It’s not deja vu as the Pittsburgh Penguins (43-26-11) face the Detroit Red Wings (32-38-10) with the chance to clinch a playoff spot. The venue shifts to PPG Paints Arena tonight. The Penguins need one win to secure another playoff season while Detroit seeks to end a disappointing 2018-19 season on what could extend to an eight-game winning streak.
Tonight is the 170th meeting between the two teams and Detriot now has a slight edge at 77-76-16. The Penguins have lost five of the last seven games between the clubs.
The Penguins are like to Schrodinger’s cat: They are both currently in the playoffs, and not in the “playoffs” yet. They need just one win to punch their ticket, but with a habit of playing down to competition, there is nervousness among fans. Center Evgeni Malkin, who is close to returning, admits there is a standard, and they need to win their final two games. The Penguins hold a two-point lead on Carolina for third in the Metro and a three-point lead on Montreal, who would be out of the playoffs if the season were to end today.
It sounds like both Malkin and Kris Letang will play. Jared McCann sounded like he expects both.
Detroit wants to extend their six-game winning streak to ideally eight before they tee off this summer. They are 8-2 in their last ten games and will end the year with two 30 goal scorers. Detroit had 9 players make their NHL debuts this season, tying with NJ for the most in the NHL: Dennis Cholowski, Jake Chelios, Christoffer Ehn, Taro Hirose, Filip Hronek, Ryan Kuffner, Michael Rasmussen, Libor Sulak, Filip Zadina
The Penguins could not solve Detroit in 4-1 lost at Little Caesars Arena, Tuesday. Tyler Bertuzzi (20, 21) scored his first of two goals halfway through the first period. The Penguins responded with a tally in the final 30 seconds of the period. Sidney Crosby started a two-on-one and feathered a pass to Phil Kessel (25), who finished the play to tie the game 1-1. The goal was Kessel’s first in eight games and first 5v5 goal since Jan. 30.
The second period was all Detroit as the Penguins could not find the back of the net despite numerous golden opportunities. Bertuzzi broke the tie halfway through the second period. Detroit added another in the third with two goals by Anthony Mantha (23, 24) including the empty netter.
Jimmy Howard played one of his better game this season with a 38 save effort. Howard helped Detroit maintain the lead while killing off two penalties and looked unbeatable at times in third. Matt Murray lost his 14th game of the year. He stopped 22 of 25 shots.
Jake Guentzel’s time to secure his first career 40 goal season is running out but can still accomplish something. With 38 goals and two games left this season, Jake Guentzel is vying to join Chris Kunitz (2012-13) as the only players not named Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin to lead the team in goal scoring during the Crosby/Malkin Era.
Brian Dumoulin (Day-to-day)
Evgeni Malkin (Upper-body, Game-time decision)
Kris Letang (Upper-body, Game-time decision)
Chad Ruhwedel (Long term, skating)
Zach Aston Reese (Longer Term)
Mike Green (Virus)
Trevor Daley (Back)
Jonathan Ericsson (Lower body)
Michael Rasmussen (Upper body)
Thomas Vanek (Mid-body)
Jacob de la Rose (Heart rate)
Frans Nielsen (Upper body)
Luke Glendening (Lower body)
Jonathan Bernier (Upper body)
|24.1% (7-29, 11th)
|72% (7-25, 28th)
|22.2% (6-27, 17th)
|60% (10-25, 32nd)
Penguins -290 Over/Under 6, -15
Expected Penguins Lines