The Pittsburgh Penguins will be a player short on Thursday night when they make the trip to the East coast and visit the Boston Bruins for their second game in five nights. Surely, their memory will not have to go far back to remember what rivals these two teams can be.
Pens Kris Letang is out and will miss his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. To add to that problem, Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist weren’t at practice on Wednesday also with lower-body injuries. Malkin will definitely not play until after the weekend All-Star break, while Hornqvist is questionable for tonight and remains day to day.
“(Malkin) will be evaluated after the break and we’ll probably have more information at that point,” said Pens coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ll see how (Hornqvist) responds after today, but he’ll be a day-to-day decision.”
Five days ago the Penguins dominated the Bruins 5-1, which bagged them their fourth straight win, but then two nights later their party was cut short when they got stunned 3-0 by the St. Louis Blues. But the Pens are only registered their third regulation home loss this season. That’s a pretty fantastic stat.
They will meet a Bruins’ team who have been having a tough time scoring and have struggled to string wins together. But they were able to end a four-game losing streak with a come-from-behind 4-3 win in Detroit against the Red Wings on Tuesday night. They were losing 3-2 after the second period, but the once mighty Bruins managed to pull of their second win of the season when down after two goals, which only slightly improved their scenario to 2-16-3 in that situation.
The Bruins might be short-handed too since Brad Marchand, who got two goals on Tuesday and is called up for the All-Star Game in the middle of a hot streak, he’s got nine goals, and 16 points in the last 11 games, will have to have a phone hearing on Thursday with Player Safety for a “dangerous trip” he made on Detroit’s Nicklas Kronwall on Tuesday night.
Marchand has been guilty of this before, so a repeat offender who didn’t play in last year’s Winter Classic due to a similar suspension. No one knows if it could affect his appearance in the All-Star game.
Many in Boston have been calling for Boston’s coach, Claude Julien’s head, but their win on Tuesday night quieted those calls, probably temporarily, who has been under the gun for weeks nowthat his job is in trouble.
The win put the Bruins to just 11-12-0 on home ice this year, but they know that a win before the mini-break could mean a lot toward setting them up for the rest of the season and playoff drive.
David Pastrnak was able to set things right too by breaking a 17-game goal-scoring drought with the OT winner on Tuesday, and that was after going 65 straight shots on goal without a goal. But surely it must have felt that taht goal counted for two points.
“There’s not much you can do,” he said to media after finally scoring his 20th goal of the year. “You’ve got to play the right way, and obviously it’s always going to be back in your hat. But, I always have guys that will help me and support me all the time. Also, when I had that stretch with a lot of goals, I said that might happen that I might not score for a couple games, and it was more than a couple. But it was really nice to get that one and especially to win.”
The Pens on the other hand were shut out by St. Louis’ Carter Hutton in Pittsburgh, which made it the third time this year the high-flying Penguins who are 30-12-5 and third in the Metropolitan, were kept off the score sheet.
“I just thought it was a night where it was a struggle for our team,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “It was one of those nights where I don’t think we had a lot of jump. As a result, we didn’t execute as well.”
Goalie Tuukka Rask took the loss Sunday night, letting in two goals in one period before exiting with a migraine. He was back and won on Tuesday night and is 8-6-2 with a 2.25 goals against average and .929 save percentage lifetime against the Penguins, despite being 0-1-1 this season.
Goalie Matt Murray made 44 saves against the Bruins last Sunday night and is 2-0-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in both contest versus Boston.
If Pittsburgh wants to win, it need to have star players start pitching in. For instance, in the past 18 games, Phil Kessel has seen his five-on-five scoring chances per 60 minutes go down from 7.57 to 6.74, reported by Corsica.hockey. It’s partially because the HBK line he ran with Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino, have struggled to produce let alone match their success of last year. But Kessel is not deterred and thinks it’s just a matter of time for him to start scoring.
“It goes in stretches,” Kessel told media. “It just depends what happens and how the games go. The last couple weeks I haven’t had that many great opportunities to score.”
Kessel has been leaned on to score goals in the past. He know’s the pressure, his entire career has been like that so it’s hardly new to him, but the Penguins really need a bost from him now and his offensive production.
“We’d like to see him score more, especially five on five,” Sullivan said. “He’s such a dangerous player. He has an elite shot; he shoots the puck differently than most. He’s a very talented guy. We’d certainly like to see him score more goals. I think it makes us much more difficult to play against when he does.”
He might just be the factor the Pens need to overcome the Bruins.