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Third playoff berth in three seasons: The Penguins clinched their third playoff berth in three seasons Tuesday night after a 6-4 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
At the 95 point mark, the Penguins are currently settled in the #6 spot in the Eastern Conference and would play the New Jersey Devils in a first round matchup if the playoff started today.
Four weeks ago, nhl pundits would have said the Devils were the worst possible matchup for the Penguins in the East, but that is no longer the case.
The Devils don’t scare the Penguins one bit and inside the locker room, the Penguins believe they made a statement in last Wednesday’s 6-1 win over the Devils. The Penguins have the momentum going into a potential first round series, if the two teams are to meet.
The Penguins cannot finish any worst than 7th in the Eastern Conference.
Contract worries having an effect on Sykora?: Petr Sykora came closer to reaching a contract extension about 6 weeks ago than most fans know about. A team official tells me

despite Sykora seeking a three year deal, he came very close to agreeing to the Penguins 2 year – $6.1 million offer in the mid February. For Sykora’s sake, he should have accepted the Penguins offer.
Sykora scored his 25th goal of the season Tuesday night but is in the middle of a long slump where he only has 5 points in his last 23 games. According to team sources, the offer the Penguins made in February is no longer on the table.
Sykora, 32, is very one dimensional which is a major concern in the organization. He’s not a Bill Guerin type of player that can still make a difference such as being a presence in front of the net or winning battles in the corners, if he’s not scoring goals.
Sykora will not have the upper hand on the Penguins in negotiations this summer and if he wants to sign with the Penguins, it will be on Penguins terms. A total reversal of two months ago when Sykora had the upper hand in negotiations.
I’m a Petr Sykora fan, he is a great teammate and is well liked in the locker room. Still, it is going to be a blessing for the Penguins that he rejected their $3 million a year offer in February.
Fedotenko has points in four of his last five games: After going pointless in 10 straight games, winger Ruslan Fedotenko has eight points in his last five games.
The key to Fedotenko getting back on the scoresheet was interim coach Dan Bylsma moving Fedotenko to the third line. Fedotenko is now back to playing with Evgeni Malkin but he is much more comfortable playing a third line role.
Guerin contributing off the scoresheet: Bill Guerin only has 1 point in his last seven games and that was expected but it is not always about the stats for Guerin.
 He has been a force in the corners winning battles consistently, presence in front of the net, sticking up for teammates and providing space for Sidney Crosby.
Crosby has been the Penguins best player for the past month and Billy Guerin is a big reason why and it’s not because Guerin is averaging a point per game.
The little things he does on the ice are not that noticeable for a last place team like the Islanders but they are for a playoff team like the Penguins.
Crosby on a mission
Sidney Crosby is one of the most competitive star athletes in professional sports.
Crosby went through a tough stretch mentally during the Penguins struggles in the month of January and early February as he puts a ton of pressure on himself.
Now Crosby is playing his best hockey of the season and is on a mission to get the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup finals.
Crosby knows starting on the road will be difficult but he has talked about lately that the Penguins don’t fear anyone in the East and believes when they play at the level they can, “he likes their chances.”
Crosby (101 pts) has recorded his third 100 point season in four career NHL seasons. Crosby missed 29 games last season and registered 72 points. Malkin (110 pts) has hit the 100 point plateau for the second consecutive season.
It is the first time two Pittsburgh players have reached 100 points during the same season since Mario Lemieux (161) and Jaromir Jagr (149) in the 1995-96 season
Injury Report
Kennedy suffers minor injury: I was told following the game that Tyler Kennedy suffered what is being described as a lower body injury. He expected to be fine but his ice time was limited at times throughout the game. Likely a groin injury.
Garon to start on Thursday: Marc Andre Fleury made his 28th start in 29 games and he will get a much needed rest on Thursday. All indications were this morning that if the Penguins locked up a playoff berth against the Lightning, Garon would start on Thursday.
Boucher up in the air? The Penguins would also like to get Philippe Boucher in the lineup in one of the Penguins final two games.
Defensemen Hal Gill (leg) and Brooks Orpik (back) have been battling some minor injuries and could use a night off but good luck to Bylsma trying to get Orpik to sit for any game. Don’t count on Orpik taking a night off.
Malone out for the season: The Tampa Bay Lightning have lost forward Ryan Malone for the season who left Tuesday’s game with a broken hand. Malone finishes the season with 26 goals and 45 points. Malone signed a 7 year deal worth $31.5 million with the Tampa Lightning last summer.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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