Marc Andre Fleury made 31 saves for his fourth shutout of the season, Wednesday night as the Penguins took sole possession of 6th place in the Eastern Conference.
Fleury was phenomenal against Calgary and he’s playing at a level right now that has the Penguins in the mindset that they can compete for a Stanley Cup which wasn’t a thought four weeks ago.
The key for the Penguins locking up a playoff spot is not to lose two straight games in their final 8 games. Going into last night’s game on a one game losing streak, the Penguins got a much needed win and avoided a two game losing streak. The win moved the Penguins 7 points ahead of the 9th place Florida Panthers.
Interim head coach Dan Bylsma went with the lines my sources told me he would, dropping Ruslan Fedotenko to the third line and moving Matt Cooke up to Evgeni Malkin’s line in the hopes of jumpstarting Malkin’s line.
In the first period there was a lot of line mismatching due to penalties but Fedotenko looked much more comfortable in a third line role which is where he belongs. He had a few prime scoring chances including a breakaway to end a 15 game scoreless streak but failed to capitalize.
According to sources, Saturday appears to be the day Philippe Boucher returns to the lineup and based on what I’ve been told, the defenseman who is going to sit is not the player many fans think it will be.
My sources tell me
it is not a certainty that Hal Gill is going to be scratched when Boucher returns to the lineup. I’ve been told if the staff was going to put Boucher in the lineup last night, Scuderi was going to be scratched
The Penguins held an optional practice today so there was no insight from practice but I will find out tomorrow on who will be sitting.
While the Penguins still don’t have the team toughness they had last year which made them the most unique team in the NHL, they have added enough toughness with the additions of Kunitz, Guerin which gives them the ability to matchup against a team like Calgary. Anytime there was a scrum Bill Guerin was right in the middle settling the situation.
The Penguins outhit the Flames 44-25 and Brooks Orpik led the team with 10 hits.
Great players elevate their games at this time of the year. The Penguins playoff and Stanley cup hopes rely on superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The pressure was always on Mario Lemieux and it will be on Crosby who is in his 4th year, Malkin who is in his 3rd year. Both players have two years of playoff experience and don’t look for Malkin to run out of gas like he did last year and the year before.
Contrary to a report in the Edmonton Journal, the Penguins are not holding any negotiations with Petr Sykora until after the season. Those talks ended three weeks ago. The Edmonton Journal reported on Sunday that talks were going to progress into the season.
Look for the Penguins to pursue forward Travis Moen in the off-season. Assistant GM Chuck Fletcher nearly pulled another trade off with Anaheim at the deadline for Moen and the Penguins still have an interest of adding more toughness/grit for next year’s roster.