G59 Game Notes: Oilers look to keep winning streak going against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

Photo credit:Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
4 months ago
1. After edging out a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Kraken on Saturday afternoon, the Edmonton Oilers will look to extend their winning streak to four games when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.
For the Penguins, Edmonton will be the fourth and final stop on a road trip through the Pacific Division. They started off with a 4-3 overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks and have since lost to the Kraken and Flames by scores of 2-0 and 4-3. This is also the second leg of a back-to-back for the Pens, as they played in Calgary on Saturday.
2. This will be the first Connor McDavid vs. Sidney Crosby showdown this season. The two teams will meet again in Pittsburgh next weekend as the final stop on a four-game trip.
The Oilers have dominated the head-to-head against the Penguins over the past few years. Edmonton beat Pittsburgh by scores of 6-3 and 7-2 in 2022-23 and they won both meetings against the Penguins in 2021-22 by scores of 5-2 and 5-1. The last time the Penguins beat the Oilers was in December of 2019, a 5-2 road win by Pittsburgh in Edmonton.
The head-to-head between these two teams was the complete opposite during the first few years of the Connor McDavid era. The Oilers and Pens split their two meetings in McDavid’s rookie season in 2015-16 but Pittsburgh beat Edmonton in six consecutive meetings between 2016-17 and 2018-19.
3. Though this game will be loaded with star players in McDavid, Crosby, Leon Draisaitl, Evgeni Malkin, and Erik Karlsson, it isn’t a matchup of two contending teams. The Penguins sit 13th in the Eastern Conference with a 27-23-8 record and are on their way to missing the playoffs for the second season in a row. What was traditionally a marquee showdown is now simply another game on the calendar that Edmonton should win.
The trouble for Pittsburgh this season has been scoring depth beyond Crosby. The ageless wonder has 32 goals and 63 points over 58 games this season, which leads the team in both categories by a decent margin. After Crosby, the next-highest Penguins in goals are injured wingers Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust with 22 and 18, respectively.
The team’s other core players are having fine seasons but there hasn’t been much offence coming from the bottom half of the lineup. Malkin has 16 goals and 45 points, Karlsson has eight goals and 35 points, and Kris Letang has seven goals and 37 points. Reilly Smith, Rickard Rakell, and Jeff Carter have only combined for 25 goals, which isn’t very much for a trio that costs $13 million against the salary cap.
4. The Penguins will surely sell ahead of next week’s trade deadline considering how far they are from a playoff spot. According to Elliotte Friedman, the goal for the team is to acquire prospects rather than draft picks because they’re more likely to have an impact on the team while Crosby, Malkin, and Letang are still around.
Crosby has one more year left on his contract at $8.7 million while Malkin and Letang inked multi-year contracts in 2022. Karlsson, who the Penguins acquired from the San Jose Sharks last summer following a Norris Trophy season, has three more years left on his contract at $10 million.
5. Starting between the pipes for the Oilers will be Calvin Pickard, as Stuart Skinner started the first game of this weekend’s back-to-back on Saturday afternoon in Seattle. Pickard had a personal six-game winning streak snapped when he allowed three goals on 19 shots in a loss to the Minnesota Wild a couple of weeks ago.
The Penguins haven’t yet confirmed their goaltender but it seems likely that Alex Nedeljkovic will get the start because Tristan Jarry played on Saturday night in Calgary. Nedeljkovic has a .915 save percentage over 19 games for the Penguins this season.

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