Key Observations Heading into Game 50 Between the Predators and Penguins

Published on February 1st, 2015

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By Annie Shean (@JustPuckIt)

The Penguins were able to beat the Devils in overtime 2-1 Friday night. The team has 64 ranking them 2nd in the metro division, one point away from the New York Islanders. The Predators are coming off a shutout loss to the Avalanche on Friday night before jumping two time zones to head to Pittsburgh. The team is safely sitting in second place in the Western Conference with 68 points, and have not lost two consecutive regulation games all season. Can the Penguins gain some momentum before trekking to Western Canada, Or will the Predators sick their fangs into the team?

The Lineup

Evgeni Malkin will remain out of the lineup, but could make a return on Wednesday against the Oilers. Christian Ehrhoff is still being assessed for a concussion, and has not been permitted to even participate in light workouts. Because of this development, The team recalled defenseman Derrick Pouliot.  The expected lines for the game this afternoon are as follows:

Kunitz-Crosby-Perron
Spaling-Sutter-Hornqvist
Bennett-Arcobello-Downie
Lapierre-Sill-Adams

Martin-Letang
Bortuzzo-Harrington
Scuderi-Despres

The Predators are without star goaltender Pekka Rinne, who is still out with a sprained knee.  While the team has struggled without him, they have still been able to retain control of their spot in the standings thanks to Hutton and Mazanec. They are 6-2-2 in their last ten games, while the Penguins are 4-3-3. The anticipated line combonations for the Predators are:

Forsberg-Ribeiro-Smith
Wilson-Fischer-Neal
Cullen-Jarnkrok-Bourque
Nystrom-Gaustad-Jokinen

Josi-Weber
Bartley-Jones
Ekholm-Wolchenkov

 

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“I’m not too worried about it or thinking about it too much, I think playing in Nashville kind of washed that away and I really haven’t looked back. We’ve been having great success here, and it’s really all I’m focused on.”  ~James Neal, Nashville Predators

Today is the first game back in Pittsburgh for winger James Neal since he was traded this summer to the Predators for Hornqvist and Spaling. He’s ranked second on the team with 16 goals so far this season, and some of those sniper wrist shots have been important game clinching goals. Besides lighting the lamp, Neal has also taken on more of a leadership role in the locker room. “It’s been an honor, To come here and be a leader and be counted on every night in the locker room has been fun. The team has been great and we’ve got a great group of guys in the locker room. It’s been a great transition and a fun one.”

Yesterday Evgeni Malkin was asked if he would be playing against his former linemate: “No, not a chance. He texted me asking if I play or not. I said, ‘maybe.’ He said, ‘take a couple more days’ [Source]. While he won’t be on the ice to poke fun of his friend, I’m sure Malkin will be watching making fun of ‘Lazy’ from behind the scenes.

Keys to the Game

Use the Momentum: After beating the Devils in overtime Friday night the Pens need to ride the high of a clutch win and continue to build off it against the predators. They are coming off a loss, so the team is going to have to come out with fast skating and hard pounding hits in order to wear down this opponent.

Shots, Shots, Shots: Without Rinne in goal, the Penguins need to continue to crash the net and go for those rebound goals. If the team can slam the goalie with rapid fire shots, they are sure to light the lamp.

Watch the Blue Line: The Penguins need to be very aware of the Predators defensive core. The pairing of Shea Weber and Roman Josi are the top scoring defenseman on the team, and both have a strong habit of finding the back of the net.