Can you feel it in the air? The city of Pittsburgh is hyped up and a rivalry feel is in the air. This all for tonight's game as the Pittsburgh Penguins will battle the Washington Capitals. The Penguins are coming off a 2-1 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. It was a hard fought game for the Penguins and Marc-Andre Fleury did an amazing job in the net. They have put together some good games and will look to keep that going. The Penguins are known for having trouble against those in the Metropolitan Division, but maybe they can start to turn that around.
A key factor in a win is the Penguins getting on the board first. They have five consecutive wins when they score the first goal and a record of 25-5-5, when they strike first this season. The Penguins are having home ice advantage tonight and that seems to be a big factor when they face the Capitals. They have won five of their last six games against the Capitals at Consol Energy Center. The Penguins have to come out with speed and take control of the game.
In addition, the Penguins have had a great offensive showing as injured players have returned to the lineup. Let's start with the third line of Nick Spaling, Brandon Sutter, and Beau Bennett in the last three games. Spaling has two goals, Sutter has notched two assists, and Bennett also has two assists. The Penguins have to rely on their other lines to create a buzz and produce, so they don't have to focus on their top two lines to get on the board. A key player recently has been Bennett, who has shown the coaching staff that he should no longer to scratch. He has assisted in back-to-back games and notched a career high nine shots during Sunday's game against the Blackhawks. It's the second highest total by a Penguin this season, only behind Patric Hornqvist who tallied 12. Bennett played a great game on Sunday and was flying on the ice. He is proving why he deserves a spot in the lineup. It's not always about the superstars, but they guys who are there to support them.
Another major piece to the Penguins' success is their defense. The shut down defensive pair is Kris Letang and Paul Martin. You will see them go up against the Ovechkin line and they are truly a shutdown pair. They log the most ice time on the team, Letang recorded a season high ice time of 30:27 during Sunday's game against the Blackhawks. This was his ninth time skating for +30 minutes in his 472 career games. Now we can't talk defense without talking about the guy between the pipes, Fleury who has been having a sensational year. The Penguins are 20-0-2 when the Flower allows two or fewer goals this season. Not to mention, Fleury has allowed one even strength goal in his last 264:29 minutes of play. His last four starts, he is 3-0-1 with a .980 save percentage and 0.49 goals-against-average. In this span he has turned away 97 of 99 shots faced. This game will be a battle of the goalies as Braden Holtby is also having a great year. He is below Fleury in all categories, but wins where the two are tied at 26 (sixth in the National Hockey League).
Some good news today as Christian Ehrhoff joined the morning skate. He spoke to the media saying, "I'm feeling better and getting in the right direction...Hopefully not too much longer, but it's kind of day-to-day how I feel, so it's tough to give an estimate or prognosis."
Mike Johnston also talked to the media saying Ehrhoff still needs to be cleared for contact and take part in a full practice. There will be a full practice tomorrow, so they can see if he can take part in it and go from there.
The Penguins have to come out ready to battle, but not let the Capitals get under their skin. It will be a physical game and tough, but if they can stick to their system they will earn the win. Time to get ready for battle! Lets Go Pens!
Kunitz, Crosby, Perron
Comeau, Geno, Hornqvist
Spaling, Sutter, Bennett
Adams, Lapierre, Downie
Fleury in the net!
(FYI: I have some matters to take care of tonight, so I won't be able to give updates on the game on the site or Facebook. Updates will be provided by my pal GF on twitter, so check it out!)