Three Teams for Two spots in Wildcard Race: Penguins (78 pts / 68 GP), Islanders (78 pts / 70 GP), Panthers (75 pts / 68 GP) Excitement that the Penguins had an opportunity to make a legitimately play for third in the division has quickly waned since last Sunday’s 3-2 win against the Rangers on home-ice. The Rangers enter tonight’s game 10 points ahead of the Penguins with each team having 14 games remaining. Wild Card Race Points Pace Entering Saturday -| Pittsburgh 94 pts, New York Islanders 91 pts, Florida 90 pts

The collapse of Brian Dumoulin: There were surely signs last season of Brian Dumoulin’s free fall as a No. 1 pairing defenseman but it’s still stunning how far his game has fallen in the past two years. Everybody can’t play well into their 30’s but Dumoulin isn’t close to being to Jeff Carter’s age. Thursday night’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers highlighted a little bit of everything of what Dumoulin can longer do as the decline mentally of the player was at the forefront of the Mika Zibanejad breakaway goal where Dumoulin put himself in no man’s land with a bad pinch and most concerning of all for a defenseman like Dumoulin, is how he’s getting cratered in trying to defend the net-front area. It was clock work for Chris Kreider on the game winning goal. Dumoulin’s decline combined with the trade of Mike Matheson has led to a massive overtaking in rebuilding the left D group on the fly next season.

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PO Joseph’s struggles this week have showed why Mike Sullivan pushed for weeks in advance of the trade actually happening for the team to acquire Dmitry Kulikov as the coaching staff sought a veteran defenseman in the mold of Kulikov to play over Joseph. Like the player or not, Kulikov injury has become a sizeable loss with how inefficient Dumoulin and Joseph can be on a nightly basis………Have to wonder how short Alex Nylander’s leash starts to get moving forward. Thursday’s loss saw Sullivan go back to Rickard Rakell skating on the top-line mid-way through the game, a move that catapulted Pittsburgh’s comeback. The result was Nylander getting bumped to the third line. While loading up the top-6 takes away needed balance, Nylander’s inability to finish thus far was going to make this switch inevitable at the first sign of trouble with how the coaching staff doesn’t trust young players. And that’s been Nylander’s biggest downfall in this short stretch as he’s had some golden opportunities off the rush to finish plays………… Are we a game or two away from O’Connor-Granlund-Carter? Nobody should be shocked if it happened and what outrage that is going to be from the fan base…………..Jeff Petry To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!