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Gameday 41: Halfway Home

PITTSBURGH (26-9-5) VS OTTAWA (21-14-4)

CANADIAN TIRE CENTRE, OTTAWA, ON.

7:30 PM EST. ROOT Sports


After losing in Washington last night the Penguins are now 8-7-3 on the road this year as they prepare for their 19th road contest of the season tonight in Ottawa. The last time these two met it was during the Penguins “1990’s” stretch of hockey in December, with the game ending in an 8-5 win for Pittsburgh. Entering the second of a back-to-back on the road tonight could very well go the same way. The Pens will be facing the man that holds the all time best GAA while playing goal in a Penguins uniform tonight:

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Unless the Senators turn to Condon’s back-up, O’ Connor, and I am pretty sure dailyfaceoff.com made that name up so don’t expect that. Ottawa is currently sitting third in the Atlantic but have played 4 less games than the rest of their division, which is helpful for them since both Florida and Toronto are right behind them in points. The Atlantic division is pretty weak this season, but it is actually going to be a “fight to the finish” down the stretch, currently the Bruins are 3 points ahead of the Senators but have 5 games in hand because the NHL is awesome at making schedules. Toronto, meanwhile is only 2 points out of a playoff spot, which would basically cause the internet to meltdown quicker than Donald Drumpf at a press conference. As for the Pens, they have a bit of a cushion in the third spot of the Metro right now with 2 games in hand over the Rangers.

 

Tonight’s game marks the midpoint of the season, man. With a win tonight the Penguins will record points in 32 of their first 41 games after raising the cup. Hell even with a loss the Pens secured points in 31 of their first 41 games, which is an accomplishment after a long run in the playoffs. Apologies to any Ottawa fans reading this, a long run in the playoffs doesn’t include your two series quota. Also, don’t come in here talking about how your team has won more Stanley Cups than the Penguins… 1927 doesn’t fucking count, Lord Stanley was still drinking from his cup the last time your team won it. You also can’t stand too tall bragging that your team won when there were only 6 to choose from, 4 years out of 50 with 6 teams in the league is worse than random chance.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

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Murray was cleared early yesterday so he should definitely get the nod tonight. Even though it is a back-to-back the Pens don’t really have any forwards to exchange in so these forwards are probably set, though the placement of the forwards is likely to change.  The Penguins have Chad Ruhwedel and Steve Olesky switching in and out, and after a subpar performance by Oil-sky last night a Ruhwedel siting wouldn’t be terrible.

WHO TO WATCH:

FOR OTTAWA:           MATT HOFFMAN

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Hoffman is another one of those players that always scores against the Penguins. He is a very talented sniper, and since he is now on the third line for some reason, he could terrorize the Maatta/ Olesky/Ruhwedel pairing. Thanks to the play of Schultz and Cole (see: Schultz) Sullivan has been using them as a 2nd pairing during Dumoulin’s absence, making Maatta’s line the 3rd pair. This is a mismatch in Ottawa’s favor, so watch for Hoffman to blow Maatta away along the boards.

 

FOR PITTSBURGH:          KRIS LETANG

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Letang had an uncharacteristically off night against Ovechkin last night, and something we have seen from him under the Sullivan regime is a quick rebound. Phil Kessel was a runner-up for this category, he has been really close recently and his due for a 2 goal game here soon.

FINAL WORDS:

Back-to-backs with both games on the road are the most difficult, but thanks to the bye week the Penguins can’t use fatigue as an excuse in this one. Both of these teams have the ability to flat-out fly, and after a loss to the Caps it wouldn’t surprise me if Sullivan takes the brakes off and tells the team to just open up.

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