In the past week, the Pittsburgh Penguins have clinched a spot in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Metropolitan Division title. With the second seed in the Eastern Conference all but sealed, the Penguins continue their final road trip of the regular season in Minnesota for a matchup against the Wild. Pittsburgh enters tonight’s contest coming off a victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night while Minnesota is looking to rebound from a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
When and where: Xcel Energy Center (St. Paul, MN); 8:00 pm/et (Root Sports, FS-North)
Records: Penguins (49-23-5, 103 pts.); Wild (39-26-12, 90 pts.)
Season series: Penguins lead 1-0.
Last meeting: The Penguins and Wild last saw one another in Pittsburgh back on December 19th. Pittsburgh defended their home ice, defeating Minnesota, 5-2, thanks to goals from Brandon Sutter, Matt Niskanen, Olli Maatta, and two from Chris Kunitz. Jeff Zatkoff picked up his sixth win of the season, stopping twenty-four of twenty-six shots.
Who to keep an eye on:
1. Zach Parise: The Team USA reunion tour continues in Minnesota with a visit with the captain. Parise has fifty-one points (28G, 23A) in sixty-two games, good enough for second on the team, just behind Jason Pominville. Mikko Koivu has been racking up the assists playing with Parise, registering a team-high thirty-nine.
2. Beau Bennett: Ever since Beau Bennett returned from his wrist injury, he has been on a tear. The twenty-two year old has registered points in three of first four games back including goals in two of the four. Last game against the Jets, Bennett was placed on the top line with Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby so look for the points to keep coming.
Ex-Penguins: LW Matt Cooke (2008-2013), LW Mike Rupp (2009-2011), LW Matt Moulson (Penguins 9th round pick in 2003, never appeared in a game for the franchise), G John Curry (2007-2011), HC Mike Yeo (Penguins assistant coach 2005-2010, WB/S assistant coach 2000-2005), Asst. coach Darryl Sydor (2007-2008), GM Chuck Fletcher (Penguins asst. GM 2006-2009)
Penguins: G Tomas Vokoun (blood clots), D Kris Letang (stroke), LW Pascal Dupuis (knee), RW Chris Conner (foot), C Joe Vitale (upper body), C Evgeni Malkin (foot), LW Jussi Jokinen (upper body), C Marcel Goc (foot)
Wild: G Josh Harding (multiple sclerosis), G Niklas Backstrom (abdominal surgery), LW Jason Zucker (knee), D Keith Ballard (groin), D Clayton Stoner (knee), C Cody McCormick (facial laceration), RW Nino Niederreiter (upper body), C Mikael Granlund (upper body), G Darcy Kuemper (lower body)
-Joe Vitale returned to Pittsburgh to get his injury further evaluated.
-Jussi Jokinen will miss tonight’s game, but Dan Bylsma has called it “not long-term at this point.”
-Andrew Ebbett may see some ice-time tonight after being recalled from Wilkes-Barre and with Jokinen out.
-Throughout the season, the Wild has had seven (including emergency backup, Rob Laurie) different goaltenders on the roster.
Projected lines (via dailyfaceoff.com):
14 Chris Kunitz (A)-87 Sidney Crosby (C)-22 Lee Stempniak
19 Beau Bennett-16 Brandon Sutter-18 James Neal
17 Taylor Pyatt-25 Andrew Ebbett-49 Brian Gibbons
15 Tanner Glass-27 Craig Adams-59 Jayson Megna
44 Brooks Orpik (A)-7 Paul Martin
2 Matt Niskanen-3 Olli Maatta
41 Robert Bortuzzo-4 Rob Scuderi
37 Jeff Zatkoff (12-5-1, .915 save %, 2.58 GAA, 1 SO)
11 Zach Parise (A)-9 Mikko Koivu (C)-3 Charlie Coyle
26 Matt Moulson-56 Erik Haula-29 Jason Pominville
24 Matt Cooke-21 Kyle Brodziak-14 Justin Fontaine
19 Stephane Veilleux-8 Cody McCormick-22 Nino Niederreiter
20 Ryan Suter (A)-46 Jared Spurgeon
39 Nate Prosser-25 Jonas Brodin
7 Jonathon Blum-6 Marco Scandella
30 Ilya Bryzgalov (9-8-8, .909 save %, 2.76 GAA, 2 SO)