• The veteran center signed a free-agent contract with Minnesota on July 1, 2010, after tallying 48 points (16G-32A) in 81 games with Carolina and Ottawa the previous season.
• Won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006, tallying 18 points (4G-14A) over the Hurricanes’ 25-game postseason run.
• Played two full seasons and part of a third alongside Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma with Anaheim from 2000-03.
RW - #22 12 Goals 6 Assists 18 Points
• The scrappy right winger currently leads the NHL with 186 hits – this is nothing new to him, as he led the league in hits in each of the past two seasons, recording 318 hits in 2009-10 and setting an NHL record with 356 hits in 2008-09 in his rookie season.
• The 23-year-old is set to shatter his previous personal-best in goals, as he’s just one tally away from tying his career-high of 13, set last season through 74 games.
• Grew a mustache during the month of November to help raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues – his ‘stache got its own Twitter feed and an interview with NHL.com.
G - #8 12 Goals 14 Assists
• His 12 goals rank second among NHL defensemen, while his 26 points rank 11th among league blueliners.
• Had a three-point effort (1G-2A) to lead his team past Phoenix on Jan. 2 in an emotional 6-5 overtime win.
• Burns is the third Minnesota first-round draft pick to make the jump to the NHL the same year he was drafted, being selected 20th overall in 2003 and going on to play 36 games that season.
After finishing the 2009-10 season ranked 13th in the Western Conference with 84 points, the Minnesota Wild look like a whole new team this season. Entering the second half of the season, they’re right in the midst of an extremely tight playoff race. Their 20-15-5 record and 45 points has them in 10th place – two slots short of a playoff spot – but they’re just one win away from catapulting into sixth.
Minnesota is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and is rolling on the road, earning their 10th victory in 19 road games with their 3-1 win over Boston at TD Garden on Thursday. Last season, it took the Wild until March 3 (a span of 31 games) to notch their 10th road win.
Everything just seems to be gelling for this Minnesota squad. They’re able to roll four decent forward lines all game long. They’ve spread their offensive contributions all over the lineup, with 11 different players tallying in the double digits.
Veterans Nick Schultz and Greg Zanon have been providing plenty of stability on the blue line, but it’s 25-year-old Brent Burns who has been invaluable to the Wild this season. The 6-foot-5, 219-pound defenseman is having one of the best campaigns of his seven-year NHL career, tied for the team lead with 12 goals while logging monster minutes, pacing the squad with an average of 24:36 of ice time.
With goaltender Niklas Backstrom nursing a nagging groin injury, Jose Theodore was stellar between the pipes for the Wild in their past three contests, as the NHL veteran earned wins in all three games. But Backstrom, 32, may be back in action on Saturday, as he has a 3-0-0 record, 1.62 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage in three starts against Pittsburgh.
Head coach Dan Bylsma announced that captain Sidney Crosby will be out of the lineup for the next week due to a mild concussion. The announcement came after the Penguins’ 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal, which Crosby did not play in. That was the first game all season the Penguins’ leading scorer had missed.
The Wild won both of their games against the Penguins last season. Minnesota earned a 2-1 victory at Mellon Arena on Oct. 31, 2009, before going on to top the Penguins, 4-3, on Jan. 11, 2010. The Wild have won their past four games in Pittsburgh, going 5-1 all-time at Mellon Arena. Saturday’s contest, however, marks Minnesota’s first game at the brand-new CONSOL Energy Center.
Pascal Dupuis led all Penguins in scoring last season versus the Wild, scoring four points (2G-2A) in two games. Sidney Crosby also scored two goals and added an assist in two contests against Minnesota. Guillaume Latendresse led the Wild in scoring with four points (1G-3A) in two games. Like Crosby, Eric Belanger tallied two goals and added an assist in that pair of games.
Dupuis started his career with Minnesota back in 2000, spending parts of six seasons with the Wild after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent. He established career-highs across the board with Minnesota in 2002-03, tallying 20 goals, 28 assists, 48 points and a plus-17 rating.
Last season, neither team could find the back of the net on the power play. Pittsburgh went 0-for-9 with the man-advantage against Minnesota, while the Wild couldn’t connect on their four power-play opportunities.
Another Fast Start: The Penguins scored two goals within the first 2:23 of play on Wednesday (including one by Evgeni Malkin just seven seconds in) in their 8-1 win over Tampa Bay, while Arron Asham got on the board just 2:16 into the first period in Thursday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal. Another fast start will be crucial in bringing the confident Wild back down to earth, as Minnesota's been riding quite a high with a 7-2-1 record in their past 10 games.
Feed Off the Crowd: With Pittsburgh’s last game occurring in the Bell Centre, an arena that’s notoriously unfriendly to visiting teams, it will be uplifting for the Penguins to be back at home in front of their home crowd. The Penguins will need to feed off the energetic atmosphere, as the Wild have been rolling on the road and will be in an unfamiliar setting, as they have yet to play a game in the brand-new CONSOL Energy Center.
F Mike Comrie, hip (IR) F Sidney Crosby, mild concussion, (1 week) F Eric Godard, eye (day-to-day)
F Antti Miettinen, leg contusion (day-to-day) G Niklas Backstrom, groin (day-to-day)
Chris Kunitz - The Penguins forward scored his second-career hat trick in the Penguins’ 8-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday. Kunitz now has 13 goals, good for third on the team behind Sidney Crosby (32) and Evgeni Malkin (15). Kunitz’s three-goal effort – his first with Pittsburgh – included two power-play tallies, giving him five on the season and tying him with Malkin for second-most on the squad. Kunitz has now scored eight points (5G-3A) in his last eight games and has 22 of his 28 points in his last 25 games.
Martin Havlat - Havlat scored in the Wild’s 3-1 victory in Boston on Thursday to give him two goals and eight assists in his last 11 games. The right winger now has 27 points in his last 25 contests, leading the team with 36 points and 119 shots on goal. His 27 helpers are tied for 13th in the league while his 26 takeaways rank second on the squad.