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Penguins preview: 3/23 vs. Blues

The Penguins face a tough task Sunday afternoon as they take on the top team in the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues.
The Penguins face a tough task Sunday afternoon as they take on the top team in the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins go for the weekend sweep this afternoon as they welcome the St. Louis Blues to Consol Energy Center. The Penguins are going for two wins in a row after upending the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3, yesterday afternoon. The Blues also played yesterday, coming up on the losing end to the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-1.

When and where: Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh, PA); 1:00 pm/et (Root Sports, FS-MW, NHL Network)

Records: Penguins (46-19-5, 97 pts.); Blues (47-16-7, 101 pts.)

Season series: Blues lead 1-0.

Last meeting: The Penguins and Blues are wrapping up their season series this afternoon as they first met on November 9th in St. Louis. In a low-scoring, defensive-minded contest, the Blues came away with a 2-1 victory. St. Louis was led by goals from Ryan Reeves and Kevin Shattenkirk, and nineteen saves on twenty shots from now-Capital Jaroslav Halak. Jussi Jokinen tallied Pittsburgh’s only goal.

Who to keep an eye on:

1. David Backes: The leader of the Blues will get a lot of Sidney Crosby this afternoon as he did in Sochi during the Olympics. Backes sits fourth on the Blues in points with forty-nine, and makes up a top first line with T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen.

2. Evgeni Malkin: Yeah this was used yesterday, but the man is on fire. Four more points against Tampa gives him six points in just the last two games. It is starting to look like Malkin is re-entering 2009 Eastern Conference Finals mode, which is frightening for the rest of the league.

Ex-Penguin alert: LW Brenden Morrow (2013), D Jordan Leopold (2010), Goalie Development Coach Ty Conklin (2007-2008)

Injuries:

Penguins: G Tomas Vokoun (blood clots), D Kris Letang (stroke), D Paul Martin (broken hand), RW Beau Bennett (wrist), LW Pascal Dupuis (knee), RW Chris Conner (foot), C Joe Vitale (upper body)

Blues: D Jordan Leopold (ankle), RW Vladimir Tarasenko (hand), RW T.J. Oshie (hand)

Additional notes:

-If this goes to a shootout, look for the heel turn by T.J. Oshie against Dan Bylsma. Bylsma loved him some T.J. Oshie during the Olympics.

-With Ryan Miller playing yesterday in Philadelphia, it doesn’t appear that Sidney Crosby will be able to renew the lease in the goaltender’s head.

-The Penguins top two lines against the Blues defense will be a matchup all afternoon, along with Crosby vs. Backes.

-Big test for the Penguins against the top team in the Western Conference.

Projected lines (via Empty Netters):

Penguins

14 Chris Kunitz-87 Sidney Crosby (C)-22 Lee Stempniak

36 Jussi Jokinen-71 Evgeni Malkin (A)-18 James Neal

15 Tanner Glass-57 Marcel Goc-17 Taylor Pyatt

49 Brian Gibbons-16 Brandon Sutter-27 Craig Adams

3 Olli Maatta-2 Matt Niskanen

47 Simon Despres-4 Rob Scuderi

44 Brooks Orpik (A)-41 Robert Bortuzzo

29 Marc-Andre Fleury (34-15-4, .915 save %, 2.39 GAA, 5 SO)

Blues

74 T.J. Oshie (A)-20 Alex Steen (A)-42 David Backes (C)

9 Jaden Schwartz-17 Vladimir Sobotka-21 Patrik Berglund

56 Magnus Paajarvi-12 Derek Roy-29 Steve Ott

26 Dmitrij Jaskin-32 Chris Porter-75 Ryan Reeves

19 Jay Bouwmeester-27 Alex Pietrangelo

5 Barret Jackman (A)-22 Kevin Shattenkirk

13 Carlo Colaiacovo-46 Roman Polak

1 Brian Elliott (16-5-2, .917 save %, 2.05 GAA, 3 SO)