Plenty of eyes will be on Pittsburgh Penguins stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang when they make their annual visit to Crypto.com Arena to face the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
Crosby is riding a six-game point streak (three goals, seven assists) after scoring an empty-netter in a 2-0 win over the Ducks in Anaheim on Tuesday night, snapping their six-game winning streak.
Malkin comes in sizzling as well, especially on the road, posting eight points in the Penguins’ five road games this season.
Letang enters two points shy of becoming the third active NHL defenseman with at least 700 career points.
There could be some notable absences in the Pittsburgh lineup as well.
Penguins No. 1 goalie Tristan Jarry was injured late in the second period against the Ducks when he was hit in the face with the puck and immediately left the game. He missed practice on Wednesday.
“There is no real update. He’s continuing to be evaluated right now,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said after practice on Wednesday. “I would say his status is day-to-day.”
Magnus Hellberg replaced Jarry and made 11 saves in the third period to preserve the shutout.
Hellberg would make his first start of the season on Thursday if Jarry is unable to bounce back.
“Obviously, when you know you’re starting a game, it’s always nice, instead of just getting thrown in there,” Hellberg said. “That’s kind of what you want, and I plan for it, but obviously we don’t know what’s going on with Jars, so we’ll see what happens.”
Some fans in Los Angeles might also scan the ice for Pittsburgh forward Jeff Carter, who spent eight full seasons with the Kings and parts of two others, scoring 194 of his 431 career goals and winning both of his Stanley Cup titles.
Carter, however, has been a healthy scratch the past two games, something the 38-year-old had never experienced in his 19-year NHL career.
The Penguins won both games while Carter was scratched, so it’s likely they’ll continue with the same lineup against the Kings.
“I want to be out there, I want to play. But I understand my situation,” Carter said. “So I come in (with) a smile on my face. Work hard and, you know, day-to-day.”
Pittsburgh lost 6-0 to the Kings in its last trip to Los Angeles on Feb. 11.
In that game, Crosby had his nine-game point streak snapped and received a game misconduct midway through the third period after challenging Kings defenseman Mikey Anderson to a fight and then arguing with referee Garrett Rank.
Kings forward Adrian Kempe, on the other hand, had a game to remember. He scored a career-high four goals, including the first natural hat trick by a Los Angeles player in nearly 10 years.
Pheonix Copley had 25 saves for one of his two NHL shutouts, and he’s in line to start Thursday after Cam Talbot made 37 saves in a 4-1 win in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights on Wednesday, sticking Vegas with just its second regulation loss of the season, the same as the Kings.
Kempe also scored against the Golden Knights, Anze Kopitar scored an empty-netter for his 400th NHL goal, and Trevor Moore and Pierre-Luc Dubois added power-play goals, giving the Kings 11 goals with the man-advantage through the first 12 games.
“We’re getting chances. We’re moving the puck,” Dubois said of the power play. “I’m new to the net front, so I bring something different than, say, (Viktor Arvidsson) last year, so it’s a little different, but as long as we’re getting scoring chances, the goals will come.”
–Field Level Media