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.