The Pittsburgh Penguins (32-22-8) begin the post-trade deadline fight for their playoff lives tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets (35-23-3) at Nationwide Arena. The two Metropolitan Division rivals are embroiled in a fight for third place and the automatic playoff spot. The Penguins are only one point behind Columbus which has one game in hand.
The Penguins seek consistency and need to overcome key injuries to their defensive corps. Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin will not play tonight, but the news is not as terrible as initially thought.
Columbus GM Jarmo Kekäläinen retooled for a playoff push by acquiring Matt Duchene, Keith Kinkaid, Ryan Dzingel, and Adam McQuaid. Columbus is “all in” this season and now boasts strong depth at center.
The Penguins looked to be thrifty at yesterday’s trade deadline and pulled off a pair of trades for some defensive help. GM Jim Rutherford acquired Chris Wideman from Florida and Eric Gudbranson from Vancouver in hopes the two journeymen can help solidify a maligned blueline. Rutherford parted with Tanner Pearson, who was acquired less than three months ago, and AHL forward J.S Dea in the trades.
The Penguins trail Carolina for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but can vault themselves into Metro Division third place with a regulation win tonight.
Matt Murray will start for the Penguins and get a shot at redemption from Saturday’s late slip-up. Murray is 18-10-2 with a 2.97 goals against. Columbus will start Sergei Bobrovsky in net. Bobrovsky comes into tonight on a two-game winning streak.
With the Penguin’s playoff hopes in jeopardy, GM Jim Rutherford is calm but admitted he is nervous. Rutherford describes himself as “a little anxious,” but maintains his confidence in the team.
The Penguins suffered a 4-3 OT loss to Philadelphia in the Stadium Series, Saturday. Despite an early lead from Sidney Crosby’s (26) goal, the Penguins could not overcome injuries to Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin. The Penguins had a two goals lead with less than four minutes left in the game but a soft goal by Matt Murray in the final seconds and in overtime undid the heroic defensive effort. James van Riemsdyk (16) scored on the power play, and Jakub Voracek (16) scored with 19 seconds left to force overtime. The Penguins came out flying in the extra period but could not tally the game-winning goal.
Philadelphia Captain Claude Giroux (18) scored two minutes into overtime to give his team the extra point.
In the absence of their top defensive pair, the Penguins needed considerable efforts from the other four defensemen. Jack Johnson played a season-high 31:08 minutes to lead all skaters. Johnson’s previous high this season was 25 minutes on Nov. 10. Justin Schultz logged hefty ice time as well and ended the game with 30 minutes.
Matt Murray started for the Penguins in net and struggled towards the end of the game. Murray saved 33 shots but let up two soft goals on the tying and game-winning goal. In his postgame comments, Murray accepted blame for the loss and was candid about his feelings. Brian Elliott started for Philadelphia and saved 40 of 43 shots for his seventh win of the year.
Columbus enters tonight after cooling off San Jose 4-0, Saturday. In his second game as a Blue Jacket, Matt Duchene collected two points (1g,1a) and logged 17 minutes of ice time. Sergei Bobrovsky started in net for Columbus and saved 26 shots to collect his fifth shutout of the year.
Evgeni Malkin’s goal Saturday night in Philadelphia was his 19th of the season. This leaves him one shy of reaching 20 for the sixth-straight season. It would mark the 11th time in his career that Malkin has scored 20 goals.
Olli Maatta (Upper-Body, IR)
Kris Letang (Upper-Body)
Brian Dumoulin ( Concussion)
Ryan Murray (IR)
|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
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|