The Pittsburgh Penguins (25-15-6) trade the beaches of California for the desert of Arizona as they play the Arizona Coyotes (21-22-3) coached by former Penguins assistant Rick Tocchet at Gila River Arena tonight. Not long ago, the Penguins were gobbling up points to thrust themselves into a tie atop the Metropolitan Division, but now look to rebound from two straight losses and are in the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
The playoff picture continues to be jumbled as the first and eighth spot is separated by only eight points. The Penguins are only three points back of the Metropolitan leading Columbus Blue Jackets and just two points from regaining the third spot from the New York Islanders. The Penguins have a chance to rack up wins with three of the next five games coming against teams with losing records.
Head coach Mike Sullivan will speak at 8 p.m. and we could know more then.
The Penguins projected starter in goal is Matt Murray, which would deny fans the chance to see Murray vs. Fleury for the first time this season. The Coyotes are projected to counter with Darcy Kuemper.
Tuesday, the Penguins dropped their second straight game. They were roasted by the San Jose Sharks, 5-2. Forward Tomas Hertl (17,18,19) led the five-goal San Jose outburst with a hat trick. The Penguins scored first on a jaw-dropping coast-to-coast goal by Kris Letang (11), but San Jose didn’t blink. Marcus Sorensen (9) scored for San Jose less than two minutes later and San Jose scored the next four goals.
San Jose netminder Martin Jones won his eighth straight game. Jones allowed two goals on 24 shots and despite a light workload, made some huge saves when tested. Murray stopped 24 of 28 shots. He allowed four goals in his second straight start and it was his first loss in 10 games. Derick Brassard (8) scored a goal towards the end of regulation, which was his fifth point in the last 10 games. Joe Thornton (10) played in his 1,000th game as a San Jose Shark and netted the game-winning goal in the second period.
Tuesday’s loss was the first time the Penguins lost two straight games since December 1st. The Penguins are still 7-3 in their last 10 games.
Arizona fared better than the Penguins against San Jose with a 6-3 victory, Wednesday. Arizona exploded for six goals to wash away the taste of a six-goal loss to Calgary on Sunday. Lawson Crouse (7) and Richard Panik (10) scored in the first period to set the tone early for Arizona.
Kuemper started for Arizona and stopped 26 shots to collect his ninth win of the season. Christian Fischer and Lawson Crouse each had a goal and an assist for Arizona.
Justin Schultz (Fractured Leg. IR)
Patric Hornqvist (Concussion. Skating)
Zach Aston-Reese (IR)
Antti Raanta ( Lower Body. IR)
Brad Richardson ( Upper Body. IR)
Kevin Connauton ( Lower Body, Day-to-day)
|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
|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|