The Pens have a chance to clinch their eighth-straight playoff berth tonight against Phoenix.
Here are the scenarios...
* The Penguins will clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they defeat the Phoenix Coyotes in any fashion, OR if they get one point against the Coyotes AND either the Washington Capitals lose to the Los Angeles Kings in any fashion or the Columbus Blue Jackets lose to the Detroit Red Wings in regulation.
* If the Penguins lose to the Coyotes in regulation, they also would clinch a playoff berth if the Toronto Maple Leafs lose to the St. Louis Blues in any fashion AND the Capitals lose to the Kings in regulation.
Basically, if they win, they're in. I loved what captain Sidney Crosby had to say about it this morning when asked whether there is appreciation for making the playoffs for an organization that expects to make it every year.
"I think you more look at the work that went into getting to that point when you're finally able to do it," he said. "I think we all realize it's not easy.
Obviously the expectations are high, but I don't think that makes you appreciate it any less because of that, though. I think you try to appreciate it, especially with the injuries we've gone through this year.
We still find ways to win and to play the way we have, I think it's something to be proud of. You don't really sit there and dwell on it too much, but I think it's important to recognize that and appreciate it, because a lot of teams would like to be in our position."
That last sentence couldn't be more true, as the Pens have played so many teams these last few weeks that are scraping and clawing just to stay in the hunt.--Michelle Crechiolo
SUTTER MOVES UPWith Evgeni Malkin out the next 2-3 weeks with a foot injury
, Brandon Sutter will move from the fourth line to the second line and slot into his spot between Jussi Jokinen and James Neal.
“It’s a good opportunity,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Now in a second-line role with Jokinen and Neal, it’s going to be a good chance for Brandon to step in there and be more of an offensive contributor to our team.”
At this point, it feels like Sutter has played with everyone on both Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s rosters in the bottom-six throughout the course of the season. He said the key to staying consistent through a rotating cast of wingers, especially now centering two skilled guys in the top-six, is to stick to what makes him successful – which is trying to play a solid two-way game.
“They’re obviously both very smart, offensively skilled players,” Sutter said. “Will be fun to get out there and hopefully create some offense. But I think for myself, I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing and play the same way and not try to change anything about my game in terms of who I’m playing with. Just try to bring that same game and same effort.”
While he certainly sees a chance to create more offensively next to Jokinen and Neal, Sutter said he can’t get caught trying to force that. If he focuses on defense, the offense will come.
“You just want to play the same way and just be solid, solid defensively,” Sutter said. “I think playing with ‘Nealer’ and ‘Juice,’ the offensive side will kind of take care of itself. It’s more the defensive part that I’ve got to make sure I’m still sharp with. Hopefully create some more offensively.”
This opportunity might be just what Sutter, who has one goal in his last 12 games, needs to get himself back on the scoresheet as he has been flying his last few games. He’s been creating a lot by using his speed to get around the D and play in the offensive zone.
“Physically I’ve felt pretty good the last 3-4 games here,” Sutter said. “I’ve been feeling pretty strong. Hopefully I can keep that going. It’s always tough keeping your consistency throughout the year, every game, night in and night out. But this is the time of year you want to try and peak, so hopefully I’ve been getting better and I just want to be good the last few weeks of the season here, have a good stretch.”
When Malkin missed 11 games with a lower-body injury in December and January, the Pens moved Jokinen from wing to center in his absence. But with the acquisition of Marcel Goc at the trade deadline, the coaching staff won’t have to move Jokinen from where he’s played the majority of the season.
“It was something we did consider a little bit with Jussi, the possibility of ‘Juice’ playing center, but both (Sutter and Goc) are capable and good centermen in that spot,” Bylsma said. “So having (Sidney Crosby) and Sutter and Goc as our top-three centermen is, we feel, a good situation for those guys and Juice playing on the wing.”--Michelle Crechiolo
PENS TV SOUNDBrandon Sutter Sidney Crosby --Sam Kasan
--Sam Kasan & Addison Smith
Head coach Dan Bylsma had a few updates on his team...
- Evgeni Malkin will miss 2-3 weeks with a foot injury. Full update is here.
- Paul Martin did not skate today because he's sick. His next X-ray will be Sunday
- Marc-Andre Fleury is starting in net.
Nealer all smiles
Jussi J's dark horse
Fleury with the groin stretch...ouch
Orpik and Engelland. Two impossing figures
Letang gets a manicure on the bench
Crosby is king
Scuderi working on his pivot foot--Sam Kasan
MORNING SKATE INFO
The Pens are on the ice for their morning skate. Jayson Megna, recalled this morning from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, is participating in practice. The only absent players are Joe Vitale (upper-body) and Evgeni Malkin. Brandon Sutter slid into Malkin's spot in the rushes. Defenseman Kris Letang continues to skate. Here is the team's workflow...
PP1: Maatta, Niskanen up top. Crosby, Neal, Kunitz down low.
PP2: Despres, Orpik up top. Sutter, Jokinen, Stempniak down low.--Sam Kasan
PENS-YOTES PREVIEW --Sam Kasan
INFOGRAPH--Sam Kasan (stick tap: Christine Mina)
START THE DAY
Good morning hockey fans! Tonight the Pens will take on the Phoenix Coyotes at CONSOL Energy Center. The Coyotes suffered a huge setback last night in their 4-3 loss to the NY Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Goalie, and no doubt team MVP, Mike Smith suffered a lower-body injury in the third period. Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona tweeted that Smith traveled to Pittsburgh in a knee brace
and will see a doctor today
- The Penguins wrap up the season series against the Phoenix Coyotes (TV: ROOT SPORTS; Radio: 105.9 the X) at CONSOL Energy Center.
- Tonight is the Penguins’ third game in a string of four consecutive home contests. They are 1-1 thus far.
- Pittsburgh has won six of its last nine meetings against the Coyotes. One of those setbacks was a 3-1 loss at Jobing.com Arena on Feb. 1.
- Here in Pittsburgh, the Penguins have won three of the last four games between the two teams.
Stick tap: Pens PR
It's only appropriate to start today with a song from the band Phoenix. Here is the French group singing their song "Armistice."
Enjoy. --Sam Kasan