The Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Toronto Maple Leafs will complete a quasi home-and-home set on Tuesday night.
The Penguins won 4-2 Friday at Toronto, but both teams had a game in the interim — a 5-4 overtime loss at Montreal for Pittsburgh, and a 3-2 home win over Vancouver for Toronto. Both games were Saturday.
The game vs. Montreal left the Penguins with a 2-0-1 trip on the heels of a seven-game losing streak.
“For the most part, anytime you get five out of six points on the road, most coaches would probably take that,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “But when it’s there for you to get six, it’s a little bit disappointing.”
One thing going well for the Penguins is their second line of Jason Zucker, Evgeni Malkin and Rickard Rakell. Bryan Rust opened the season on that line but moved back to the top line, switching with Rakell several games ago.
During the three-game trip, Malkin had two goals and an assist, Rakell a goal and two assists, and Zucker scored twice.
“It solidifies the top six,” Sullivan said. “When (Malkin’s) line is going the way it’s going, I think it makes us a whole lot harder to play against.”
Toronto made a noticeable line switch during Saturday’s win, separating Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, with William Nylander moving into Marner’s spot on the top line.
Those two did team up on the power play, where Marner got an assist — he has a nine-game point streak — on Matthews’ first goal in four games.
“Just thought we’d go for a different look, change the chemistry of the group, maybe give us a boost,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said of the five-on-five change. “All our guys have played a lot together, so I wouldn’t read much into it.”
There is some question about both teams’ goaltending situation going into Tuesday’s game.
The Penguins somewhat surprisingly started backup Casey DeSmith in two straight games, both wins, before Tristan Jarry played in Saturday’s overtime loss.
Jarry revealed he has been dealing with some physical issues, “and that’s obviously affected my playing. So I think (I’m) just trying to get back to 100 percent healthy.”
Jarry is 0-3-2 in his past five starts after starting the season 4-0. However, Sullivan was emphatic that whatever might be bothering Jarry is not a concerning issue and would not affect how he is deployed.
Jarry practiced Monday.
Meanwhile, former Penguins goaltender Matt Murray seems likely to start Tuesday for the Leafs. He has played just once, on Oct. 12, and has been out because of a groin injury.
Murray was targeted to play Saturday, but that plan got pushed back.
“There’s a lot of things that a performance team tracks for players coming back from injury, and they just felt a little more time would serve him well,” Keefe said.
Murray won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins, but his performance tailed off and he was traded to Ottawa, where injuries and even a demotion to the American Hockey League set him back.
“I just try to keep getting better and better,” Murray told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of his first season with Toronto. “That’s my focus. I’m just trying to be a better person, a better teammate, a better goaltender, a better everything each and every day.”
–Field Level Media