GAME DAY REPORT
Celina Pompeani and Sam Kasan discuss tonight's game against the New York Islanders. --Michelle Crechiolo
LOCKER ROOM INTERVIEWSBen Lovejoy David Perron Daniel Winnik Nick Spaling --Michelle Crechiolo
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
Tyler Kennedy is back once again
Calvin de Haan
John Tavares--Haley Sawyer
--Michelle Crechiolo and Haley Sawyer
UPDATES FROM COACH
Head coach Mike Johnston said that Derrick Pouliot, who was injured on Tuesday in Ottawa, will not play tonight against the Islanders, which means the Pens will yet again have to go with just five defensemen.
Johnston added that there is no update on Kris Letang, who has missed the last five games with a concussion, and that Christian Ehrhoff (upper body; 7 games missed) remains day-to-day.
"It's continuing to skate on his own, continuing to see how he progresses," Johnston said. "He'll be doubtful for tomorrow (in Buffalo) but I wouldn't rule it out."
Meanwhile, Steve Downie practiced for a second straight day after missing the last two games and Nick Spaling also skated after missing yesterday's practice after getting "dinged up" in Ottawa.
"'Downs' practiced yesterday and looked good handling the puck and everything," Johnston said. "'Spals' skated this morning and I'll expect he'll be available. I still have to see the trainers after the skate just to make sure."
Finally, Johnston confirmed that Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal.--Michelle Crechiolo
Partners skate for Lapierre and Winnick
Lappy and Downs get some pre-practice shots in
Lapierre dekes and dangles
Kunitz fires one on Greiss
A pensive Fleury is ready for tonight
Downs gets down
Chorney gets a pep talk--Haley Sawyer
MORNING SKATE INFO
Looks like an optional morning skate for the Pens, as 13 guys (11 skaters and both goalies) are on the ice. Participants are Winnik, Hornqvist, Bennett, Downie, Kunitz, Perron, Adams, Lapierre, Spaling, Lovejoy, Chorney, Fleury and Greiss.--Michelle Crechiolo
"I BELIEVE IN THIS GROUP"
Evgeni Malkin understands that this is a stressful time for Penguins fans, as the team blew a 3-0 lead on Tuesday in Ottawa and with it, a chance to clinch a playoff spot that night – which means their fate still has yet to be determined with two games left in the season.
But despite their less-than-ideal situation, Malkin was adamant following yesterday’s practice that everything is going to work out just fine.
“Each team tries to beat us, but I believe in this group so much. Every player here,” Malkin said. “We work hard every practice. A little bit of bad luck the last two games, but I still believe we play in playoffs and it doesn’t matter which team.”Full story here
. --Michelle Crechiolo
SCOUTING THE ISLANDERS
The Pens' banged-up blue line is going to have a big challenge ahead of them in the Islanders' fourth-ranked offense, which is led by John Tavares -- who's tied for first in the league scoring race with Sidney Crosby and Jamie Benn. Watch below for my full scouting report on the Islanders. --Michelle Crechiolo
Here's the PR department's infograph notes for tonight's huge Metropolitan Division matchup (note: the magic number is now down to 2 after Boston's loss to Florida last night).--Michelle Crechiolo
START THE DAY
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center, where we are getting ready for the Pens' final home game of the 2014-15 regular season. If the Pens win, they are IN as their magic number to clinch a playoff spot has shrunk to 2 thanks to Florida's regulation win over Boston last night. The guys are looking forward to having this opportunity in front of their own crowd, and as Evgeni Malkin said yesterday, "I hope the fans go crazy." It should be a fun one. Let's do this.
Here are some of the scenarios in play:
- Pittsburgh’s magic number to guarantee a postseason berth is 2. This number will shrink with points earned by Pittsburgh and/or lost by Boston. The Penguins currently hold the second wild card position in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Ottawa Senators with one game in hand.
- A win puts the Pens in the playoffs for the ninth consecutive year.
- If the Penguins defeat the Islanders in REGULATION, the two teams will each have 98 points and 39 ROW (regulation plus overtime wins) heading into the final day of the regular season on Saturday.
- If the Penguins defeat the Islanders in OVERTIME or the SHOOTOUT, New York will take a one-point advantage into the final day.
- An Islanders win in ANY FASHION guarantees New York at least third place in the Metropolitan Division and guarantees that the best the Penguins could finish is as the top wild card.
Here are a few game notes to get you ready for the matchup...
- The Penguins are celebrating Fan Appreciation Night. Following the game, all players on the active roster and injured reserve give the shirts off their backs to select fans
- A win tonight would allow the Penguins to finish the season series with a .500 record against the Islanders. Pittsburgh has not had a losing record against New York since going 1-3-2 in 2003-04.
- The Penguins are 1-0-1 against the Islanders at home this season and 17-3-1 in their last 21 contests against New York here in Pittsburgh.
- The Penguins begin their final set of back-to-back games. Thus far they have a cumulative record of 15-10-7; including 9-4-3 the first night and 6-6-4 in the second game.
Stick tap: Pens PR--Michelle Crechiolo