30-18-1 (61 pts.)
4-6 Last 10
27-18-2 (56 pts.)
6-2-2 Last 10
Pre-game buzz: Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury will miss tonight’s matchup against Vancouver. Fleury will be sidelined with a fractured finger.
John Curry will make his first start of the season and Alexander Pechurski will serve as Curry’s backup.
Pittsburgh has made changes to their top line.
Michael Rupp (11 goals) will play on a line with Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin, while Pascal Dupuis will skate on the fourth line.
Luca Caputi’s status is in doubt once again. Caputi was the extra forward in the morning skate. Sources told TIOPS on Thursday that Caputi is expected to be re-assigned to Wilkes Barre/Scranton following the weekend. — DePaoli —
This is the first and only regular season matchup between Vancouver and Pittsburgh for 2009-10. Pittsburgh lost to the Canucks, 3-1, last season at the Mellon Arena. Vancouver has won six of the last seven matches against the Penguins.
The Canucks are locked in a three-way battle for the Northwest lead with Calgary and Colorado. Losers of three straight, Vancouver may need this win more than Pittsburgh.
Vancouver certainly has the pieces in place to beat the Cup champs. Captained by Canadian backup goaltender Roberto Luongo, the Canucks have taken the Northwest title the last two seasons. In spite of their three game swoon, this may be the toughest game the Pens face during their trip west.
Alexandre Burrows presents a large reason why. Controversy aside, Burrows has ten goals in his last six games, including back to back hat tricks against Columbus and Phoenix.
If Burrows doesn’t provide enough scoring threat, league points leader Henrik Sedin should. Sedin’s 64 points are two ahead of Alex Ovechkin and seven ahead of Sidney Crosby. Sedin is also riding a nine-game points streak (all this in spite of twin brother Daniel missing significant time with injury.)
Of course, Luongo is always the biggest piece of the Canucks puzzle. Before the last three losses, Luongo had won seven of his previous eight decisions, and is posting a 2.30 GAA and .919 save percentage with 23 wins on the year. Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury will be backups for team Canada next month.
Are things finally coming together? The Pens have won four of five and showed their ability to resurrect a sloppy game against Edmonton Thursday. Ending this road trip as winners of four of five would be a huge boost heading into next week.
One of the reasons for the turnaround is the improved play of Marc-Andre Fleury. Not counting the Minnesota game, Fleury has allowed two goals or less in his last five contests.
However, as noted earlier, Fleury will not play tonight.
One matchup fans won’t miss is that of Sidney Crosby and his 57 points against Henrik Sedin and his league-leading 64 pts. Two of the best scorers in a game always makes for compelling theater, and Crosby has shown a tendency in his career to play up to the best of his competition.
Equally consistent has been the play of Jordan Staal, who has certainly been the Penguins’ second-best center over the last 20 games. Staal figured in on all three goals against Edmonton and along with Crosby and Bill Guerin has been one of the only Penguins not to see his production dip during the down stretch.
At the outset of the road trip, Crosby and others talked about simplifying their game to get back on track. During the trip, the Pens have largely succeeded in doing so, even starting to get their power play back on track, with man-advantage goals in each of the last two games.
The Canucks will likely be without center Alexandre Buldoc (shoulder) and Ryan Johnson (foot) tonight. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa (severed tendons) remains sidelined.
Steve Bernier (groin, day-to-day), Pavol Demitra (shoulder) and defensemen Aaron Rome (concussion) are questionable.
Forward Pavel Demitra (shoulder) will make his season debut. Demintra has missed the past 47 games.
For the Pens, Brooks Orpik will miss his fourth straight game with an undisclosed injury, though he has been skating and practicing for a few days. Ben Lovejoy will take his place and partner with Jay McKee.
Marc Andre Fleury will miss tonight’s game due to a fractured finger.
Brent Johnson was cleared to come off of injured reserve today but is not ready to return. Johnson is about 3-4 days away from returning.
Rupp – Crosby – Guerin
Fedotenko – Malkin – Talbot
Cooke – Staal – Kennedy
Dupuis – Adams – Godard/Caputi (Game time decision)
Eaton – Gonchar
Goligoski – Letang
McKee – Lovejoy
Scratches: Martin Skoula, Brent Johnson, Brooks Orpik