The Pittsburgh Penguins go into St Louis tomorrow night just 6 points out of first place in the Eastern Conference, and they are sitting 5th overall in the conference all by themselves. Not too bad for a team that almost 2 weeks ago was on their way out of the Playoff race with a 6 game losing streak.
The reason for their turnaround, has been largely in part to the League’s best player, no not Sidney Crosby, but Evgeni Malkin. Malkin received the NHL’s 1st star for this past week, and that was after receiving the 3rd star the week before. He and his line is on a tear right now, and virtually unstoppable. If it is not him scoring it is James Neal. They are starting to get contributions from all over the ice, not to mention the biggest contribution has come from the return of Kris Letang. He is scoring and playing defense at an extremely high level. Which was rewarded today with him being invited to play in the all star game.
Marc Andre Fleury is also playing lights out right now, and doing it all on his own at this point. He is not getting any days off which has to start wearing on him soon. Brent Johnson has been non existent in the lineup and when he does get playing time, he is being pulled by the second period. This is a player that started the season very solid but has basically fallen apart recently. The Pens will need to get him and his game turned around or a Plan B in place if they plan to be a serious contender in the playoffs. No, I do not mean that he will start over Fleury, but if he does not get in and spell Fleury more regularly soon, the potential is their for Fleury to burn out too soon.
As far as today’s skate, Malkin and Orpik both received maintenance days today. Asham is still out with a Concussion and there is no new news from him right now and probably will not be for a while. These were the lines that skated this morning per the Pens Report.(by Michelle Crechiolo)
Neal- Kunitz- (no center)
The Blues come into Tuesday’s game as hot as anyone in Hockey. They are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. They are coming off a win against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday and they face the Red Wings at Detroit tonight. The Game against the Pens will be their 4th game in 6 nights. They are not a team that scores a lot of goals, though they do get production from many. They are led by Center David Backes and winger TJ Oshie. As mentioned though, they have currently 6 or 7 players with 10 goals or more, though none with more than 16 on their active roster. If you look at this team, they really do not need many goals. They are playing some of the best defense in the league bar none and they have 2 goalies with a goals against avg of less than 2 including Elliott whom just got a contract extension boasting a goals against average of 1.68 a game. That is as shut down as you get. Between Elliott and Jaroslav Halak, they have 9 shutouts for the season and we are just getting to the All Star Break. The Pens will have their hands full.
The Puck will drop at 7:00 PM in St Louis on Tuesday.
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