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Tokarski Starts, Penguins vs. Jets Game 41: Lines, Notes & How to Watch

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Pittsburgh Penguins game, Winnipeg Jets

It is the halfway point of the Pittsburgh Penguins (21-13-6) season. The Penguins have won only two more games than they’ve lost and endured wild swings in the first half, including seven and six-game winless streaks. They also had long winning streaks and currently occupy the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Penguins host the solid Winnipeg Jets (27-14-5) Friday night at PPG Paints Arena.

The puck drops just after 7 p.m.

The Penguins lead the New York Islanders by one point for that final playoff spot but have three games in hand.

Dustin Tokarski will start over Casey DeSmith after the latter gave up three quick goals and was pulled against the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday. Tokarski made a few sparkling saves in relief and earned the win.

It’s a small surprise that Tokarski is starting, as he was signed as the Penguins’ third goalie and spent most of the season with the WBS Penguins.

Injuries are piling up for the Penguins, who remain without Kris Letang (lower-body, personal reasons), Jeff Petry, Josh Archibald, Ryan Poehling, and Tristan Jarry.

Defenseman Jan Rutta missed practice Thursday but took the morning skate Friday.

The Penguins rallied from down 3-0 to beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 Tuesday. Evgeni Malkin had four points (2-2-4), and Ty Smith had a pair of helpers.

Winnipeg helped the Penguins Thursday night by beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-2. Winnipeg’s win extended the Buffalo losing streak and gave the Penguins a little more breathing room for the second wild card. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 39 of 41 shots.

Winnipeg backup David Rittich will most likely start for Winnipeg Friday.

Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines:

Guentzel-Crosby-Rust

Zucker-Malkin-Rakell

O’Connor-Carter-Kapanen

Heinen-Blueger-McGinn

Defense:

Pettersson-Rutta

Dumoulin-Smith

Joseph-Ruhwedel

Goalie:

Tokarski

Expected Jets Lines, per PuckPedia.com:

Connor-Dubois-Ehlers

Perfetti-Scheifele-Wheeler

Maenalanen-Lowry-Kuhlman

Johnsson-Fajllby–Stenlund–Gagne

Defense:

Morrissey-Demelo

Dillon-Pionk

Samberg-Schmidt

Goalie:

David Rittich

Special Teams:

Penguins Power Play: 21.3%, 19th

Penguins Penalty Kill: 84.5%, 3rd

Jets Power Play: 23.4%, 12th

Jets Penalty Kill: 83.2%, 5th

Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:

The Penguins are 16-3-0 in their last 19 games against the Jets. They are 19-1-0 in their last 20 games against the Winnipeg/ Atlanta franchise dating back to March 24, 2007.

The Penguins are 7-0-0 versus Central Division opponents this season

Evgeni Malkin had 19 points (6-13-19) in his last 17 games.

Bryan Rust is four points shy of 300 in his career. The Penguins’ 2010 third-rounder would be the 20th member of his draft class to reach that mark.

Sidney Crosby is tied with Teemu Selane for 17th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list (1457). He’s one point behind Alex Ovechkin for 16th as the pair race up the rankings. Stan Mikita is 15th at 1467.

How to Watch:

TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL Network; Radio: 105.9 The X

Penguins Bets

The return of Bet Against Dan and Make Money. Before the road trip, we were 9-3 in our last six games. And the $200 DraftKings promo has returned. Bet $5 on any game and instantly win $200, regardless if your team wins. Click here to sign up.

There are some X factors tonight: Dustin Tokarski is in goal, Winnipeg’s energy level, and the Penguins’ bottom six. Kasperi Kapanen has been playing significantly better. There’s a lot to like about the Penguins — when they get on a roll, they stack wins. We like the same tonight. With a pair of backup goalies in net, we also like a few goals on the board.

So, the BAD (Bet Against Dan) picks are the Penguins and the (6.5) Over. Get the DraftKings promo tonight and go nuts with the bonus cash on Wild Card weekend.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.