Author: Jason Brough

Kris Letang, Nathan Gerbe

(Video) PHT Extra: What’s ailing the Pittsburgh Penguins


Penguins fans got some promising news today from coach Mike Johnston, who suggested injured defensemen Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff could be back for the playoffs.

There are still issues with this team, like forward depth. But as we discuss, a healthier blue line would sure help:

Embarrassed in Los Angeles, Oilers need to play ‘with a chip on our shoulder’ tonight versus Kings

Edmonton Oilers v Los Angeles Kings

The Edmonton Oilers have a chance to get some revenge on the Los Angeles Kings for last week’s embarrassing 8-2 defeat at Staples Center.

You see, the Kings are in Edmonton tonight, and a loss for the defending champs would deal a serious blow to their playoff hopes.

“They embarrassed us last time, and frankly, I thought we looked like a junior team out there,” said Oilers forward Rob Klinkhammer, per the Edmonton Sun. “It was ugly. We just have to come in with a chip on our shoulder, play hard and play the right way. We can’t feed their game, they are super hungry, they’re making a push for the playoffs and they are a great team. We have to have our best game if we want to have a chance.”

Another factor in Edmonton’s favor, besides revenge, could be fatigue. The Kings played last night in Vancouver, where they lost 2-1 in a shootout. Drew Doughty logged almost 30 minutes in that one. Jonathan Quick was similarly busy in goal, where he faced 38 Canuck shots. There’s even been speculation Martin Jones could get the start tonight.

Of course, while the Oilers haven’t played since Saturday, they’re not counting on a diminished opponent.

“If we have the same effort that we had the other night in L.A., it’s going to be the same result,” said Taylor Hall.

For Jimmy Howard, the ‘ball’s in his court’

Jimmy Howard

Jimmy Howard will try and build on a solid performance Saturday in Minnesota when he gets the assignment tonight at home versus Carolina.

Howard stopped 22 of 24 Wild shots in the 3-2 Detroit victory, his first quality start in a couple of weeks.

“He won last time out,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said, per MLive. “He’s our veteran guy. We gave him a time with [goaltending coach Jim Bedard] to try and freshen up and get his game set up.

“He went in and won a game in Minny. We didn’t want to go back-to-back because it didn’t work for us all year long when we tried it. So we went to [backup Petr Mrazek on Sunday versus Washington] and now Jimmy’s … ball’s in his court right here.”

Clearly, the Wings would prefer if Howard is their starter come playoff time. He’s the one with the big contract and the postseason experience. He’s their guy.

First things first, of course — the Wings have to clinch a playoff spot. They can do it for the 24th straight time tonight with a win over the Hurricanes combined with a regulation loss by Ottawa to Pittsburgh.

Related: After Howard fails to ‘bounce back,’ Mrazek to receive ‘opportunity’

Penguins need more from their depth forwards

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins

Jim Rutherford knows Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can’t do it all. In fact, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ GM has talked openly about his team needing to “win games with our third and fourth lines,” should the two superstars get shut down.

Unfortunately for Rutherford, his third and fourth lines — dramatically altered since last season — aren’t delivering. Beau Bennett has just three goals in 46 games; Maxim Lapierre has no goals in 32; Craig Adams has one in 68; and it’s not like Daniel Winnik and Nick Spaling are lighting it up either.

Thank goodness for Brandon Sutter and his respectable 19 goals. He was the only to score Sunday versus Philly.

Meanwhile, Steve Downie’s 14 goals aren’t bad. If only he could stop taking so many penalties.

This is not news to Penguins fans. Forward depth was an issue that needed fixing after last season. It was an unknown heading into this one.

“That’s what teams try to do to us,” Rutherford said in February. “They try to shut [Crosby and Malkin] down. If they shut those guys down, and you don’t have enough balance on your third and fourth line where you can score periodically, then you can’t win.”

The Penguins head into tonight’s suddenly huge game versus the Senators with just three wins in their last 12. Of the 19 goals they’ve managed during that stretch, Crosby has either scored or assisted on 11 of them. It’s time for some of his teammates to help out.

Canucks feeling more confident against Kings, a potential first-round opponent


For the Vancouver Canucks, two straight wins over the Los Angeles Kings have made the prospect of a first-round match-up versus the defending champions seem a little less daunting.

Not easy or enticing, mind you — just a little less daunting.

“Last year, we were nowhere close to competing with them,” Canucks forward Alex Burrows said after last night’s 2-1 shootout victory. “They were just overpowering us. Their work ethic, their system, we didn’t really have any answers. I find this year, rolling four lines, rolling everybody, getting more pucks on net, skating a bit more, it helps us a lot.

“They’re still a really good team. They’re Stanley Cup champs for a reason. But we found a way the last few times.”

The Canucks also defeated the Kings, 4-1, on March 21, outshooting them 42-26 at Staples Center. Last night, they outshot them 38-37.

Those shot totals are encouraging for Vancouver, given no team surrenders fewer shots on average than the Kings (27.2). Heck, the Colorado Avalanche only managed 10 Saturday at Staples.

According to Sports Club Stats, there’s a 37.6 percent chance of a Canucks-Kings first-round series. The most likely Vancouver opponent is Calgary (61.9 percent).