Penguins at Ducks
The Pittsburgh Penguins have looked every bit the part of two-time reigning Stanley Cup champions since bidding adieu to 2017 and embracing the new calendar year. Winners of a season high-tying four in a row and five of six in January, the Penguins aim to continue their good fortune on Wednesday when they open a three-game road trip against the Anaheim Ducks.
Phil Kessel recorded the game-winning goal in both contests over the weekend, finishing with five points (two goals, three assists) in victories over Detroit on Saturday and the New York Rangers the following day. The NHL’s Third Star of the Week has collected 10 points in the six games this month to maintain his hold on the team lead in goals (20), assists (32) and points (52). Anaheim opens a five-game homestand looking to get back on track after dropping three of four on the heels of a stretch that saw it win five of six, highlighted by a resounding 4-0 victory in Pittsburgh on Dec. 23. Chris Wagner recorded his first point since Nov. 29 by scoring his team’s lone goal in Monday’s 3-1 setback to red-hot Colorado.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet, Sportsnet 360, AT&T Sports Network-Pittsburgh
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (24-19-3): While Kessel has scored in three straight games and owns a four-game point streak (three goals, five assists), captain Sidney Crosby has tallied in back-to-back outings and has points in four straight to increase his January total to 12 points (three goals, nine assists). Fellow forward Evgeni Malkin has also reached double digits in points this month (five goals, five assists), igniting a Pittsburgh offense that has erupted for 24 goals in its last six games after mustering just 10 in the final six contests (2-4-0) of December. Goaltender Tristan Jarry has benefited from the scoring spree, winning a career high-tying four straight starts and registering one shutout to go along with a .928 save percentage in January.
ABOUT THE DUCKS (20-16-9): John Gibson would love a repeat performance against his hometown team after turning aside all 29 shots he faced in Anaheim’s 4-0 romp in Pittsburgh on Dec. 23. The 24-year-old boasts a .938 save percentage over his last seven games overall (4-2-1), but is just 8-8-2 with a 2.61 goals-against average at Honda Center this season. Rickard Rakell scored and set up a goal in the first encounter with the Penguins, but has just one assist in his last four contests after recording seven goals and three assists in his previous six games.
1. Pittsburgh top-ranked power play (26.5 percent) has scored 12 times in its last 11 games heading into its tilt against Anaheim, which boasts the NHL’s fifth-ranked penalty kill (83.9).
2. Ducks C Andrew Cogliano will sit out Wednesday as he serves the second contest of a two-game suspension for interference on Los Angeles F Adrian Kempe.
3. Penguins LW Carl Hagelin, a former Duck, has one goal and three assists during his season-high three-game point streak.