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What to Watch For: Pens vs. Jets

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

PENGUINS (26-8-0) vs. JETS (18-14-2)
WHEN: March 28, 2013 - 7:00 p.m.  |  WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH: ROOT SPORTS  |  LISTEN: Penguins Radio 24/7, 105.9 FM

The Penguins will look to extend their winning streak to 14 games when they host the Winnipeg Jets at CONSOL Energy Center on Thursday. With 14 games left in their season, the Jets currently have a six-point lead in the Southeast Division race over Carolina (who has three games in hand) and a seven-point lead over the Capitals (who has one game in hand).

Entering Tuesday’s game against the Hurricanes, last season’s leading goal scorer Evander Kane had just three points in his last 14 games. But the tough winger broke through for a big performance against Carolina, scoring a goal and assisting on the other three in a 4-1 win. Kane also had six shots (he leads the league in this category with 142) and four hits (he leads the team with a total of 111) in the game. This may be the type of effort needed to get him and linemates Olli Jokinen and Antti Miettinen going consistently on the scoresheet.

The word “consistent” would be best used to describe the line of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler. Captain Ladd leads the Jets with 14 goals and 32 points in 34 games, and is one of just four NHLers (Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Martin St. Louis being the others) that has not gone consecutive games without a point this season. Wheeler is second in scoring with 14 goals and 28 points, while Little – the Jets’ top faceoff guy – is tied for fourth on the team.

On the back end, small but quick blueliner Tobias Enstrom led all NHL defensemen in points when he was injured in Winnipeg’s last meeting with Pittsburgh on Feb. 15. He hasn’t wasted any time getting himself back on the scoresheet since making his return Sunday after a 19-game absence, getting goals in both games he’s played. Meanwhile, his defense partner Dustin Byfuglien has been enjoying a hot stretch with 10 points (2G-8A) in his last nine games. The bad news is that top-four pairing Mark Stuart and Ron Hainsey have both missed the last two games with upper-body injuries and are day-to-day.

(Getty Images)

Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Olli Jokinen - Antti Miettinen
Chris Thorburn - Nik Antropov - Kyle Wellwood
Patrice Cormier - Alex Burmistrov - Eric Tangradi

Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Grant Clitsome - Zach Bogosian
Derek Meech - Ron Hainsey

(Getty Images)

New Penguin Douglas Murray may be a physical specimen, but so is Winnipeg’s Byfuglien. The Jets defenseman, who turned 28 on Wednesday, stands a towering 6-foot-5, 265 pounds and is a unique blend of size and skill. He skates well for his measurements and has a heavy shot, which the Jets utilize on the point of their top power-play unit. Byfuglien is definitely an offensive defenseman; with 10 points (2G-8A) in his last nine games, but also logs big minutes against other team’s top lines.

Murray brings a lot to Pittsburgh’s blue line, but his strongest asset is his physicality. The Penguins are going to need that on Thursday against the Jets, as Winnipeg is one of the NHL’s toughest teams – ranking second in hits. Murray will also likely slot in on the penalty kill, where he’ll be relied on for big blocks and clears. It will be interesting to see where Murray fits in terms of pairings and matchups in his first game as a Pittsburgh Penguin.

- The Penguins play the third game of their five-game homestand against the Winnipeg Jets. Pittsburgh enters the game having won a NHL-season-high 13 straight games – the second-longest winning streak in franchise history.
- The Penguins have won 10 straight home games. A win would equal the franchise record of 11 established Jan. 5-March 7, 1991.
-The Penguins currently own the NHL’s longest overall (13 games), home (10 games) and road (5 games) winning streaks. A win Thursday would allow the Penguins to finish with a winning record against the Jets for the seventh straight season.
- Pittsburgh enters the game having gone 16-3 in its last 19 meetings against the Jets. During that stretch the Penguins have scored a total of 76 goals for an average of four goals per game.
- The Penguins have won 11 straight home games against the Jets – Pittsburgh’s longest active home winning streak against any one team.
-Winnipeg’s last victory in Pittsburgh was Dec. 27, 2006 at Mellon Arena (4-2).
- This season the Penguins are 7-3 against teams from the Southeast Division – including a perfect 5-0 mark at home..

The Penguins’ 1-0 defeat of the Montreal Canadiens was the team’s 13th win in the month of March – establishing a team record for wins in a calendar month. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, if the Penguins win their final two games in March against the Jets and Islanders, they will become the first team in NHL history to post a perfect record in a calendar month (minimum 10 games).

Pittsburgh’s current 13-game winning streak marks the third-straight season – and fifth time since 1992-93 – that the franchise has won 10 or more consecutive games. To put that into perspective, of the NHL’s 30 teams, 13 have NEVER won 10 or more consecutive games. With a win against the Jets, the Penguins will post the fifth winning streak of 14 or more games in NHL history.

The Penguins’ 13-game winning streak is tied for the sixth-longest stretch of consecutive games with a point in franchise history. Should the Penguin win or earn a point tonight, it would tie for the fourth-longest stretch with a point (Feb. 21-March 22, 2012, 13-0-1; and Dec. 19, 1996-Jan. 21, 1997, 12-0-2).

The Penguins have posted a 22-2-1 record over their last 25 home games against Southeast Division teams entering Thursday's contest. That number includes a current 16-game home unbeaten stretch (15-0-1) against the Southeast. This year, the Penguins are 5-0 at home against teams from the Southeast Division.

The Penguins have won a season-high 13-straight games entering Thursday's contest. During the streak, they have outscored foes by a 46-26 margin. Nine of the 13 wins have been one-goal wins – with two more of the victories – ending with the Penguins scoring empty-net goals. Pittsburgh’s goaltenders have combined to post a .931 save percentage (352 saves/378 shots).

The Penguins enter Thursday's game ranked ninth (tied) in the NHL with a 2.47 goals-against average. That marks a drastic turnaround from where they stood earlier this month. Following Pittsburgh’s 5-4 shootout win at Toronto on March 9, the Penguins ranked 23rd (tied) in the league with a 3.00 goals-against average. Following their shutout against the Canadiens, the Penguins have allowed just nine goals over the previous nine games dating back to March 10 – including a pair of shutouts. During this nine-game stretch, Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun have combined to stop 244-of-253 opposition shots for a .964 save percentage.

Game notes courtesy of Penguins manager of communications Jason Seidling

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was placed on Injured Reserve and will be out 7-10 days with a lower-body injury. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury still needs further evaluation after leaving the Penguins’ 1-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night at CONSOL Energy Center. The full update is here.


D Kris Letang, lower body
F Evgeni Malkin, upper body

D Ron Hainsey, upper body
F Anthony Peluso, upper body
D Zach Redmond, lower body
F Jim Slater, upper body
D Mark Stuart, upper body
F James Wright, upper body

Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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