It is not a split Dickens novel for the Pittsburgh Penguins (41-22-10). It is not the best of times. No, things are veering towards the worst as the team has lost four in a row and division rivals are both gaining and pulling away. The Penguins complete the second of their weekend back-to-back on Sunday at PPG Paints Arena against the Nashville Predators.
The puck will drop somewhere after 4 p.m. as Penguins fans will again be “treated” to a national broadcast.
The Penguins are in a bit of a free fall. They have wings but are not learning to fly around the clouds. Perhaps coming down is the hardest thing. The Penguins led 3-2 before the Washington Capitals scored a pair of goals on the Penguins’ mistakes and then two more empty netters in a 6-3 Capitals win.
The Penguins had a very good start. Bryan Rust scored just 45 seconds into the game, but Penguins highlights were fewer and far between as the game lengthened. Washington outshot the Penguins 19-7 in the third period. The consequences of the loss were felt most in the standings as the Capitals closed to within four points of the third-place Penguins and have two games in hand.
Eight games to go, beginning Sunday against Nashville. The Penguins will announce their starting goalie at 2 p.m., but Casey DeSmith is the likely starter.
The Penguins did get some welcome additions on Saturday. After missing Thursday’s loss to the New York Rangers, Sidney Crosby and John Marino returned to the lineup. And, 10 days after being helped off the ice, Jason Zucker was back in the Penguins lineup, too.
Nashville is part of the muddy middle in the Western Conference. Despite superb goaltending from Juuse Saros this season, Nashville has just a two-point cushion over the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars for the wild-card spots. Two of LA, Vegas, Dallas, and Nashville will make the playoffs, and two will not.
So, every game is urgent and vital for Nashville, which lost to the buzzsaw Florida Panthers, 4-1 on Saturday. Defenseman Roman Josi is having a Norris season and is pacing all NHL defensemen with 87 points, including 19 goals.
The Predators will likely turn to backup goalie David Rittich, who has played 11 games for Nashville this season with an .890 save percentage.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines:
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Rickard Rakell|
|Danton Heinen||Ryan Poehling||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Brock McGinn||Sam Poulin||Drew O'Connor|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||Jeff Petry|
|P.O Joseph||Jan Rutta|
Expected Predators Lines, per PuckPedia.com:
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:
*The Penguins have points in six of their last eight games against the Predators (5-2-1). Going back further, Pittsburgh has points in 13 of its last 17 games (12-4-1) versus Nashville, dating back to October 21, 2010.
The Penguins are 11-4-4 in back-to-backs (7-2-1 on the first night; 4-2- 3 on the second night).
Rickard Rakell has 17 points (7-10-17) in 19 career games versus the Predators and 10 points in his last 10 contests against them (5-5-10).
Evgeni Malkin has 19 points (6-13-19) in 15 career games against Nashville.
On Saturday, Malkin became the 57th player in NHL history to record 700 assists. Malkin accomplished this feat in 976 games and is the 23rdfastest player in NHL history to 700 assists. Only teammate Sidney Crosby (700A in 856GP) reached the 700 assist milestone faster among active players.
However, the Penguins will need all hands on deck to get ready for the playoffs.
The Penguins’ magic number to clinch a playoff berth is SIX and can be lowered by accumulating points of any kind or the New York Islanders failing to accumulate their maximum points remaining in their final 12 games.
There are some Masters specials as part of the DraftKings promos this weekend.
Today’s “Bet Against Dan and Make Money, Guaranteed” pick is to take the draw after 60 minutes (+340). The Penguins have three OT/SO losses in nine games as the second of back-to-backs. That’s nearly 33%. The payout is pretty. pretty good.
How to Watch:
TV: TNT; Radio: 105.9 The X