The Penguins will go into Game 5 tonight with the same lineup. Mike Johnston says none of the injured players (Derrick Pouliot) who are close, are ready to return.
Some keep putting Beau Bennett into that group but he’s been a healthy scratch the last two games despite what the team is saying.
There maybe some lines changes, though, with Evgeni Malkin playing right wing on Brandon Sutter’s line.
From a scheme standpoint, the Penguins game plan going into tonight’s game isn’t going to change. They will look to play a conservative, low scoring game, try to keep it close and get a few bounces their way.
Mike Johnston has talked the past couple days of how winning Game 5 will completely alter the momentum in the series. That is somewhat true and somewhat not true.
The last two times the Penguins have blown a three games to one lead, they had a disastrous Game 5 that gave the opposition life and actual momentum.
Against Tampa Bay in round 1 of the 2011 playoffs, Pittsburgh was blown out on home ice in Game 5, 8-2, and the series completely changed from there.
Last season against the Rangers in round 2, the Penguins didn’t show up in Game 5, and were embarrassed on home ice in a 5-1 loss. New York carried that momentum into Game 6 and it was the same story.
Johnston has a point but for momentum to actual change, the Penguins have to deliver that type of blow out win tonight and it probably won’t matter at the end of the day anyways.
One intriguing storyline tonight is that several notable Penguins could be playing their last game tonight as a Penguin.
Paul Martin, 34 year old defenseman is an UFA at seasons end and has had one foot out the door since last summer. Martin has full intentions of moving on after a solid five year run with the Penguins.
Chris Kunitz, a staple with the team since 2009, Kunitz turns 36 in September and has two years left on his contract with a $3.85 million cap hit. His trade value will be nowhere near where it was last summer when the Penguins made him an untouchable along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Rob Scuderi, will be 37 years old next December and still has two years left on his contract with a $3.375 million cap hit. Scuderi will be extremely tough to trade and the Penguins would likely have to take another bad contract back. A buyout could come into play, but Penguins ownership is already paying enough people to go away.
Brandon Sutter, a year away from unrestricted free agency, Sutter is also among the group who could be playing his last game as a Penguin tonight. The time to move him will be in the summer as the Penguins will have to make a decision to sign him long-term or trade him with his value high.
Evgeni Malkin, Extremely loyal to the Penguins franchise, Malkin, though, has never been this frustrated and those close to Malkin’s inner circle aren’t ready to rule out the possibility of Malkin wanting to move on if the right situation is out there like going to a small market team like the Predators.
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