The Pittsburgh Penguins (32-21-7) begin a stretch against playoff caliber opponents which should tell us a lot more about their place in the game when they host the San Jose Sharks at PPG Paints Arena, tonight. Two straight wins pushed the Penguins into third place in the Metropolitan Division, but San Jose is second in the Pacific Division and 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
San Jose has scored the most goals in the Western Conference and continue to get production from their All-Star blueline. Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns have combined for 109 points this season and are the highest scoring defensive duo in the league.
The Penguins seem rejuvenated after spending the last two weeks fighting to hold their spot in the playoff picture. Despite their defensive struggles, the Penguins hold the third highest goal-differential in the Eastern Conference.
Casey DeSmith starts tonight for the Penguins in net, and the lines seem set after a few weeks of tinkering.
After four attempts this season to do so, the Penguins finally beat the New Jersey Devils, Tuesday. The Penguins came back twice in the first period to survive an early push by New Jersey and thanks to a powerplay snipe by Nick Bjugstad (7) went in the first intermission tied. Building on the first-period momentum, the Penguins played a better second period and scored two goals to provide all the offense the Penguins needed. Chad Ruhwedel (1) scored at the 2:31 mark of the second period to collect his first goal of the year. Ruhwedel’s wrister from the blueline ended up being the game-winning goal. New Jersey winger Miles Wood (7) scored in the third period to draw his team within one with less than five minutes remaining, but it was too little too late.
Matt Murray started for the Penguins in net and avenged allowing six goals in his previous start against New Jersey. Murray saved 33 of 36 shots to pick up his 18th win of the year and settled in after allowing two goals on his first nine shots. The 24-year-old goaltender is 14-5-1 since returning from injury on Dec. 15th. Keith Kinkaid started for New Jersey and stopped 24 of 28 shots in the loss.
San Jose wasted a Joe Thornton hat trick in a loss to the Boston Bruins 6-5 in OT, Monday. Boston jumped out to an early three-goal lead in the first period but saw it dissipate. Charlie McAvoy (4) scored the OT winner for Boston. Martin Jones started in net for San Jose and saved 14 of 20 shots.
After a slow start to the season, Pittsburgh defensemen have heated up. Pittsburgh blueliners have scored seven times in the past seven games. The recent hot streak has raised the goal totals for Penguins defenseman to 21 goals in 53 games. Kris Letang leads Penguins defenseman in goals with 15.
Penguins forward Matt Cullen will be skating in his 1,495th career NHL game tonight against the Sharks. That will tie Cullen with Phil Housley for the third-most games played all-time among American-born players. The duo will be tied for 21st on the NHL’s overall all-time games played list. Cullen is also six games away from the second most games played by a US-born player.
Olli Maatta ( 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)|
Expected Penguins Lines
|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|