Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 6-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, Oct. 18 might have taken the wind out of the team’s sails. Things had looked as though they were gelling for the team a week prior, when they shut out the Washington Capitals 4-0 and then beat the Calgary Flames 5-2. They now find themselves 2-2-0 and fifth in their division early in this season and hope to get back on track tonight.

The Penguins visit the St. Louis Blues, who have struggled out the gate so far and own a 1-1-1 record. The Blues currently find themselves in seventh place in the Central Division, ahead of only the Winnipeg Jets. They will try to get things going against the Penguins following a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes at home Thursday night (Oct. 19).

The Blues were expected to have a long season, but so far their offense has been slow coming, even by their expectations. As for the Penguins, they need to find scoring from anywhere other than their stars and to find more focus and cohesion defensively.

Setting the Stage: Lineups, Injuries & Stats

After a slow start to his season, the Penguins waived former Winnipeg Jet Jansen Harkins. Like the rest of the Penguins’ bottom six, Harkins failed to score through four games. To fill his spot, they recalled Radim Zahorna, who had been assigned to Wilkes-Barre.

Related: Pittsburgh Penguins Need Jesse Puljujarvi

Latest News & Highlights

After being evaluated for a lower-body injury sustained against Detroit, Kris Letang was back at the Oct. 20 morning practice. Likewise, Noel Acciari was evaluated for an upper-body injury but was back at the same practice. Both are expected to be available against St. Louis.

Injuries

Penguins: Mark Pysyk (lower body, injured reserve), Will Butcher (undisclosed, injured reserve)
Blues: Pavel Buchnevich (Buchnevich is expected to miss one-to-two weeks), Josh Jacobs (undisclosed, injured reserve), Anton Malmstrom (undisclosed, injured reserve)

Interesting Stats and Facts

Evgeni Malkin enters the game on a three-game scoring streak with three goals and seven points. His seven points have him tied for third in NHL scoring. He is almost a point-per-game against the Blues over his career, with seven goals and 20 points in 21 games.

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sidney Crosby has a point in all four games, with three goals and five points over that time. Like Malkin, he is almost at a point-a-game against the Blues, with 10 goals and 21 points in 22 games.
Jakub Vrana is the Blues forward with the most history against the Penguins, mostly from his days as a Washington Capital. In 18 games, he has scored nine goals and 13 points against Pittsburgh.
Tristan Jarry has enjoyed playing the Blues. Through five games, he has a 5-0-0 record with a 1.32 goals-against average (GAA), a .950 save percentage (SV%), and one shutout.
The other way, Jordan Binnington hasn’t been as successful against the Penguins. Through seven games, he is 2-3-1 with a 3.42 GAA and a .911 SV%

Storylines

Despite his hot start to the season, Malkin was once again snubbed from another Top 100 Players list, this time by ESPN. That likely won’t sit well with the Penguins’ center, but whether it motivates him remains to be seen. In the meantime, he and Reilly Smith have found chemistry together and are both flourishing. The odd man out, however, is linemate Rickard Rakell, who has only an assist through four games and is looking to correct that.

The Penguins are desperate for some supplemental scoring from the bottom six. With Malkin, Jake Guentzel, and Crosby scoring and Erik Karlsson heating up – three points against Detroit – they still need something, anything from the likes of Jeff Carter, Lars Eller, and Matt Nieto.

Erik Karlsson, Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the Blues have started 2023-24 struggling. With four goals scored, they are ranked 31st of the NHL’s 32 teams. Their anemic power play has yet to score and is tied with the Anaheim Ducks and Washington Capitals for the league’s worst. Their penalty kill is equally as bad, ranking dead last with only a 55.6% efficiency. Whether they can course correct against a Penguins team in search of its own identity remains to be seen.

Both the Penguins and Blues are searching for answers right now. Can the Penguins find themselves and compete with the East’s elite? Can the Blues right the ship and at least remain competitive in the West? There is a lot of hockey to be played in 2023-24, but now is the time to make a statement.

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