CALGARY, AB -- Though they finished first in the East in 2012-13, the Pittsburgh Penguins fell short to the Boston Bruins in the Conference final.
Expectations remain high for the Penguins, who return the best 1-2 punch down the middle in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. With Kris Letang patrolling the blue line for the long term and the steady play of Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes, there’s plenty of reason for optimism in Pittsburgh.
Still, regular season success isn’t the goal for the Penguins, whose true test will come in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
This Season: 26-10-1, 53 points (1st in East)
Last Season: 36-12-0, 72 points (1st in East)
Notable Additions: RW Chris Conner, RW Matt D'Agostini, C Nick Drazenovic, C Andrew Ebbett, D Rob Scuderi
Notable Subtractions: LW Matt Cooke, C Philippe Dupuis, D Mark Eaton, RW Jarome Iginla, RW Tyler Kennedy, LW Brenden Morrow, D Douglas Murray, C Trevor Smith
Flames Season Series Record: 0-0-0
Crosby, who leads the NHL with 32 assists and 51 points, comes into Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames riding a season-high nine game point streak. During those nine games, the 26-year-old Cole Harbour, NS product has six goals and 15 points. In his past 12, Crosby has 21 points, too.
After scoring in back-to-back games to start the season, Kobasew -- who was drafted in the first round, 14th overall by the Flames in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft -- has not recorded a point since. The 31-year-old is pointless in 18 straight.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Acquired on draft day in 2012 in a package that sent Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes, Sutter has done well to slot into the Penguins lineup over the course of the last season and a half. The former Red Deer Rebels standout has been especially good of late after scoring in three straight to push his season totals to eight goals and 15 points.
It hasn’t taken long for Maatta, selected 22nd overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, to make an impact in Pittsburgh. The rookie defenceman has 11 points in 37 games this season and is coming off a three-point effort -- including a penalty shot goal -- on Thursday. Maatta, 19, was eligible for the 2014 World Junior Championship but wasn’t released to play by the Penguins.
Seemingly an afterthought after the Penguins acquired him from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a draft pick at last year’s trade deadline, Jokinen has proven to be quite valuable for Pittsburgh this season. The 30-year-old is fourth in points on the high-powered Penguins with nine goals and 23 points.