By Annie Shean (@JustPuckIt)
After returning home from a successful road trip out west, The Penguins have three games in the next four days. The team has heated back up, checking off the “win” column in 6 of their last eight games. Meanwhile the struggling Edmonton Oilers have been on a five-game losing streak, and this is the fourth game of their five-game road trip. This is the second meeting between the two teams this season, the first game ended in a Pens 2-0 victory.
Currently Evgeni Malkin lead the Penguins with 28 goals, while Crosby leads in assists (48). In comparison Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leads the Oilers in goals (19), Jordan Eberle leads in assists (32) and winger Teddy Purcell leads in shots on net (114).
The Pens are expected to stick with the recent line pairings based off practice this morning. Downie and Spaling rotated on the fourth line, so one of them will be held out of the lineup this evening. Marc-Andre Fleury was the first goalie of the ice and expected to start the game. This will be the first home game since the trade deadline acquisition of Lovejoy and Cole, and both players are ready to get off the road and acquainted (or rather re-acquainted) with the city.
Christian Ehrhoff practiced with the team today taking rushes with Scuderi and Cole, however Head Coach Mike Johnston stated the earliest he will return to the lineup would be Saturday’s game against Boston. The Oilers have the injury bug and are without forward Taylor Hall (ankle), goalie Viktor Fasth (groin), and defenseman Nikita Nikitin (shoulder). Nikitin has practiced with the team, and may possibly return Saturday evening against the Blue Jackets.
The Penguins powerplay fizzled out west where they went 0/12 however this game will give them a strong opportunity to get back on track. The Oilers have one of the leagues worst penalty kill percentages (77.6), the most goals allowed per game (3.31), and the worst record in the NHL. The Pens also have the upperhand based off history with an eight-game unbeaten streak against the Oilers, and a single victory for the Oilers in Pittsburgh in the past twenty-two years. Talk about strong Vegas odds!
The Penguins are trailing the New York Islanders by only 5 points in the standings, holding steady in second place. Out of the remaining sixteen games in the regular season twelve are against teams outside the top 8 across the league, giving them a chance to move to first place in the standings.