Blackhawks @ Penguins
For the second time in a week, the Penguins face an elite team in the Western Conference and tonight’s its the Chicago Blackhawks (21-8-4, 46pts), the NHL’s best team riding a five game winning streak.
The disappointment for the Penguins is that it won’t be a game where management can truly evaluate where the Penguins stand as the team will be without several core players including Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek.
Head coach Dan Bylsma knows the challenges for his team tonight.
‘We donât get to see them very often and when we do itâs mostly the highlights of them, ” Bylsma said. Theyâre [playing] very good lately, 9-1 in their last 10, 5-0 in their last five. Emery is playing extremely well for them in net….. You can talk about Sharp with his goal scoring as of late, Patrick Kane and Toews and the whole staff. Their power play on the road is right around 26 percent so itâs dangerous in that regard. Itâs not a pleasant thing to watch on video. We expect a very skilled team that will come at you with a lot of skill, but a lot of speed as well.
The Blackhawks lineup includes high scoring forwards Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp who have combined for 138 points this season.
What has made the Blackhawks so dynamic this season has been the re-emergence of Marian Hossa as an elite player. Hossa has stayed healthy so far, leading the Blackhawks with 36 points and playing excellent two-way hockey, posting a +18 rating. Hossa has not played over 65 games or recorded more than 57 points since the 2008-2009 season.
Lovejoy back in lineup
Defenseman Ben Lovejoy will return to the lineup tonight. Lovejoy last played on November 3rd. Jordan Staal and Craig Adams who were game time decisions, are also in the lineup.
Lovejoy emerged as the Penguins no. 5 defenseman last season but struggled mightily prior to getting injured and arguably was the team’s no. 7 defensemen when the team was at full strength. The good news for the Penguins is that Zbynek Michalek is also progressing and could be cleared to play Friday night, barring his symptoms NOT flaring up again like they did late last week.
The Penguins on the blueline tonight: orpik – niskanen, despres – engelland, picard – lovejoy.
Tonight’s goaltending matchup features Marc Andre Fleury vs Ray Emery