Pittsburgh Penguins (3-2-2) @ Minnesota Wild (2 – 1 – 2)
The Minnesota Wild are being labled as facing the Penguins “B” team tonight by some in the Minnesota media and it’s hard to argue with that.
Already without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik, Tyler Kennedy and Dustin Jeffrey, the Penguins will be without the services of Kris Letang who will serve the first game of a two game suspension tonight.
Playing their 8th game in 13 days, things don’t bode well for the Penguins who are 2-9-1 all-time vs Minnesota.
A lot of talk inside Penguin circles is when this team is actually going to be able to play together at full strength. Every day something comes up.
Tonights game in fact will mark the 39th time in the Penguins last 43 games that they will play without both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The team has gone 20-13-5 in games without the two during the current span (38 of last 42 games).
It’s just another day for players to step up and Brian Strait will be thrown into the fire tonight making his season debut. Strait had a strong training camp with the team and has been a superior player in the minors this season, posting a plus-6 rating and collecting four points in five games.
Pens look to avoid first three game losing streak in regulation since 09-10
*The Penguins are looking to snap a three-game losing streak and a four-game winless stretch against Minnesota. Pittsburgh hasn’t beaten the Wild since a 4-2 win on Oct. 30, 2007 at Xcel Energy Center.The Penguins are looking to avoid losing three consecutive games in regulation for the first time since a five-game losing streak in the 2009-2010 season (Dec. 27, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010).
Wild one of two teams Bylsma hasn’t beaten
*Courtesy of the Penguins, Minnesota is one of just two teams Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma has yet to beat. The San Jose Sharks are the other.
Pens success vs Western Conference Teams
*The Penguins are a team that plays very well against Western Conference teams. Since the beginning of last season, the Penguins are 13-4-4 against the West, with an impressive 7-2-3 record on the road.
Wild look to continue dominance over Pens
*Minnesota has outscored the Penguins 39-20 all-time while going 9-2-1. At Xcel Energy Center, the Wild are 3-1-1 and have outscored the Pens 15-12.
*Minnesota defeated Pittsburgh 4-0 in its first trip to CONSOL Energy Center on January 8, 2011. G Jose Theodore made 26 saves and C Kyle Brodziak and RW Martin Havlat had a goal and an assist apiece.
The two teams met in the preseason with Pittsburgh taking home a 4-1 victory on Sept. 24 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh’s annual ‘Free Game for Kids’. All four of Pittsburgh’s goals came via the power play, as the Penguins went 4-for-6 on the man-advantage and a perfect 9-for-9 on the PK –including killing off a pair of 5-on-3 power plays for Minnesota. Evgeni Malkin (1G-2A), Joseph Morrow (1G-1A) and Kris Letang (2A) all finished with multiple points.
Heatley stars vs Pens
*LW Dany Heatley has posted 31 points (20-11=31) in 27 games against the Penguins…C Matt Cullen has 24 points (9-15=24) in 34 games.
Backstrom undefeated vs Pens in career
*Tonight’s starter Niklas Backstrom is 3-0-0 with a 1.62 GAA and a .949 SV% versus the Penguins…Josh Harding is 0-1-0 with a 4.00 GAA and a .852 SV%.
Sullivan 27 pts in 27 games
*LW Steve Sullivan owns 27 points (10-17=27) in 27 games against the Wild…LW Matt Cooke has 18 points (7-11=18) in 43 contests.
Johnson expected to get start in goal
*Marc-Andre Fleury is 0-5-0 with a 3.74 GAA and a .853 SV% against the Wild… Tonight’s expected starter Brent Johnson is 3-3-3 with a 1.60 GAA and a .934 SV%.