PITTSBURGH (40-16-8) VS WINNIPEG (30-31-6)
MTS CENTRE. WINNIPEG, MANITOBA
8:00 PM EST. ROOT Sports
The Penguins begin their annual western Canada road trip this week, a trip that sees the team play 5 games in 8 days with the final one being in Philly presumably because Philly sucks. The last time these two teams met they put on a show during the 3 on 3 overtime that was responsible for 4 cardiac arrests at UPMC that night. Evgeni Malkin elbowed someone and didn’t get suspended. The Jets injured half of the Penguins defense. It was a hard hitting, adrenaline pumping, throw shit at the tv style hockey game. Unfortunately for everyone the Jets won’t make the playoffs, because games like that against some of the bitchy western conference teams in the playoffs could be really fun.
The Jets are currently 5 points out from the final wild card spot but have played 2 more games than the teams above them. It’s a win or die part of the season for the Jets, which in Winnipeg speak translates to die. The Penguins on the other hand have a good chance to start forming those butterfly in the stomach memories from team bonding experiences that happen on the road, you know, the stuff you eat up when the Stanley Cup Champions dvd is released.
The Penguins surprised nobody when they announced that Kris Letang and Bryan Rust won’t be joining them on this trip. I thought it was rather clear when Sullivan said both “are not season ending injuries, but are more than short term” that that didn’t translate to “hey media guy, please ask me every single day for an update on these guys that aren’t day-to-day.” It has to be tough to be a coach and be subjected to the same questions every single day. As stern as Sullivan is, I would love if he started giving little hints that put people on the wrong path of what is really going on.
“Mike, any update on Letang?” “I saw him today, he looked good, the rash is almost gone.”
“Mike, what is Rusts status?”” Just talked to the doctors, he’s had none of the expected side effects of the treatment, though he reported hallucinations”
“Mike, any update on Letang” (asked by same dude, after morning skate) “Just got off the phone with him, called my Sergeant Wong”
I know it is frustrating to be a journalist and not get the answers you want, but sometimes you just have to accept that and move on. The Penguins keep more information confidential than the CIA. Just accept that. It will be okay if we don’t know what is going on with Letang, it’s March 8th, the Pens aren’t going up or down too far in the standings anytime soon, it will be alright.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
Sullivan continues to tinker with his lines as he welcomes healthy people back into the lineup. The latest change sees a Kessel and Hornqvist swap. Though I personally still want to see a Guentzel-Crosby-Sheary line, this Penguins offense is scary to look at. Especially when you factor in that most teams have no clue who Jake Guentzel is, and then all of a sudden he is banging the third pairings wives in between jamming home goals. I assume Sullivan will keep the Hainsey-Streit pairing, and tonight will be a great chance for them to showcase what they add to this team. Winnipeg plays a big physical game, and having physical defenders isn’t something the Pens have had for awhile now. The better they play, the tougher it’s going to be for Maatta and Daley to find a spot on the roster. Chad Ruhwedel seems to be Sullivans favorite piece right now, though I am surprised Pouliot didn’t get another look after putting up a solid game against Chicago.
As for the Jets, they have Laine who has a completely crazy shot. He uses no lower body, and somehow just rips his wrister. Outside of that they have some guys that throw big hits, and a goalie that is yet to develop into who he wanted to be when he was younger, and some guys that are equivalent to 97% of the people you went to high school with, forgettable.
WHO TO WATCH:
They will have a chip on their shoulder from the last meeting. The Jets have way too many chips on their shoulders. Maybe if they focused on playing better hockey they would win more. Regardless, don’t be surprised to see some flying elbows tonight.
Dear equipment, please remember that your first name is protective. Please protect the Penguins from the various hits and shots they are about to receive. If you must, you can protect the Jets players too, however if there is a time between us or them, please save the ones that will be playing meaningful games in April.
The most important thing for the Penguins is coming out of this game and preparing for the next one with the same line up. The Penguins have been pretty awful on the road this year but this swing of games is an excellent chance to change that. Picking up 6 of the 10 points on this swing would be great for the team, and that is where I will set my standards. If they pick up more then fantastic, if they get less but don’t get injured, then that is a win too. There is a certain luxury with where the Pens are in the standings, and that first wild card spot isn’t the worst place to end up.