PENS NOT UNDERESTIMATING CLIPPED WINGS
The Wings are currently the most banged-up team in the league heading into tonight's matchup with Pittsburgh. They rank second behind the Pens in terms of total man-games lost (Detroit has 323 to Pittsburgh's 419) and have a long list of injuries that include their two best players, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
But despite all of that, they've been able to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot heading down the stretch run and currently sit just one point out of the final wild-card slot. So even though the Pens are certainly facing a depleted Red Wings roster, they don't expect tonight to be easy by any means.
In fact, they expect it to be a big challenge. Because the Pens know perhaps better than anyone how teams can come together through adversity and what young call-ups can do when given an opportunity. They lived that for the first few months of the season with a ton of their key players out, and it helped them get to where they are now (double-digit lead in the Metro Division). And when it's a club like Detroit - a team with such a winning tradition they haven't missed the playoffs since the 1989-90 season - that makes it even harder to count them out.
"They still have two really talented lines," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "You look at some of the depth they have. The two young guys, (Tomas) Tatar and (Gustav) Nyquist, are highly skilled guys. We watched some of the video from their Toronto game the other night and the video from last time we played them. They're playing the exact same system, so we should know what to expect.
"Obviously it's a little different, you can't replace Datsyuk or Zetterberg or some of those guys that are missing. But just like our guys have done from Wilkes-Barre, their guys have stepped up and done a really good job for them."
So while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin won't be having their usual epic matchups with Datsyuk and Zetterberg, they know they'll still be going head-to-head with some skilled guys.
"You see the guys that are playing in (Datsyuk and Zetterberg's) positions, they're pretty good hockey players and they have a lot of skill," Crosby said. "Those guys are a big part of their team, but that being said, you're looking at some centermen and some players that have plugged into those top-two lines that are pretty skilled and pretty good players themselves. I think you still prepare for guys that are going to compete. Knowing the situation they're in, they're going to be desperate."
The Pens have to watch out for not just that skill, but Detroit's speed as well.
"They're a skilled group, that's just how that organization is," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "Even though they have key guys out, it's going to be a big challenge for us tonight.They don't have quite the puck possession guys that they normally would, but they can get up and go. They might be a little more chip and chase, but they still have good hockey players that can really scoot. Some of their younger players that they've added over the last couple of years, they can really fly. They can put you on your heels. That's something to be aware of and we'll have to watch that."--Michelle Crechiolo
GAME DAY REPORT
Sam and I have the latest from both locker rooms heading into tonight's Pens-Wings matchup... --Michelle Crechiolo
PENSTV INTERVIEWS Sidney Crosby Brooks Orpik Matt Niskanen --Michelle Crechiolo
QUOTE 'EM--Michelle Crechiolo
UPDATES FROM COACH
A couple of lineup notes from head coach Dan Bylsma following the Pens morning skate...
- Marc-Andre Fleury is starting in goal tonight vs. Detroit. "Turning away from (Michigan native) Jeff Zatkoff in his hometown," Bylsma joked.
- The rest of the lineup is a game-time decision
PENS SKATE PICS
James Neal is set to play in his 400th NHL game tonight
...And look how happy he is about it
Sidney Crosby is unstoppable...even in practice
Kunitz celebrating his effectiveness as a net-front presence on the power play
Engo and Flower just shaking their heads and smiling
Glass and Adams discussing PK strategy with assistant coach Tony Granato
Brooks Orpik working on the PK with Glass and Adams
They were going up against these two (and Kunitz, Malkin and Niskanen)
Tonight's starting goalie adjusting his equipment
Lee Stempniak watching the drill where every player on the ice tries to score on Flower. Not sure what he thinks of it...
These two and Stempniak combined for four goals and eight points in Tuesday's 5-1 win over Dallas--Michelle Crechiolo
MORNING SKATE DEETS
All the healthy Pens (plus Beau Bennett, Kris Letang and Tomas Vokoun) are present and accounted for at the team's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The team used the following workflow...
(Pyatt did not participate in rushes, and Jayson Megna was re-assigned to WBS on Wednesday)
PP1: Malkin, Niskanen on top. Crosby, Neal and Kunitz down low.
PP2: Despres, Maatta on top. Jokinen, Stempniak and Goc down low.--Sam Kasan (via Michelle Crechiolo)
WINGS SCOUTING REPORT
Here's the full breakdown on the clipped Wings. One player who has stepped up big through all of the injuries to key players is 24-year-old Gustav Nyquist, as he has an NHL-leading 14 goals in 20 games dating back to Jan. 20. Watch more on him and the rest of Detroit below...
iNFOGRAPHIC NOTES VS. DETROIT
START THE DAY
Good morning from my hometown of Detroit, Michigan! It's always awesome to be back. The Pens are in Hockeytown to play the Red Wings tonight at Joe Louis Arena.
Both teams have been devastated by injuries this season – Pittsburgh ranks No. 1 with 419 man-games lost, while Detroit is right behind them at No. 2 with 323 man-games lost. Their long injury list includes their two best players, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
Pittsburgh is scheduled to hit the ice for morning skate at 11:30 a.m. after the Red Wings skate at 10:30 a.m. Stay tuned for all the game-day news.
Here are a few game notes to get you ready...
- This is Pittsburgh's second and final visit to Detroit to play the Red Wings (TV: ROOT SPORTS; Radio: 105.9 the X) at Joe Louis Arena.
- The Penguins have won two straight games and three of their last four visits to Joe Louis Arena.
- Overall, the Penguins have won three of the last four and four of the past six games against the Red Wings.
- Pittsburgh won the first meeting between these two teams, 4-1, on Dec. 14. In that game, the Penguins played without all four of their projected top-4 defensemen – Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi. Pittsburgh then was forced to play the final 40:30 minutes with just five D-men after Deryk Engelland was ejected. The five blueliners that remained had combined for 578 career games to that point –Matt Niskanen, 444; Simon Despres, 60; Robert Bortuzzo, 39; Olli Maatta, 34; Brian Dumoulin, 1 (NHL debut).
- Winger James Neal will be skating in his 400th NHL game tonight. Neal skated his first 215 games with the Dallas Stars from 2008-11. Tonight will be his 185th regular-season game since joining the Penguins.
- The Penguins are on the verge of cementing the franchise’s eighth-straight postseason berth. Pittsburgh’s magic number to clinch a postseason berth is 10. A regulation win tonight against the Red Wings would lower that number to 6; while an overtime/shootout victory would reduce the number to 7.
- Pittsburgh enters tonight with a magic number of 14 to capture the Metropolitan Division. Should the Penguins win their second straight division crown, it would mark just the second time in franchise history that they have won back-to-back division titles (1992-93, Patrick Division; 1993-94, Northeast Division).
Stick tap: Pens PR
I always leave Detroit with the one lyric of this song in my head, since the Wings' game-entertainment staff plays it before puck drop. Put your hands up for Detroit, I love this city! Enjoy. --Michelle Crechiolo