The Pittsburgh Penguins need to get on a roll, and up next is a quick two-games-in-two-nights trip beginning Friday against the Minnesota Wild.
The Penguins (23-17-7) sit five points out of a wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. They can hope to recapture the formula that led to a 3-0 win Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets – a couple power-play goals, solid two-way play and good goaltending.
The Wild (22-23-5) also are five points out of a playoff spot in the West.
The game starts a little after 8 p.m.
While they need to keep their eyes on the prize, the Penguins also could take a little time pregame to appreciate former long-time Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Minnesota is holding a special night for him to celebrate his reaching 1,000 career games – quite a feat for a goalie. He also recently moved into second place all-time in the NHL in wins.
This could be the final time the Penguins face Fleury, who has not committed to playing beyond this season.
But the Penguins can’t let nostalgia overshadow the importance of grabbing every possible point if they hope to get into the postsesason. They have won two games in row following a three-game losing streak (0-2-1).
They will be playing without fourth-line center Noel Acciari, who is not traveling to Minnesota and Winnipeg after being diagnosed with a concussion following a hit that knocked him out of Tuesday’s game.
Coach Mike Sullivan said the team is still mulling how it will reconfigure the forward lines, but it could mean that Jeff Carter will move from right wing to center on the fourth line.
Second-line center Evgeni Malkin missed Thursday’s practice because of a maintenance day, but there was no indication that he would miss this game.
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It’s unknown whether or how much the Wild might be inspired by the Fleury celebration.
Minnesota has come on some lately. After losing eight of nine (1-7-1) in late December/early January, the Wild is 5-3-0 over its past nine, including a 2-1 win over Chicago on Wednesday.
The Wild offense hasn’t been on fire – the team has scored two goals in three games in a row.
Expected Penguins Lines
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust
Reilly Smith-Evgeni Malkin-Drew O’Connor
Rickard Rakell-Lars Eller-Jesse Puljujarvi
Jansen Harkins-Colin White-Jeff Carter
Marcus Pettersson-Kris Letang
Ryan Graves-Erik Karlsson
P.O Joseph/John Ludvig-Chad Ruhwedel
Expected Wild Lines
Kirill Kaprizov-Ryan Hartman-Mats Zuccarello
Marcus Johansson-Joel Eriksson Ek-Matt Boldy
Marcus Foligno-Marco Rossi-Frederick Gaudreau
Brandon Duhaime-Jacob Lucchini-Vinni Lettieri
Jon Merrill-Brock Faber
Jake Middleton-Dakota Mermis
Alex Golisogski-Zach Bogosian
Penguins Special Teams
Penguins power play: 14.1%, 30th
Penguins penalty killing: 81.4%, 10th
Wild power play: 20.5%, 17th
Wild penalty killing: 73.8%, 30th
Penguins Game Notes
The Penguins topped the Wild 4-3 at home Dec. 18. They are 9-0-1 in their past 10 games Minnesota.
Sidney Crosby has 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 23 career games against the Wild. He has one goal on 12 shots in five career games against goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Evgeni Malkin has 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) in 19 career games against Minnesota. He has two goals on 14 shots in five career games against Fleury.
Erik Karlsson has 34 points (9 goals, 25 assists) in 28 career games against the Wild.
Kris Letang has 18 points (4 goals, 14 assists) in 21 career games against Minnesota.
Crosby has 577 career goals and will pass Mark Recchi for sole possession of 21st place all-time in the NHL with his next goal.
How to Watch
TV: SportsNet Pittsburgh
Radio: 105.9 FM The X