The Penguins look dangerous going into playoffs

AP Photo

They haven’t clinched yet, but add the Pittsburgh Penguins to the list of teams that could potentially do some damage in the post-season.

And they’re without Evgeni Malkin, who was averaging just over a point per game before he was sidelined six to eight weeks with an upper-body injury earlier in March.

On Thursday, the Penguins dispatched the Nashville Predators — another team that looks to be headed for the playoffs and could be a menace once there — by a final score of 5-2. They outshot Nashville 41-24 and chased Pekka Rinne from the game after two periods.

That’s wins in 10 of the last 11 games for Pittsburgh, which moves into second in the Metropolitan Division.

Perhaps the scariest thing the Penguins have going for them right now is their ability in recent weeks to light up the opposition. In this four-game winning streak, they’ve scored 19 goals, not including any in the shootout. They’ve held some pretty decisive wins over the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals last month, too.

Phil Kessel is among their hottest forwards with nine points in his last four games and he scored with another impressive wrist shot against the Predators, giving him 25 goals. Sidney Crosby has long since returned to being Sidney Crosby, and a healthy Kris Letang would be huge for the Penguins on defense.

“I think Phil is playing really hard right now,” said head coach Mike Sullivan, as per the Penguins website.

“He’s using his feet. I think his speed is noticeable on most shifts that he plays out there. He’s dangerous off the rush. He’s getting involved underneath the hash marks with the cycle game and that type of offense. He’s a threat consistently.”

It also doesn’t seem smart to overlook the play of Marc-Andre Fleury in net.

The East has a number of big-name goalies, from Braden Holtby to Henrik Lundqvist to Roberto Luongo to Ben Bishop.

Fleury earned the win Thursday, giving him yet another 35-win season, and his save percentage of .921 has him ninth in the league among goalies with more than 2,000 minutes played this season.

“We were in a bad spot for a while there,” Fleury told reporters. “We had a tough time. We couldn’t get consistency through the first few months.”

Now, what can they do when the playoffs get going?