MORNING SKATE BUZZ
Winnipeg Jets (34-30-8, 76 pts) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (44-21-6, 94 pts)
PITTSBURGH — As the Penguins look to track down the New York Rangers (45-20-7, 97 pts) for first place in the division, the team will turn to backup Brad Thiessen in goal tonight, giving Marc Andre Fleury a night off with four games in six days this week.
Thieesen, 2-0 with a 2.01 goals against average and .917 save percentage, will make his third career NHL start. Thiessen last played on March 7th when he made 22 saves at home in a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Thiessen has performed well in two NHL games this season and made several key saves down the stretch in the win vs the Leafs. The Penguins have an uncertain backup goaltender situation for next season, and tonight is another opportunity for Thiessen to showcase himself. A pending restricted free agent, Thiessen is hopeful to land a one-way contract and be Marc Andre Fleury’s primary backup for the 2012-2013 season. Goaltender Brent Johnson is an unrestricted free agent and is not expected to be resigned.
Joe Vitale will remain out of the lineup due to an upper body injury. Richard Park and Dustin Jeffrey will be healthy scratches. Eric Tangradi will remain in the lineup.
Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy will remain the primary linemates for Sidney Crosby.
Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Steve Sullivan – Jordan Staal – Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke – Sidney Crosby – Tyler Kennedy
Eric Tangradi – Craig Adams – Arron Asham
Paul Martin – Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik – Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen – Deryk Engelland
Brad Thieesen in Goal
— Tonight marks the first game between the two teams since a thrilling 8-5 Penguins win on February 11th that saw Evgeni Malkin put together a five point game. The Penguins have won 10 in a row at home against the Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise.
— The Jets trail Washington by four points for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Although they are 8-4-2 in their last 14 games, Winnipeg is a woeful 11-19-4 on the road, while the Penguins have been excellent at home, posting a 24-8-2 record this season.
— Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec gave up eight goals in his last visit to Pittsburgh and is 0-5-0 with a 5.42 goals-against average in his career in Pittsburgh.
— Pittsburgh trails the Rangers by three points for first place and won’t clinch a playoff berth with a win today.
— Evgeni Malkin (88 pts) enters today’s game with a four point lead over Steven Stamkos and Claude Giroux for the NHL points lead.
— Sidney Crosby will be appearing in his first home game since December 5, 2011. Since the 2010-2011 season, Crosby has 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points in 26 career games at the Consol Energy Center.