The Pittsburgh Penguins (34-22-9) return home to play the Florida Panthers (28-26-11) at PPG Paints Arena, tonight. The Penguins are fighting for a playoff spot, but with a 6-2-2 record in their last ten games, they have surged into the top wild-card spot.
Florida is out of the playoff chase so the game could be a “trap game.” The Penguins seem to have corrected their season-long defensive woes, and it appears reinforcements are on the way. A Carolina loss tonight and a Penguins win would vault the Penguins into third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Head coach Mike Sullivan is riding his top goaltender. For the fifth straight game, Matt Murray is in net. Roberto Luongo will start for Florida.
The Penguins are gaining swagger after a 5-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens, Saturday. The new look top line of the Penguins combined for 12 points to help take down a team embroiled in a battle for a playoff spot. Sidney Crosby, had a goal and three assists for his fourth straight multipoint game, scored 21 seconds into the game for his 440th NHL goal to move ahead of Jaromir Jagr in franchise history. Jake Guentzel (30, 31) sniped two goals including his milestone 30th. Guentzel never scored 30 goals in his hockey career.
The Penguins dominated play for the second straight game and had a 4-0 lead before Brendan Gallagher (29) scored for Montreal in the second period. Jared McCann (14) added an empty net goal to round out the scoring for the game. Phil Kessel added an assist, but the lack of goal production has him fearful.
Matt Murray started in net for the fourth straight game and rebounded from a rough start the night previous. Murray saved 36 of 37 shots and looked composed in net despite the workload. Carey Price started for Montreal and saved just 20 of 24 shots in the loss.
Florida couldn’t spoil the coaching debut for Marc Crawford and lost to Ottawa 3-2, Sunday. Aleksander Barkov (28) and Troy Brouwer (9) scored to give Florida a first-period lead. Roberto Luongo started stopped 30 of 33 shots.
Jack Johnson leads the Penguins with a career-high 189 hits. He is poised to become just the seventh different Pittsburgh player to reach 200 hits since the stat became official in 1997-98. The last time a Pittsburgh player had 200 hits was 2016-17 when both Patric Hornqvist (227) and Chris Kunitz (216) did so. The last Penguins defenseman with 200 hits was Brooks Orpik in 2013-14. Orpik finished the season 221 hits.
Penguins forward Matt Cullen will make history tonight when he will become just the second American-born player in NHL history to play 1,500 career regular-season games. Cullen will join Chris Chelios, who played in 1,651 games, in that exclusive club. Cullen will move into sole possession of 20th place on the NHL’s all-time games played list.
Tuesday morning the Penguins players offered their praise for Cullen.
Since returning to the lineup on Jan. 18 vs. TOR after missing 27 games due to injury, Vincent Trocheck has recorded 11 points (3-8-11) in 20 games. The Pittsburgh native owns a plus-four rating over that span.
Olli Maatta (Upper-Body, IR)
Kris Letang (Upper-Body)
Brian Dumoulin ( Concussion, Game-time Decision)
Bryan Rust (Long term)
Chad Ruhwedel (Long term)
Derek MacKenzie (Upper-Body, IR)
Colton Sceviour (Upper-Body, IR)
Denis Malgin (Lower-Body, Day-to-day)
MacKenzie Weegar (Lower-Body, Day-to-day)
James Reimer (Lower-Body, Day-to-day)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||20.3% (16th NHL)||82.4% (7th NHL)|
|New Jersey Devils||17.7% (22nd NHL)||82.0% (10th NHL)|
Expected Penguins Lines
- Note- due to Brian Dumoulin’s unknown status for the game, Here are the expected lines without him. If his status changes, lines will be updated accordingly
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jason Zucker||Sidney Crosby||Conor Sheary|
|Patrick Marleau||Evgeni Malkin||Bryan Rust|
|Evan Rodrigues||Jared McCann||Patric Hornqvist|
|Brandon Tanev||Teddy Blueger||Sam Lafferty|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|