There is no reason to sound the alarm, but a win would be welcomed nonetheless as the Pittsburgh Penguins (28-19-6) play the Florida Panthers (21-22-8) at BB&T Arena, tonight. The game features former Penguins Riley Sheahan and Derick Brassard facing off against the team that traded them to Florida less than a week ago. Brassard and Sheahan were part of the Feb. 1st trade that yielded Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann.
It is only natural the game might evoke some emotion from all four players. The Penguins have lost the last two games and were outscored a combined 7-2. The Metropolitan Divison continues to be difficult to gauge as five teams are separated by an eight-point difference between the division leader, New York Islanders, and fifth place, Carolina Hurricanes.
As the third-place Penguins search for consistency, the teams behind them are heating up. Carolina is 6-3-1 in their last ten games while Philadelphia is 9-1 and currently in on an eight-game winning streak. Both teams are also active tonight.
Casey DeSmith and his new yellow pads start tonight as Matt Murray is dealing with an “Upper Body” issue. DeSmith is 13-9-4 with a 2.69 goals-against. Florida most likely counters with Roberto Luongo, tonight is the 35th game for Luongo against the Penguins.
Changes could be brewing throughout the lineup with the impression that Mike Sullivan is none too pleased with the team’s recent efforts.
Tonight is a momentous game for Sidney Crosby. The Penguins captain plays in his 915th game as a Penguin. He will tie Hall of Fame owner Mario Lemieux’s franchise record of games played. Lemieux’s final NHL game came on Dec. 16, 2005, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Lemieux picked up his 1,723rd and final point when he and Crosby combined to set up Ziggy Palffy’s late third-period goal that forced overtime.
The Penguins missed a chance to move up in the Metro Division with a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-0, Tuesday. The Penguins seemed out of rhythm majority of the game and could not sustain any offensive pressure. Carolina, however, looked hungry for a win and played a crisp and efficient game. Matt Murray started for the Penguins and played better than his stat might lead fans to believe. Murray surrendered three goals on 31 shots but made saves to keep the Penguins in the game for most of the first and second periods.
Unfortunately for Murray, Curtis McElhinney proved to be a brick wall in net for Carolina. McElhinney saved all of the 23 Penguins shots and received some help by Penguins players ringing a few shots off the posts. Both teams played a great first period, but only Carolina entered the first intermission with a goal. A Jordan Martinook (12) wrister found it’s way past Murray to break the tie and ended up the only goal needed for Carolina’s 26th win of the year. Jake Guentzel and Kris Letang led the team in shots with four apiece. Juuso Riikola dealt with growing pains as an NHL defenseman and was a minus three for the game.
The Penguins recalled Tristian Jarry yesterday. Jarry is 0-1-1 in the NHL this season with a .887 save percentage and a 3.50 goals-against
Matt Cullen continues to check off boxes on his milestone checklist. Cullen tonight will equal Wayne Gretzky’s 1,487 career games and move into 22nd on the list of all-time games played. Cullen has skated in the fourth most games for USA-born players.
The Penguins hold a 54-41-4 record all-time against Florida.
Justin Schultz (Fractured Leg. IR. Practicing)
Zach Aston-Reese (IR. Skating.)
Evgeni Malkin (Hand, Out)
Derek MacKenzie (Upper-Body, IR)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||12.5% (12th NHL)||80.0% (9th NHL)|
|New York Islanders||20.0% (8th NHL)||87.5% (4th NHL)|
|Jared McCann||Sidney Crosby||Jake Guentzel|
|Bryan Rust||Evgeni Malkin||Phil Kessel|
|Dominik Simon||Nick Bjugstad||Patric Hornqvist|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Matt Cullen||Garrett Wilson|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|
|Marcus Pettersson||Erik Gudbranson|
Scouts in Attendance