Connect with us


Wild Times: Misery Mutual for Penguins, Minnesota; Fleury Out



Pittsburgh Penguins, Marc-Andre Fleury, NHL trade

CRANBERRY — The Pittsburgh Penguins entered this season with great expectations and lofty objectives.

Nearly 20 percent of the way through it, however, they have struggled to break even in the standings and are sitting outside the playoff field.

That’s pretty humbling for a team that views itself as a Stanley Cup contender.

“We’re certainly not satisfied with where we’re at,” Mike Sullivan said after practice Wednesday. “I’m probably stating the obvious there.”

Uh, yeah.

And it’s not much consolation to the Penguins, who are 6-7-3 and have won just two of their past 11 games, that they are not alone in their disappointment.

In fact, the Penguins will face another under-performing club when they visit Minnesota Thursday at 8:08 p.m.

Optimism that the Wild could challenge for a championship was rampant in the Twin Cities in late summer, but the Wild started with three consecutive losses — all at home, all in regulation — and never have won more than two games in a row en route to a 7-7-2 record.

Although Minnesota has a nominal lead on the Penguins, 16-15, in the overall standings, the teams probably are dead-even, in terms of being a disappointment.

In any case, the Penguins aren’t likely to devote much time or attention to the Wild’s problems — like how Minnesota has scored just 23 5-on-5 goals, tied for third-fewest in the NHL — unless it’s to figure out how they can be exploited.

“We just have to focus on our game, regardless of our opponent and what their situation is,” Sidney Crosby said. “We have to find a way to get wins. … If anything, you know you’re going to get a team that’s going to be urgent and desperate. But we should be, too.”

Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will not play against his old team after apparently getting hurt during a 2-1 loss in Nashville Tuesday. He was placed on injured-reserve, which means he will be out of the lineup for at least a week.

He sat out Minnesota’s practice Wednesday because of an unspecified upper-body injury.

Fleury is 4-3 against the Penguins, with a 3.06 goals-against average and .905 save percentage, and after rebounding from a subpar start, would have been capable of frustrating the Penguins. Even so, the guys who’ve shared a locker room with him seemed happy to have a chance to cross paths with Fleury again.

“It’s still awesome to see him, and see him doing well,” Bryan Rust said.

Regardless of who is in goal for Minnesota, the Pittsburgh Penguins have to find a way to put enough pucks past him to leave town with a couple of points. At the moment, they would need to hurdle four clubs just to get into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“It hasn’t been the start that we wanted, but I think that at this point last year, we were 6-6-4,” Rust said. “We ended up having a good year. There’s still a lot of it left.

“Obviously, there are a lot of things to iron out here, but we know what can be done. We know we can go on to have a good year. But we have to figure things out, and we have to figure them out quick.”