
  2. Jokinen – Malkin – Neal
  3. Glass – Sutter – Kobasew
  4. Pyatt – Vitale – Adams

Defensemen

  • Orpik – Engelland
  • Scuderi – Bortuzzo
  • Maatta – Niskanen – Despres

The Canadiens will be without goaltender Carey Price, who also missed last night’s game against Detroit with a lower-body injury.

The game can be seen on the ROOT Network, and is set to start at 7 p.m.

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