GDB 59.0: Oilers look for four in a row in Sunday Funday matchup with the Penguins (7pm MT, SNW)

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
4 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers have 15 games to play in March, including three sets of back-to-backs. Tonight, the boys check off the back half of the first of those double headers as Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town for the first of two meetings on the season.
There’s nothing better than getting the chance to watch Connor McDavid-led Oilers face off against Sidney Crosby, Gino Malkin, and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s one of those matchups you always circle on the calendar because it’s always a blast to watch some of the best players to ever do it squaring off in a head-to-head battle.
Coming into this first of two meetings between the Oilers and Pens in 2023-24, both clubs are playing in the second half of their respective back-to-back sets. As we know, the Oilers beat the Seattle Kraken 2-1 yesterday at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, whereas the Penguins lost 4-3 to the Flames last night in Calgary after blowing a third period lead.
On the home side, yesterday’s win moved the Oilers into second place in the Pacific Division, and with three games in hand over Vegas, the boys have the opportunity to put some space between themselves and the Golden Knights, provided that they can keep winning. At 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, this three-game winning streak has already moved the Oilers up a spot in the standings while also putting them back in a position where they could challenge for the division.
At the other end of the rink, the Pittsburgh Penguins are struggling to maintain pace with the rest of the Metropolitan Division and sit 10 points back of a wildcard spot. Despite a fantastic season from Sidney Crosby — Sid has 32 goals and 63 points through 58 games — not much else has gone right for a Penguins team that will likely miss the playoffs for a second straight season. Missing the post-season twice in a row has never happened before in Crosby’s career.
Even though these two teams are seemingly moving in opposite directions, you know this Connor vs. Sid matchup will bring out the best in those two. In 11 career games played against Crosby, Connor McDavid has amassed a ridiculous seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points while averaging 22:18 in TOI. Crosby, meanwhile, has three goals and four assists over that same stretch.
Yet, even though McDavid leads the way in terms of the individual head-to-head with Sidney Crosby, I’m sure he’d trade it all to have the Oilers on top when the final buzzer sounds.
Let’s see what the numbers say…


LAST 10 GAMES6-3-14-5-1
POWER PLAY%27.314.7
AVG. SHOTS/FOR33.533.1
TEAM SAVE%.910.922
CORSI FOR%55.6252.22
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (Sv%, CF%, PDO, Shooting%, xGF% all at 5×5)
  • The Oilers and Penguins last met on February 23rd, 2023, in Pittsburgh where Connor McDavid’s four-point (2G, 2A) effort propelled the Oilers to a 7-2 win. That win gave the Oilers four consecutive victories over the Pens.
  • Connor McDavid is riding a 10-game point streak after the assist he picked up on Saturday versus Seattle. It is his third 10-game point streak of the season and 15th of his career. He is now just 1-of-3 players in NHL history to have 15 point streaks of 10 or more. McDavid joined Wayne Gretzky (31) and Guy Lafleur (15) as the only other NHLers to accomplish the feat.
  • Zach Hyman is riding an eight-game home ice goal scoring streak where he’s produced an incredible 10 goals over that time. It is the 3rd longest home ice goal scoring streak in Oilers history. Wayne Gretzky (10GP – 23G, 1981-82) and Connor McDavid (9GP – 11G, 2022-23) have the two longest.
  • Tonight against Pittsburgh, Leon Draisaitl will play in his 697th career game as an Oiler, passing Wayne Gretzky for the 10th most in franchise history.
  • Evander Kane leads all active Oilers in career games (30) and points (29) versus the Penguins.




Draisaitl – McDavid – Hyman
Kane – RNH – Janmark
Foegele – McLeod – Perry
Holloway – Gagner – Brown
Nurse – Ceci
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Desharnais
Given that the Oilers played (and won) yesterday in Seattle, I was curious to see if Kris Knoblauch was going to make any lineup changes over Calvin Pickard getting the start in net, and the other chance we’re getting is that Sam Gagner draws back in the lineup in favour of Derek Ryan. I know a lot of Oilers fans have wondered why Gagner hasn’t been playing much given his output, but Sammy will get the chance to show what he can tonight against the Penguins.


Smith – Crosby – Rakell
O’Connor – Malkin – Puustinen
Bemstrom – Eller – Puljujarvi
Harkins – Acciari – Carter
Joseph – Letang
Pettersson – Karlsson
Graves – Ruhwedel
Despite being 36 years old and in his 19th NHL season, Sidney Crosby leads the Penguins in basically everything, so the Oilers will obviously need to keep an eye on him. If you’re looking for an advantage, the Penguins will be without Matthew Nieto, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, and if ever there was a bit of an advantage for Edmonton it has to be when The Penguins are missing three of their best.


From Pensburgh:
Names like Lars Eller, Chad Ruhwedel, and even Noel Acciari and Rickard Rakell are starting to pop up a little bit across credible league circles. Reilly Smith is out there for the taking too. While the Pens may not remove ALL of those names from the team in the coming days, they’re in a good position to pull the trigger and ship out players where the value coming back makes sense. And if it doesn’t, they can at least hold onto somewhat capable players for the time being.
The table is about set now for what to look forward to in the coming days leading up to the deadline. Now about all that is left is to find out when the Pens start heading in their new direction and just how that will end up leaving their team for the rest of the season.


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: No better way to wrap up the weekend than with a 4-2 win over Crosby and the Penguins.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Connor McDavid picked up assist number 73 yesterday in Seattle, and he adds helpers number 74 and 75 today against the Penguins.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Yesterday, I predicted that Brett Kulak would score and today I’m calling for Darnell Nurse to pick up his first goal since January 11th against Detroit.

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