(Pittsburgh)– The Pittsburgh Penguins conclude their grueling 2017-18 regular season against the Ottawa Senators, the team whose season they ended in the Eastern Conference Final last season. If the Penguins earn a point they will clinch second place in the Metro Division and home ice in the First Round against a yet undetermined opponent.
Update: 7:11 p.m.: The Penguins lines are:
–The Penguins could still face three different teams in the opening round. Tonight and tomorrow will likely determine the Metro seeding and wild-card, though Florida and Boston play a make-up game Sunday which could upset everything, too.
Tonight, Penguins backup goalie Casey DeSmith, 26, will start in goal. In 13 appearances, DeSmith is 10-5-4 with a .913 save percentage and a 2.63 GAA. DeSmith’s last start was the March 21 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Head coach Mike Sullivan also announced that Derick Brassard skated this morning and called it a “good sign.” There is no official timetable for Brassard’s return, though it is playoff season; that means it could be tomorrow or six months.
Brassard and Carter Rowney are the only regulars listed on the injury list.
The Penguins are the only NHL team to have tomorrow off. When pressed by Tribune-Review beat writer extraordinaire Jonathan Bombulie if that was a reward for a league-high 19 back to back games, Sullivan gave a genuine laugh. The Penguins have certainly earned an extra day off.
Senators all-star defenseman Erik Karlsson did not make the trip. The Senators are quietly closing out their disastrous season which began with Stanley Cup aspirations but will end with a lottery pick.
Mike Hoffman also will not dress.
Karlsson may well have played his last game in a Senators uniform. This week, after his final home game, he returned to the ice to snag the game puck from the net. Karlsson quickly tucked it in his pants before skating off.
Odds & Ends
–The Penguins can go 0 for 3 and still set the franchise mark for power-play efficiency (26.0 percent). The Penguins current rating is 26.4 percent. 0 for 4 would cause them to fall below the mark.
–Zach Aston-Reese scored his first two NHL goals Feb. 13 in a 6-3 win against the Ottawa Senators.
–After a disastrous start on the second of back to back games, the Penguins are currently 9-7-2 in the second game.
–Four Penguins could play their 82nd game tonight: Jake Guentzel, Olli Maatta, Sidney Crosby, and Phil Kessel.
The Penguins may hesitate to put Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, or Kris Letang into the lineup tonight. The depleted Senators roster should not pose more of a challenge than the Penguins allow.
–Tonight is Mike Sullivan’s 200th game as a head coach.
–Tonight is also Fan Appreciation Night. So, the postgame will be delayed for 30 minutes or so while the players give lucky fans the jersey off their back. Come back to PHN for the postgame recap, analysis and report card.