7:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Penguins are back in action after having their 11 game winning streak snapped via an overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. It was a loss that happened in the final two seconds in overtime and it sucked. We all know that teams have losses and having an 11 game winning streak is amazing but no matter how many in a row you win you are always thirsting for more. Tonight they get a chance to get back into the win column when the Winnipeg Jets come to town.
The Jets are on the outside looking in on the playoff picture as they sit four points behind the eight seeded Washington Capitals for that final playoff spot. The Jets weren't thought to be in contention for a playoff spot but they are third in the Eastern Conference with 23 home victories and that has put them into a spot to play for the second season. The bad part is that the Jets are just dreadful on the road where they only have a 11-19-4 mark.
Because of tiebreakers the Penguins are not able to clinch a playoff spot tonight even though they basically did that weeks ago. The Rangers were the first team to clinch a spot in the playoffs as they have 97 points and before tonight the Penguins only have 94 points. They will be able to pull within one game of the Rangers with a win which would be nice. They are going to have to be pretty good down the stretch as it looks like the Rangers are starting to play some much better hockey lately and it will be interesting to see if the Penguins can keep up that same pace.
Something that has really been glossed over during the winning streak(s) that the Penguins have been on is the lack of goal scoring production from James Neal. Now, don't get me wrong I am not complaining about James Neal because one could argue that he is in the running for team MVP, but since the beginning of February Neal has only found the back of the net five times in 21 games after scoring six goals in the month of January alone. I am not sure what is going on but if the secondary scoring ever goes away anytime soon the Penguins are going to need Neal to fill the back of the net. He does have two goals in the last four games so maybe he is starting to come out of it and maybe I am expecting a little too much because of the pace he got off too. Whatever.
The season series (Pittsburgh leads 2-1):
October 17, 2011 - Winnipeg 2, Pittsburgh 1
December 23, 2011 - Pittsburgh 4, Winnipeg 1
February 11, 2012 - Pittsburgh 8, Winnipeg 5
The Penguins probables (via Penguins website):
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Jordan Staal - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Sidney Crosby - Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi - Craig Adams - Arron Asham
Kris Letang - Paul Martin
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland
The Jets probables (via Empty Netters):
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheelers
Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - Kyle Wellwood
Tim Stapleton - Ben Maxwel - Antti Miettinen
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Spencer Machacek
Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Colin Stuart - Randy Jones