A BIG TWO POINTS
When TSN’s Brent Wallace asked Sidney Crosby if this was the biggest game of the year for his team, the captain smiled.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he replied. “Two points on the line and a big two points for both teams and it’s an exciting time of year. We need to have our best here tonight.”
It’s such an important game because if the Pens beat the Senators in regulation, they will clinch a postseason berth. But if there is any other outcome, there’s still a chance that Ottawa – who is the only team currently on the outside of the playoff picture that can break into the current top eight – can overtake Pittsburgh.
As Chris Stevenson of NHL.com explained, “The Senators trail the Penguins, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings by two points in the Eastern Conference standings. The Senators are battling for third place in the Atlantic Division and the two wild cards into the playoffs.
“The Senators are at disadvantage. In addition to trailing the other teams, they do not hold a tiebreaker against any of them. Even if the Senators win their three remaining games, they would need at least one of the Red Wings, Bruins and Penguins to earn no more than three points in their remaining three games to make the playoffs.”
The Pens haven’t been in this position for a while now. Crosby’s teams haven’t finished lower than second in their division in eight of his last nine seasons (his rookie year was the only one they didn’t), and usually they had already clinched a spot by this point. The only thing up in the air was who they would face in the first round.
But while it can be stressful not knowing the Pens’ fate this late in the season, it’s important to remember that the season doesn’t end tonight. This is game No. 80. The Pens still have two more after this. Even if they don’t win this game, the Pens will still have time for them to earn that “X” next to their name in the standings.
“That’s why there’s 82 games,” Crosby said. “You see a lot of teams that are fighting here right down to the end and there’s nothing wrong with that. Every year is different; brings on different challenges.
“I’ve said it before, there were times over the last few years where you’re kind of just counting these games down. You just want to get through them and be healthy. At the same time though, it’s exciting to be in this position. A lot of teams would want to be in this position. A lot of teams are out now and playing down their games here, but it’s a good challenge for us, especially with everything we’ve been through this year. To be in this situation, we should be excited.”
The Pens have lost three straight games, including a back-to-back set over the weekend to Columbus (5-3) and Philadelphia (4-1). But the scores don't necessarily reflect the Pens' efforts, and Crosby feels like there's a lot to build off of from those games.
"You look at the last couple games, I thought we did a lot of good things," Crosby said. "You look at Columbus, we probably had a bad span of 2-3 minutes and it changed the whole momentum of the game. In Philly, we deserved a lot better. Should have won the game. Had some great chances. The puck didn’t go in, but we’ve got to play the same way, especially the last two games, and give ourselves a chance to win.
"We've got to make sure that we compete and that we’re desperate. All the things that give you an opportunity to win. If we go out there and do that, we’re confident that we’ll get the result we want."--Michelle Crechiolo
GAME DAY REPORT
Celina Pompeani and Sam Kasan discuss tonight's huge game between the Penguins and the Senators in Ottawa. --Michelle Crechiolo
LOCKER ROOM INTERVIEWSSidney Crosby Ian Cole --Michelle Crechiolo
GAME DAY QUOTES--Sam Kasan
PENS SKATE PICS
A look into morning skate at Canadian Tire Centre
View from the bench
Guys getting ready to take the ice
The Pens are going to need a big game out of this guy tonight
Cole and Sutter stare at Crosby as he begins to juggle a puck (this is the first of a series of four cool photos)
Just incredible hand-eye coordination.
Lapierre streaks through center ice
Fleury warming up
Battling through Comeau's net-front presence to make a save
Perron having a chat with head coach Johnston--Sam Kasan and Michelle Crechiolo
MORNING SKATE INFO
The Pens did not do line rushes at their morning skate. Only Steve Downie (upper-body) did not participate. --Sam Kasan
DIGITAL PREVIEW--Sam Kasan
SCOUTING THE SENS --Sam Kasan
START ME UP
Good morning hockey fans. It doesn't get much better than this as far as regular-season games go. The Pens and Sens hook up for a pivotal contest that will have huge playoff implications. For the Pens, a regulation win will officially clinch the postseason. For the Sens, a regulation win puts them inside the bubble and makes it a three-way tie for two positions.
Here are some game notes to get you ready for the action...
- The Penguins complete a three-game road trip against the Ottawa Senators (TV: ROOT SPORTS; Radio 105.9 The X) at Canadian Tire Centre.
- A REGULATION win tonight against the Senators puts the Penguins into the playoffs for the ninth-consecutive season.
- Pittsburgh has played some of its best hockey against teams from the Atlantic Division, posting a 15-4-3 mark in such contests.
- That number from above includes a combined 8-4-2 mark against the five Atlantic teams that have either clinched a postseason berth, or are fighting for one of the remaining ones: Montreal, Tampa Bay, Boston, Detroit and Ottawa.
- The Penguins are 6-1-1 in their last eight games against the Senators.
- Pittsburgh is 3-1 in its last four visits to Canadian Tire Centre.
Stick tap: Pens PR--Sam Kasan