The Penguins return from their holiday break to battle a team they defeated in a shootout this time last week, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
NBCSN likes to advertise their ‘Wednesday Night Rivalry’ every week in an attempt to drive up viewers when the teams don’t always scream ‘rivals.’
Looking into the future, you could envision an Arizona Coyotes vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights game in March because six months of existence makes one up, right?
Fortunately in the case of the Penguins and Blue Jackets though, no advertisements are needed. Look back no further than last Thursday when the teams got into multiple fist-a-cuff situations, and with big names throwing hands too, especially on the Pens side of the ledger.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, all three high-priced, high talent players dropped the mitts in an attempt to spark the club that has been stuck in a season long-slump that is getting worse as time goes on.
On that night, it paid off in an emotional 3-2 shootout-victory that many people thought would send the club in the right direction.
The Penguins are in the midst of a 3-6 stretch, sitting one point out of the bottom spot in the Metro Division. They have made a couple of trades to shake up the roster and continue to look like a team that has played 50 or so extra games the last two post-seasons.
And with rumors of GM Jim Rutherford eyeing bigger moves when the roster freeze ends at 12:01 AM Thursday morning, this could be the last chance this roster plays together before another attempt to jump-start it.
Although I think Spectors has it all wrong in regards to the Letang speculation, he’ll just end up a New England Patriot when it’s all said and done.
On the injury front the Pens appear to be getting close to getting Justin Schultz back.
Schultz on the ice before practice. -DP pic.twitter.com/Mz3jCBHNPt
— AT&T SportsNet™ PIT (@ATTSportsNetPIT) December 27, 2017
While the Jackets injuries are piling up.
With Brandon Dubinsky, and defenseman Zach Werenski and Ryan Murray already having been out of the line up, it was announced yesterday that Cam Atkinson has a broken foot and Alex Wennberg (lower body) will both be out 4-to-6 weeks. Wennberg was injured in the game vs the Pens last week.
Despite all of the injuries, Columbus sits in second in the division and has 46 points, seven more than Pittsburgh. They defeated the Flyers 2-1 in a shootout on Saturday as Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves on 31 shots. ‘Bob’ sits with a 2.36 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. He is playing at a Vezina trophy level and it is needed as most nights he is facing 35+ shots numerous times so far in the month of December including three straight games with over 40 against.
The Pens would be wise to keep tabs on Artemi Panarin. The Jackets’ left winger is notorious for lighting the lamp against Pittsburgh including his days in Chicago. He had a goal and an assist last Thursday and sits with 17 points in 12 games against the Metro Division so far this year (5G, 12A).
Game time is set for 7 p.m. from PPG Paints arena and I will have your post game article on Thursday morning.
Thanks for reading and have a great day!