The Pittsburgh Penguins are in yet another situation Saturday where things can take a large swing either way depending on how they play when they face the Senators in Ottawa.
Will the Penguins (15-13-3) build on their two-game winning streak that came against Minnesota and Carolina, or take a step back going into the NHL’s Christmas break?
The Senators (11-17-0) have lost six straight, most recently a 6-4 loss Thursday against Colorado.
The game starts a little after 7 p.m.
The last time the Penguins had a two-game winning streak, they went to Toronto last Saturday and flopped big time in a 7-0 loss.
They bounced back to beat the Wild 4-3 Monday, showing some resilience after blowing a three-goal lead when Sidney Crosby scored the deciding goal on a power play. Then came Thursday, when Crosby scored the team’s only regulation goal and the deciding shootout goal in a 2-1 win over the Hurricanes.
So they have won four of five and need to continue a strong pace if they hope to climb back into playoff contention. A loss against the woeful Senators, who are last in the Eastern Conference, could be the equivalent of a lump of coal in their hockey socks.
One thing to watch is the power play, which went 0 for 5, including one opportunity in overtime, against Carolina.
Another is the goaltending situation. It looks as if Alex Nedeljkovic will start for the third straight game.
Kingerski: Crosby and Nedeljkovic to the Rescue
Anderson: Do the Penguins Have—or Need—a Player Having a Breakout Season?
The Senators are reeling. They are 0-2 since former Penguins assistant Jacques Martin replaced D.J. Smith as coach.
In their loss to the Avalanche, they blew a two-goal lead as Colorado scored four straight goals. Nathan MacKinnon had a four-goal night.
How bad are things?
“Don’t think I’ve ever felt worse in my life,” Senators captain Brady Tkachuk said. “It’s not fun right now.”
Ottawa goes from trying to contain MacKinnon to facing his long-time friend, fellow Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, native and fellow superstar, Crosby.
Penguins Expected Lines
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Rickard Rakell
Reilly Smith-Evgeni Malkin-Valtteri Puustinen
Radim Zohorna-Lars Eller-Drew O’Connor
Jansen Harkins-Noel Acciari-Jeff Carter
Ryan Graves-Erik Karlsson
Marcus Pettersson-Kris Letang
John Ludvig-Chad Ruhwedel
Senators Expected Lines
Brady Tkachuk-Tim Stutzle-Drake Batherson
Vladimir Tarasenko-Josh Norris-Claude Giroux
Dominik Kubalik-Ridly Greig-Angus Crookshank
Jiri Smejkal-Mark Kastelic-Parker Kelly
Jake Sanderson-Artem Zub
Jakob Chychrun-Travis Hamonic
Erik Brannstrom-Jacob Bernard-Docker
Penguins Special Teams
Penguins power play: 13.7%, 27th
Penguins penalty kill: 82.0%, 12th
Senators power play: 18.2%, 20th
Senators penalty kill: 70.2%, 32nd
Penguins Game Notes
The Penguins are 9-4-3 in their past 16 games against Ottawa.
The Penguins are 7-7-2 on the road.
Sidney Crosby has 56 points (19 goals, 37 assists) in 47 games against the Senators, one point shy of tying Jaromir Jagr for most points against Ottawa in Penguins history.
Crosby leads the NHL with six game-opening goals and with 14 road goals.
Crosby is three points shy of tying Joe Thornton for 12th place all-time in the NHL with 1,539. He also is one shy of 400 career even-strength goals.
Erik Karlsson is one assist shy of 600.
Evgeni Malkin has one goal in the past 10 games.
Rickard Rakell is still looking for his first goal.
How to Watch
TV: SportsNet Pittsburgh
Radio: 105.9 FM The X