Friday night’s hockey action wraps up in southern California, as the Pittsburgh Penguins (37-19-6) visit the Anaheim Ducks (25-30-8). This is the second and final meeting between these clubs this season, with the Penguins scraping out a 2-1 win at home in the first few days of the season.
Here is a preview for tonight’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By the Numbers
The Penguins are trying to snap out of their funk. After losing 2-1 to the Kings, the West’s worst team, Pittsburgh has four straight losses and only four wins in their last 10. Fortunately, they also remain in second place in the Metropolitan but have several other teams hot on their tail.
This season, Pittsburgh is just inside the top 10 in goals scored with 3.21 on a solid 32 shots per game. They also rank 13th with both a shooting percentage of 10 and a 20.8 power-play percentage.
Defensively, the Penguins are seventh in both goals allowed with 2.74 and in shots allowed with 29.9. Their 81.4 penalty kill percentage is also 13th in the NHL, with the 7.4 penalty minutes per game the eighth-fewest.
The Ducks were one of the busiest teams during Monday’s trade deadline but came out with a 4-3 overtime win against the Oilers on Tuesday. However, it was just their third win in their last 10 games, but they only have four regulation losses in those 10 games.
Anaheim has struggled offensively for much of the season, ranking 28th with 2.54 goals on just 29.9 shots per game. Their shooting percentage of 8.5 is also 28th, while they have the second-worst power-play percentage at 14.8 percent.
On the defensive side, the Ducks are allowing 3.16 goals per game, 24th in hockey. Their 31.8 shots allowed is good for 19th, while their penalty kill percentage of 78.1 is 21st. Their penalty kill is busy, as only two teams average more than Anaheim’s 10.3 minutes in the box.
Who to Watch
The Penguins have been getting a strong effort from Evgeni Malkin this season. Malkin is on a three-game point streak with three goals and two assists. On the season, the All-Star center has 21 goals and 42 assists in just 48 games. With his scoring ability and physical style, Malkin will be the biggest threat on the ice tonight.
Role players like Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust have also stepped up their games. Hornqvist has a three-game point streak on the line tonight and has put together a very balanced season with 15 goals and 15 assists.
Meanwhile, the scrappy Rust has registered a point in back-to-back games, continuing his impressive season of 24 goals and 26 assists.
Although the Ducks have had a tough season, Adam Henrique has been a standout performer. After a two-goal, four-point performance over the weekend against Vegas, the center followed it up with a goal and an assist against Edmonton.
Henrique now has 24 goals and 15 assists and remains Anaheim’s top scoring threat.
Others like Sonny Milano and Ryan Getzlaf are ones to watch for the Ducks. In his first game since being acquired from Columbus, Milano scored two goals, including the overtime winner. Milano now seven goals and 13 assists total.
As for Getzlaf, the captain snapped his four-game point drought on Tuesday, but still has a solid 27 assists to go along with 12 goals on the season.
Pittsburgh will likely start the rookie Tristan Jarry once again. Jarry is 20-10-1 with a 2.23 GAA and .927 save percentage.
Anaheim is expected to counter with John Gibson. Gibson is 18-24-5 with a 3.01 GAA and .903 save percentage.
Odds and Pick
To no one’s surprise, the Penguins are big favorites tonight, listed at -195. However, they are just 15-13-2 on the road, while Anaheim is 13-13-4 at home.
Tonight, Pittsburgh has a good opportunity to snap their losing streak. They are better than Anaheim in every area, including in net with the All-Star Gibson having a down year.
The new players on the Ducks made a good first impression on Tuesday, but I think they’ll have their hands full with a Penguins team that is about to reach desperation mode. Give me the Penguins -195 tonight.