The Pittsburgh Penguins are in Quebec on Saturday night for a confrontation with the Montreal Canadiens. Pittsburgh are coming off a sloppy 3-2 loss against the San Jose Sharks at home. The Sharks and Penguins went to overtime, with San Jose ultimately getting the winner. It’s a big win for the Sharks who’ve looked terrible for much of this season.
The loss for the Penguins ended a nice run of seven wins in eight games. Despite playing without Sidney Crosby, the Penguins have been able to make the most of it. There aren’t many teams who can lose their star forward and possess a record of 24-11-5 going into the second-half of the season. The Penguins have been able to withstand the blow and excel instead of just surviving.
Crosby hasn’t been the only Penguin that has suffered injuries this season. It’s happened to other key players as well. The latest to get hit by the injury bug is Jake Guentzel. He may not have the star power of Crosby, but to the Penguins he’s just as valuable. Guentzel will have to sit out for at least 4-6 months with a shoulder injury. That could wipe out his season, which is a serious blow to the Penguins’ Stanley Cup odds.
Guentzel leads the team in points at 43 points with 20 goals and 23 assists. There’s a deep fall after Guentzel with respects to offensive production. Fortunately, Crosby is scheduled to make his return soon, and Bryan Rust has been picking things up for the Pens. A healthy Malkin and Rust is absolutely necessary for the Penguins at this point.
If Crosby’s return from hernia surgery doesn’t go as planned, the Penguins would be in deep trouble without either Malkin or Rust and Guentzel. Mike Sullivan has done a tremendous job navigating the injuries that sprung up throughout the season, though that’d likely be too much to lose and still keep up in a competitive Metropolitan Division.
The Canadiens have been sliding, as they look to end a four-game winning streak at the Bell Centre on Saturday night. Their latest defeat came at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night by a score of 2-1. The Lightning took a 2-1 lead in the 1st period and that’s how the game would end. Carey Price played well, but got zero goal support for the second straight game. The offence was flying for a few games, though didn’t look like the same unit versus the Hurricanes and Lightning. We’ll see if they can bounce back against a banged up Penguins squad in this one. Head below for our free Penguins vs. Canadiens pick.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens Betting Odds:
Penguins vs. Canadiens Prediction:
The Sharks of all teams ended a three-game winning streak for the Penguins. It was the first game without Guentzel after his shoulder injury. Guentzel was on fire before he got injured, so it’s a significant loss for the Penguins’ offence. He notched 2 assists and a goal against the Senators in a 5-2 win.
Guentzel recorded 7 points in four games for the Penguins before going down. Since December 14th, Guentzel racked up 10 points, which included 3 goals and 7 assists in that time. The Penguins can try and mask that the injury isn’t significant, but it’s going to hurt. They immediately struggled in their first game without him in the loss against the Sharks.
Pittsburgh has not been particularly strong on the road this season. They’ve cashed in at home with an impressive record of 16-4-3, but have struggled elsewhere. Note that the Penguins are 8-7-2 on the road, which is okay, though they haven’t looked like their unbeatable selves at home in Pittsburgh.
Home ice doesn’t mean much for some teams in the playoffs. However, the Penguins appear to be a team that would benefit greatly from grabbing home ice advantage. It will be tough without Guentzel, but fortunately Crosby’s return is on the horizon. He will not be available against his childhood team in Montreal tonight, though.
Along with Guentzel and Crosby, Nick Bjudstad and Justin Schultz are both on the shelf, but are expected back by the end of the month. For the Canadiens, the absence of Brendan Gallagher should hurt. They recently added former LA King, Ilya Kovalchuk, to a deal without much to lose. It’s not an expensive contract, so the Canadiens aren’t gambling too much on Kovalchuk. Montreal hashad a lot of success against the Penguins this season.
They’ve won three of four games by scores of 4-1, 4-3, and 5-1. I’m expecting more energy from the Canadiens tonight. They’ve been cold recently and get a nice opportunity against a wounded Penguins squad on Saturday night at the Bell Centre. With Guentzel out, the Penguins are putting Alex Galchenyuk on the top line with Malkin and Rust. Note that Matt Murray is expected to get the nod, while Tristan Jarry who has been playing much better, will play against the Panthers on Sunday.
Galchenyuk has recorded 4 goals and assists on the season for 14 points. That’s minus 29 points of production from Guentzel to Galchenyuk. It’s likely going to be too much to overcome against a Canadiens team who are likely going to be hungry for a win tonight. If the Habs get to avoid Jarry between the pipes that’s even better. Consider a play on the Canadiens at home on Saturday night.