7:00 p.m., PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina
The Last Penguins Game
April 5, 2013 - Pittsburgh 2, NY Rangers 1 (SO) [Recap]
With an overtime loss by the Devils on Sunday night the Penguins officially clinched a spot in the 2013 playoffs. While it might have seen like a foregone conclusion that the Penguins were in I don't think anyone should ever take for granted that your favorite team will always get into the playoffs. On a small scale you can look to the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers on a medium scale you can look at the Penguins in the early 2000's and on the large scale you can see the Pirates and how their fans (including me) about not making the playoffs for extremely long stretches of time. So while the Penguins were in the playoffs I don't take that for granted and I was pretty pumped it was official.
Continuing with the clinching senerios the Penguins can officially clinch the Atlantic Division with any type of loss tonight. They will also clinch at least the number two seed with a win and will be in the drivers seat for the top overall in the conference and still within striking distance of the Presidents Trophy.
The Penguins are riding high as they have won 16 of their last 18 games but the Carolina Hurricanes are the complete opposite. They have only collected three points in their last 13 games and in that streak they have only scored 20 goals being held to a goal or less in nine of those games. Just really bad times for the Hurricanes. How must it feel to be Jordan Staal at this moment?
Truth be told the Hurricanes are a really banged up team and while that doesn't excuse the horrid stretch they are on it surely doesn't help, as Penguins fans might know. This was a team that was supposed to win the Souteast Division this year and some even had them going to, and winning, the Stanley Cup in the preseason. Not they are just struggling not to get blown out of games. They still have some talent on the roster as the trio of Eric Staal, his brother Jordan, and Alex Semin really give them some offensive push but Semin will not be playing tonight with an injury and Jordan Staal is fourth on the team in scoring with only 23 points and nine goals.
Kris Letang will not be in the lineup tonight as it seems the Penguins are taking it a little more slow this time as the last time he came off injury he was hurt due to the fact that he didn't wait long enough. Letang will be back this season but with the playoffs and division (basically) wrapped up I don't think there is a need to rush him back. That being said he is amazingly important to this team and when you look at who the Penguins are sending out on the ice there isn't a lot of offensive fire power or versitility and until guys like Letang and Paul Martin get back it could be a little rough on the back end.
Not really sure why Simon Despres isn't playing tonight, or the last couple of games, but you would think with the offensive dificencies the Penguins currently have he would be an asset to have. Not that Robort Bortuzzo hasn't been playing fine but I also don't think he has been so good that you can't take him off the ice.
Pittsburgh (29-10-0) (via Penguins website)
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - Jarome Iginla
Brenen Morrow - Jussi Jokinen - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass - Craig Adams - Beau Bennett
Brooks Orpik - Mark Eaton
Matt Niskanen - Douglas Murray
Robert Bortuzzo - Deryk Engelland
Carolina (16-20-2) (via Penguins website)
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Pat Dwyer
Tuomo Ruutu - Jordan Staal - Jeff Skinner
Drayson Bowman - Riley Nash - Chad LaRose
Zac Dalpe - Tim Brent - Brett Bellemore
Tim Gleason - Joe Corvo
Jay Harrison - Jamie McBain
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Bobby Sanguinetti
The Season Series (Carolina leads 1-0-0)
February 28, 2013 - Carolina 4, Pittsburgh 1