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Gameday 21: Cold Like Minnesota

 

Pittsburgh (12-5-3) VS Minnesota (10-7-2)

Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota

4:00 PM EST, ROOT Sports


Fresh off a Rangers stomping and a Thanksgiving feast the Penguins get back to action in the first of a weekend back-to-back. You gotta love the NHL schedule makers man, the last game was in New York, tomorrow’s game is in New Jersey, so let’s make them go to Minnesota first. The Penguins and Wild met a few weeks ago, a game that reminded all of us the Eric Staal still exists, and still gets away with lazy penalties. What we said in our recap of the 4-2 Wild win:

There are few things in this life that are as inevitable as death and taxes.  The Penguins will have a couple of games every year where they don’t finish a team off in the first 5 minutes when they could have and Minnesota lying to itself and everyone else about being the “state of hockey.”The Minnesota Wild are like that kid in college that would come over every Saturday and just sulk in the corner because his high school girlfriend left him for some junior in Dallas that bought her Three Olives Loopy one weekend.  You know that they’re there, but you just try to pretend that they aren’t. But sometimes, even that kid catches a break once in a while.”

The Penguins generated a ton of offensive chances in the first meeting, but as G-Off correctly stated in his recap, they failed to convert and it cost them. “The State of Hockey,” if the Wild are any indication, the state of hockey is meh. “But Rad, they mean ‘state’ as in the place,” yeah I know, that’s why I said the state of hockey is meh. Coming off a 6 goal night against Lundqvist and the Rangers, it would be great to see the Pens come out and put a few quick ones behind the elite of the elite Devan Nubdyk

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Minnesota is a hard team to generate any feelings for, the fact that they get over 50% attendance at games speaks volumes to how boring the state truly is. Speaking of generating feelings, it is kind of disappointing that in the year where everyone gets offended by everything there isn’t a protest to change “Black Friday.”

Projected Starting Lineups:

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I’m rolling with the same lineup the Pens iced in New York on Wednesday night. If there are any major changes this section will be edited around 3 PM or so, and there will also be updates in the comments below. As for Minnesota, I’m not even sure half of those players are real. Zach Parise is in the lineup after missing some time with an injury or something, so it will be great for Steigy to remind us that him and Crosby were school buddies. The goalie decision is an interesting one, obviously on one hand you have Murray, who keeps winning, and on the other if you don’t start Fleury tonight it will be 4 full days off before Saturday’s game, something Fleury for some unknown reason doesn’t seem to deal well with. If it were my team, MMX goes tonight while Fleury gets fitted for his new jersey:

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Players to Watch:

For Minnesota:     Nino Needlepenis

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Niederreiter had a big game the last time these two met, mainly because in that game the Penguins defensive coverage was about as good as ROOT Sports. The new defensive pairings as well as some changes to coverage completely smothered the Rangers on Wednesday, and it will be something to look for tonight.

For Pittsburgh:     Evgeni Malkin

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The only way to describe Malkin’s play in the last 5 or so games is mentally challenged, not in the short bus way, though with the penalties he has been taking that may not be wrong either. Malkin is making mental mistakes that to me look like a player that is either too wrapped up in his thoughts or isn’t focusing hard enough. Regardless, he is on pace to have the most penalty minutes by a Penguins forward since Matthew Barnaby, which is all the statistical evidence you should need. Here’s to hoping Geno can get back on track tonight.


Final Word:

If the Penguins didn’t lose momentum from the holiday they should be able to handle the Wild tonight. Of course, I said this the last time these two teams met so whatever. A game against a team you aren’t going to see the rest of the year, on the road, following a holiday in late November is a perfect recipe for a trap game, but the Penguins haven’t been playing well enough to earn a night off, so hopefully that doesn’t happen.

LET’S GO PENS

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