Tonight’s battle on Versus between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild (7:30 p.m. ET) comes with a bit of a twist. The Wild come in with the hopes of making the playoffs in the West thanks to the additions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. The Penguins roll into town coming off a tough 2-1 loss to Winnipeg last night and without a handful of key players.
Pittsburgh will be without Tyler Kennedy (concussion), Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Dustin Jeffrey (knee) and Brooks Orpik (abdominal) and while the Malkin and Orpik injuries are brutal ones, losing Kennedy and Jeffrey hurts the Pens’ depth offense in a big way. Seeing Kennedy go out with a concussion is frustrating as they’ve already got an important guy in Sidney Crosby dealing with that already.
As it is, the Pens are rolling with essentially Jordan Staal, James Neal, and Kris Letang as their biggest offensive threats, they could use a bit more from Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis to get things going offensively. Hey, at least Matt Cooke is keeping things on the straight and narrow for the time being or else it’d be at a soap opera-level type of drama in Pittsburgh. On the upside, Marc-Andre Fleury has been stellar so far but after dealing with the mayhem atmosphere in Winnipeg last night, it seems likely that Brent Johnson gets the call in goal tonight.
Minnesota has been playing things tight so far and while the attention is being paid to Heatley and Setoguchi, it’s their other lines doing the damage right now. Guillaume Latendresse is setting his teammates up while Matt Cullen is scoring goals. Heatley and Setoguchi are getting their points, but a bit more offense from Mikko Koivu would go a long way.
The guys who really have to get it going are the Wild defensemen. They’ve been holding strong in helping Niklas Backstrom play great so far in goal this year, but getting a little bit more offense from them would go a long way. It’s a work in progress in Minnesota but coach Mike Yeo will have extra motivation for his team tonight going against his former team and former boss in Dan Bylsma. Yeo would love to see the Wild’s power play carry the load tonight after his work with the Penguins’ power play as an assistant coach was a source of contention amongst the fans.
It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.
As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?
If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.
Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.
Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.
The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.
On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.
Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.
The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.
You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.
At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.
Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.
(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)
As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.
Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.
Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.
Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.
Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:
That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.
Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.
For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.
Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.
Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:
Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.
Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.
The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.