Good afternoon hockey fans. The Penguins are back home at CONSOL Energy Center hosting the Los Angeles Kings after a four-game Western Conference road trip.
In the last meeting between these two teams just six days ago, it was the Kings who walked away with a 5-3 victory. The Penguins are looking to keep things rolling after a big 4-2 comeback win against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.
LETANG OUT Kris Letang will not play tonight due to an upper-body injury suffered in the game against the Avalanche. Rob Scuderi, who was a healthy scratch in Colorado, will slide into the lineup.
Letang missed the back-to-back games on the road trip against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. Head coach Mike Johnston clarified that Letang’s current injury is different from his previous injury on the road trip.
David Warsofsky skated with Olli Maatta during the morning skate and practiced at the point on the top power-play unit with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Chris Kunitz.
FAST START The Pens are looking to get a good start against the Kings tonight. Even though the first period was scoreless in their last matchup, the Kings came out in the second period to score three unanswered goals.
“I thought we waited and watched a little bit early in the (last) game,” head coach Mike Johnson said. “They’re the type of team you have to go after early. It’s going to be a really good battle early in the game. We can’t stand and watch because of not only their top two lines, but they’ve got depth through their lineup.”
Getting chances early in first will be crucial for a victory, as the Penguins are 10-1-1 when they score first.
BEST OF BEAU Beau Bennett has provided a spark for the top line alongside Crosby and Kunitz. Bennett totaled four points on the road trip (2G-2A) with Crosby (1G-3A) and Kunitz (1G-6A) also reaping the rewards.
“I don’t think we’ve really seen the best of Beau Bennett,” Johnston said. “But we’re starting to see it now. He handles the puck really well. With a puck-possession line with Crosby and Kunitz, you get a guy like Bennett on the wing and he can make those types of plays in tight. You can see over the past couple of games they’ve become a true puck-possession line.”
MAATTA MACHINE Olli Maatta returned to the lineup on the road trip against the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 5. He’s gone on a three-game point streak since then, totaling four points (2G-2A). Maatta has certainly been a much appreciated spark of offense for the team.
“We’ve seen right away with him getting back in the lineup he’s generated offensively,” Crosby said. “He’s generated a lot offensively for us.”
Maatta has also seen an increased role on special teams as well.
“We wanted to get Olli more involved on both special teams,” Johnston said. “He’s done a good job in every area of the game.”
GAME INFO Where: CONSOL Energy Center When: 7 p.m. TV: ROOT Sports Radio: 105.9 the X, the Penguins Radio Network Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoop