One night after a game between Pittsburgh and Chicago resulted in one of the most egregious officiating decisions in the history of professional sports (still very bitter over here), the two cities will get an encore on the ice as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center on Tuesday night.
Pittsburgh and Chicago’s hockey teams also share the unfortunate status of having off-ice issues making headlines as yet another reminder that the issues which exist within this sport’s culture include but also go well beyond what’s happened with the Blackhawks in the last month.
These two teams met just over three weeks ago, with Pittsburgh easily dispatching of Chicago in a 5-2 victory. The Penguins scored 15 seconds into that game and never looked back, foiling a homecoming for Marc-Andre Fleury, who was pulled in the first period of that game after allowing four goals on 10 shots. To be fair to Fleury, though, the amount of help Fleury received from the team in front of him was minimal at best.
The Pittsburgh lineup from that game had two major omissions in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who were dealing with offseason injuries. Malkin still is, and though he’s began skating again, he is not going to play in this one. Crosby returned for one game and then tested positive for COVID-19. He remains in the protocol and will not play, once again robbing us of a Crosby/Toews matchup — a surprisingly common occurrence in their careers.
Without those two around, the Penguins have been largely treading water in the Eastern Conference to the tune of a 4-3-3 record. A trio of players are tied for the team lead with seven points apiece: Dalton Heinen (4 G, 3 A), Kasperi Kapanen (3 G, 4 A) and Evan Rodrigues (3 G, 4 A). The latter two of that group have been skating on a second line along with Jason Zucker while the top line features Jake Guentzel, Jeff Carter and Bryan Rust. It’s certainly not an ideal top six, but it’s all Pittsburgh can manage at the moment until Malkin and Crosby are back to game action. It’s working, too: Pittsburgh has the No. 7 scoring offense in the league at 3.30 goals per game and it’s largely a committee effort, with 16 Penguins having at least one goal. For comparison’s sake, Chicago has just 10. Pittsburgh also has the No. 1 penalty kill in the league at 91.7 percent.
Tristan Jarry has been the starter in eight of the Penguins’ 10 games and has performed quite well with a 4-2-2 record, 2.33 goals-against average and .925 save percentage, numbers that have been good enough to keep the Penguins competitive despite all those missing players.
As for the Blackhawks, MacKenzie Entwistle was moved to long-term injured reserve due to injuries sustained in Sunday’s game. Brandon Hagel is also out after an awkward fall onto his left shoulder, but he appears to have avoided a serious injury:
Brandon Hagel and Wyatt Kalynuk both out tonight.— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) November 9, 2021
Derek King on Hagel: "Hopefully it's just miss a game."#Blackhawks
Kalynuk still isn’t back from his preseason injury and Henrik Borgstrom has been sidelined by a non-COVID illness. With no line rushes during the morning skate, it’s anyone’s guess what the lineup will look like this evening, although the hope here is that Philipp Kurashev finds his way onto the spot on a line with Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik that was formerly occupied by Hagel. Adam Gaudette should also be in the lineup again and giving him Dylan Strome as a linemate should help raise the potential for offensive production from that duo. In net, Fleury gets a shot at redemption against his former team after the aforementioned disaster from earlier in the season.
The Blackhawks don’t have a winning streak yet this season. Feels like a good time for that to change.
Blackhawks — Statistic — Penguins
45.48% (29th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 51.05% (13th)
41.86% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 54.98% (5th)
2.15 (30th) — Goals per game — 3.30 (7th)
3.69 (31st) — Goals against per game — 3.00 (20th)
49.2% (20th) — Faceoffs — 50.2% (15th)
20.8% (17th) — Power play — 11.8% (27th)
88.1% (4th) — Penalty kill — 91.7% (1st)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Blackhawks (consider this mostly guesswork)
DeBrincat — Dach — Kane
Kubalik — Toews — Kurashev
Hardman — Strome — Gaudette
R. Johnson — Carpenter — Khaira
Stillman — Jones
McCabe — Murphy
de Haan — Gustafsson
Guentzel — Carter — Rust
Zucker — Rodrigues — Kapanen
Aston-Reese — Blueger — McGinn
O’Connor — Boyle — Heinen
Matheson — Letang
Joseph — Marino
Riikola — Friedman
How to watch
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Live stream: ESPN+