Pittsburgh Penguins (40-22-8, 88pts) @ Ottawa Senators (25-35-9, 59 pts)
OTT Home Record: 11-18-5 | PIT Road Record: 18-10-6
PIT Last 10: 4-3-3 | OTT Last 10: 6-4-0
Season Series: Pit Leads 2-1
Following Saturday’s lackluster 3-0 shutout loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the schedule makers have been favorable to the Penguins.
Pittsburgh bounced back Sunday afternoon with a 5-1 victory over the NHL worst Edmonton Oilers and tonight face the Ottawa Senators on the road, who own the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
For the Penguins who are looking to lockup home ice in the first round and still have their eye on a division crown, this is a game where the Penguins have to get two points.
The Penguins hold a one point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and trail the Philadelphia Flyers by three points. Philadelphia has played two less games than Pittsburgh.
The Penguins on Sunday got a big performance from Chris Kunitz who netted goals 19 and 20 on the season. If it wasn’t for Kunitz missing 13 games, recently due to injury, he was on pace for a 28 goal season which would have been a career high.
Even without linemate Sidney Crosby, Kunitz continues to show his value in all areas, especially in the goal scoring department, where he’s collected 7 goals in 16 games without Crosby who will miss his 30th game tonight.
The Penguins are 14-10-5 without Crosby and have remained in the top-4 despite a 3-6-4 stretch last month. Crosby who is starting to work his way back to health, skated again today, head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed in today’s media session.
— Tyler Kennedy (15G-21A-36pts) is coming off a 3 assist game and is on pace for a career high 18 goals and 42 points this season. Kennedy surpassed his previous career high of 35 points on Sunday.
— Alexei Kovalev returns to Ottawa and the buzz surrounding him in Pittsburgh has died down as Kovalev has collected just 1 point in 8 games played. Those in Ottawa who haven’t seen him play are, as expected, taking some shots at him but he’s been creative and effective thus far. I wouldn’t write him off just yet.
What we need to see out of Kovalev and I’m sure the Penguins would agree is for him to become less selfish. He needs to get more pucks to the net as he has just 11 shots on goal in 8 games played.
— Marc Andre Fleury like many Penguins, rebounded in Sunday’s 5-1 win making 28 saves to earn his 31st win of the season. “You have to be able to put them behind you as fast as possible, forget about it and just move onto the next game, ” Fleury said on Sunday.
Fleury has had success in the playoffs against Ottawa, winning his last five decisions at Scotiabank Place, but not so much in the regular season.
Fleury is 2-4-0 with a 4.55 goals-against average in 8 regular season starts in Ottawa. Fleury though will get a night off and Brent Johnson will get the start in goal.
Johnson is 9-5-3 on the season with a team-best 2.17 GAA.
The Penguins this morning recalled defensemen Corey Potter and Steve Wagner. Potter will be in the lineup, replacing Matt Niskanen and did not make the trip to Ottawa.
Wagner was recalled for precauitionary reasons in case Kris Letang couldn’t go. Letang will be in the lineup.
Potter, 27, is in his first season with WBS after signing as a free agent last summer. He had a solid training camp and in 62 games, he has posted 27 points (2G-25A) and a team-leading plus-24 rating.
Potter has played in eight career NHL games, scoring two points (1G-1A) with the New York Rangers. The Michigan State alum was drafted by New York with the 122nd overall pick (fourth round) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Potter played the majority of his career with Hartford of the AHL, posting 21 goals and 102 points in 246 career games with the Wolfpack.
Neal – Letestu – Kovalev
Kunitz – Staal – Kennedy
Cooke – Jeffrey – Dupuis
Rupp – Talbot – Adams
Martin – Michalek
Engelland – Letang
Lovejoy – Potter
Brent Johnson in goal