With the Penguins on a 11-0-2 run ( longest streak in over 10 years) Penguin fans are not dreaming about the Pens sneaking into the #8 seed anymore but they have dreams of an Atlantic Divison titleon their minds. Sunday the New Jersey Devils lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 and although it still seems farfetched but the Penguins are only 7 pts behind the Devils with one game in hand. Three games against the Devils in the next couple weeks give the Penguins a chance to gain some ground. I do not see them catching New Jersey but considering what this team has done so far nothing will surprise me anymore. Tampa Bay might have showed the NHL a blue print on how to beat the Devils in the offensive zone. Lots of cycling and sneaking a guy in the slot to spread out their zone defense. The Devils rely on gap control in the defensive and neautral zone and the Lightning countered by sneaking a guy in the middle getting quality one-timers which got the Devils out of sync. Take notice Pens…..

Head Coach Michel Therrien made a few much needed moves during the Maple Leafs – Pens game. The first was moving Ryan Malone to the third line. I’m not here to bash Malone but he is not a top 6 forward, he is what he is a third liner. A third line of Malone – Talbot – Armstrong line brings grit and a scoring punch. I would like to see how this trio works during the stretch run. It could be a very effective line during the playoffs. Eric Christensen was the beneficer of Malone only having 8 goals this season on a line with Sidney Crosby. Christensen got the nod and its going to take a couple weeks to see how Christensen pans out on Sids line.

Nils Ekman is expected to be back sometime in March but look at the teams record since he went down with a elbow injury on December 29th ( 14-3-2) In 36 games Ekman produced 6 goals and 8 assists and a -13. Recently Penguin msg boards have been anticipating Ekmans return like he is the savior to play on Sidney Crosby’s line. Ekman is a top 6 player on bottom feeder not a playoff team like the Penguins. He’ll be either shipped out via trade or a spectator for the majority of the season.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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