Tonight’s rescheduled game in Washington – which will be televised nationally on NBCSN with the puck dropping at 7:30 p.m. – is the first of 16 games the Pens will play in a 31-day span in March.
It’s just the ninth time in franchise history the team will play that many games in a calendar month. It’s their heaviest workload yet, and it comes at the most crucial time of the season – the stretch run heading into the playoffs. But when asked about the hectic schedule, Sidney Crosby broke into a smile.
“I like it. I’m excited,” he admitted. “It’s not like you have to go through that every month and at this time of year, when every game means so much, I think it’s great.
“Good game or bad game, you’re able to turn the page pretty quick and you just focus on playing games. So it’s fun to be playing games and these will be important points if we want to get in the playoffs.”
Historically, the Pens have done a tremendous job of picking up those points in March dating back to Crosby’s sophomore season back in 2006-07 – when the team’s run of nine-straight playoff appearances began. Since that year, the Pens are 89-32-14 in March.
Certainly plenty of reason to smile heading into the grind.
“It’s obviously going to be a tough month, but even a fun month too,” Patric Hornqvist said. “That’s what everybody wants. We don’t want to practice. We want to play games. From my standpoint, this is the best part.”
The challenge will be on the coaching staff to make sure they balance the need for practice with making sure guys get adequate rest.
In the Pens’ last practice on Sunday morning, head coach Mike Sullivan gave a number of players maintenance days and kept them off the ice. He said that’s a prime example of what he’ll do moving forward.
“We know we’ve got a lot of games here coming up,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can as a coaching staff to make sure that we manage it the right way so our guys have the necessary energy to play in those games because for me, at this time of year, it’s all about the games.”
The players also have to make sure they listen to their bodies more than usual, something they’re aware of.
“I think you just make sure your mind is always ready for the games and then if you don’t feel great in between games, I think Sully is going to give some more rest,” Hornqvist said.
“It’s all about the games now. We know our systems; we know what we have to do out there. So it’s just about the game and make sure you come and show up every night and even if you don’t have your best game, do the right things out there to help out the team.”