The Pittsburgh Penguins (40-18-10) have little choice but to erase the Tuesday night disappointment against likely playoff opponent, the New York Rangers, and focus on the Minnesota Wild (41-20-4). Both teams are headed for the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs, though Minnesota has surprised many with solid play.
The puck drops at the Xcel Center just after 8 p.m.
The Penguins’ disappointment in their game was tempered slightly by their third period push against New York on Tuesday night. Their furious comeback was one goal short, 3-2, at PPG Paints Arena. Brian Boyle and Sidney Crosby scored goals.
Get the full PHN+ report card with the in-depth breakdown and chalkboard with extended explanations from Mike Sullivan and Mike Matheson. Pittsburgh Penguins report card.
The Penguins get some good news Thursday as winger Jason Zucker will return to the lineup after 30 games. He had core muscle surgery in January. On Thursday, Zucker skated with Evgeni Malkin at practice, and the middle six wingers got a good shuffle.
Minnesota said goodbye to stalwarts Zach Parise and Ryan Suter via buyouts last summer. Despite a lack of a true first-line center, Minnesota asserted itself solidly in the Western Conference playoff race. They are 8-1-1 in their last 10.
Wild GM Bill Guerin acquired old friend, and Penguins old friend, Marc-Andre Fleury from the Chicago Blackhawks. However, neither Fleury nor Penguins’ No. 1 goalie Tristan Jarry will play. Casey DeSmith will face Cam Talbot.
Head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed Zucker would play, but he could see reduced minutes.
“We’ll see how that goes. I will say this: he’s worked extremely hard in this return to play process.”
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Rickard Rakell||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jason Zucker||Jeff Carter||Danton Heinen|
|Brock McGinn||Teddy Blueger||Evan Rodrigues|
|Mike Matheson||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Mark Friedman||Chad Ruhwedel|
Expected Wild Lines, per PuckPedia.com:
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
*Minnesota’s special teams are on the other side of average. The power play ranks 19th (20.5%), and the PK ranks 22nd (76.2%).
*The Penguins power play improved to 13th (22.2%), while the PK remains elite at second in the league (85.8%).
*The Penguins rank first in the least penalties taken, while Minnesota ranks 30th, yielding about 10 minutes of power-play time per game.
*INJURIES: Jason Zucker, lower-body (30 consecutive, 37 total), Brock McGinn, upper-body (9 consecutive, 12 total), Nathan Beaulieu, lower-body (5 consecutive, 5 total). 2021-22 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 245
*Sidney Crosby, who has 70 points (25-45-70) and can appear in a maximum of 70 games, has ensured that he will average a point per game for the 17th time in his career. Only Crosby, Wayne Gretzky (19), and Gordie Howe (17) have accomplished such a feat in NHL history.
*Defenseman Mike Matheson is one goal shy of becoming the sixth Penguins defenseman since 2005-06 to score 10 or more goals in a season (Kris Letang, 7x; Sergei Gonchar, 4x; Ryan Whitney, 2x; Matt Niskanen, 1x; Justin Schultz, 1x
*On Tuesday, Evgeni Malkin recorded his 697th assist, surpassing Sergei Fedorov (696) for the most assists by a Russian-born player in NHL history.
Malkin is three assists shy of becoming the 57th player in NHL history to record 700 assists. Malkin has 697 assists in 971 games and is looking to become the 23rd-fastest player in NHL history with 700 assists. Among active players, only teammate Sidney Crosby (700A in 856GP) will have reached the 700 assist milestone faster.
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T Sportsnet; Radio: 105.9 The X