- The Pittsburgh Penguins went into the All-Star break Thursday night in making a mockery of the Minnesota Wild with a 6-3 win on 80’s night.
With just over two months left in the regular season, here come the Penguins who are 8-3 in January, back to playing a high-end offensive brand of hockey, a relentless puck pursuit game and that Sidney Crosby guy is creeping up the NHL Points leaderboard.
Crosby who had 35 points in his first 40 games of the season, now has 20 points in 11 games this month and has been an assist machine with 17 helpers during that span. Crosby’s goal totals are down this season but he’s on pace to smash his assist totals from the past couple seasons (49 assists in 2015-2016, 45 assists in 2016-2017). Crosby is eighth in the NHL with 38 assists.
And what continues to go unnoticed is that Phil Kessel is third in the NHL in points and on pace for 93 points. Kessel’s career high is 47 assists, he already has 37 assists on the season.
NHL Points Leaders
1. Nikita Kucherov – 63 Pts
2. Nathan MacKinnon – 60 Pts
3. Phil Kessel – 58 Pts
4. Steven Stamkos – 58 Pts
5. John Tavares – 57 Pts
6. Claude Giroux – 57 Pts
7. Johnny Gaudreau – 56 Pts
8. Jakub Voracek – 56 Pts
9. Sidney Crosby – 55 Pts
2. The emergence of Casey DeSmith has led to a best-case scenario for the Penguins moving forward where they can let Tristan Jarry still get games in Wilkes Barre and possibly be the guy for Wilkes Barre in the playoffs, an opportunity he missed last season due to the Murray injury.
“Matt Murray’s our No. 1 guy. That is what it is,” Sullivan said on Thursday.
The biggest priority, per a team source, for the Penguins the rest of the way is getting Murray back to form and the coaching staff believes a heavy work-load of games the next two months is what needs to happen.
“The great thing about our goaltending situation right now is we’ve got three very capable guys,” Sullivan said. “I would envision all of these guys getting some time. If we need to move Casey down or whatever it may be, we can do that as well. We have a lot of flexibility with those guys as our back-up goaltenders. We’re just trying to make sure we make the best decisions both for the hockey team and for the individuals so that we can continue to help them grow and develop their games.”
3. Ian Cole actually got to play Thursday night by default as Matt Hunwick suffered a stinger in practice and was held out.
Cole played well and the third pairing of Cole-Oleksiak was much more efficient at 72% in possession and on the ice for just 4 scoring chances against.
“We certainly thought ‘Colesy’ had a really strong game,” Sullivan said afterwards.
Cole’s strong game vs the Wild isn’t likely going to put Matt Hunwick’s (when healthy) spot in the lineup on thin-ice.
Recently the Penguins coaching staff during organizational discussions have continued to make it known to management that Hunwick is going to play over Cole and that has led to Jim Rutherford reaching the point over the last 10-14 days where he’s looking to do right for Cole and find him a new home with Cole being in a contract, two NHL sources confirm.
Where the asking price last month was the Penguins seeking an NHL player in return, preferably a center, Pittsburgh is now said to be willing to move Cole for a Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" have been on the hunt for a Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
4. Daniel Sprong Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
5. Rick Nash and his camp already have their 12-team trade list prepared for when the Rangers officially ask for it, a request that could come as soon as next week.
The Penguins a source confirms will Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"