The Pittsburgh Penguins (17-15-3) have fallen below .500 in a season which is beginning to feel eerily to the struggles of 2015-16. Not coincidentally, the Penguins had the same record in 2015 (Stick tap Jonathan Bombulie of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). The Penguins host division rival, and noted Penguins antagonists, the Columbus Blue Jackets (21-13-1).
The Penguins are tied with the Philadelphia Flyers, in 6th place of the Metro Division (37 points). The Blue Jackets are entrenched into the top three of the Metropolitan Division. CBJ is tied with New Jersey for second place, and two points behind the Washington Capitals.
It’s statement games which matter when you’re a defending or two-time defending Stanley Cup champion. The Penguins had a little wakeup call, Tuesday when General Manager Jim Rutherford acquired defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and AHL goaltender Michael Leighton.
Oleksiak will play tonight. So will Chad Ruhwedel and Matt Hunwick. Ian Cole likely will not. We had some thoughts on that potential you can read by clicking on the link.
Oleksiak will play on the right side, despite being a left-handed shot. However, all reports indicate the big, 6′-7″ defenseman is comfortable on the right side.
If the Penguins fail to show up in full form, the trade rumors could begin to hit hyperdrive.
Despite the holiday roster freeze, five scouts are in attendance. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, and New York Rangers are sharing press box nachos.
While the Rangers scout, former Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Rick Kehoe is based in Pittsburgh, the Maple Leafs, Canucks, and Red Wings are teams which are rumored to be also on the trade market.
Ready to play.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 21, 2017
Patric Hornqvist is on the ice for warmups and will be a crucial ingredient a physical, gritty contest.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan and Blue Jackets head man John Tortorella don’t spare tactical changes. The pair competes, no holds barred, against each other.
If you enjoy X’s and O’s, and a bit of snarl, there is nothing better than Pit v CBJ…