Pittsburgh Penguins Host Captainless Winnipeg Jets


The Pittsburgh Penguins and Winnipeg Jets rarely meet, but this afternoon the Pens welcome the western team to CONSOL Energy Center.

Just days before the trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Penguins play host to the Winnipeg Jets of the Western Conference. Though the teams seldom meet and Winnipeg is all but out of the playoff race, both teams have adjustments to make.

After weeks of speculation that captain Andrew Ladd would be traded, Winnipeg’s general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff finally made a move. Ladd was traded back to one of his previous teams, the Chicago Blackhawks, along with Matt Fraser and Jay Harrison in return for Marko Dano.

Dano had been playing with the Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, at the time of the trade. Splitting time this season between Chicago and Rockford, he has had a successful year and was instantly called up to Winnipeg.

Drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets and sent to Chicago last summer as a piece of the Brandon Saad trade, Dano will be one to watch as he tries to make an immediate impact with his new team.

The Jets obviously see potential in the young Slovakian, exchanging three players for one bubble NHLer and two picks. Trading their captain partway through the season will surely affect the Jets. While the players and coaches probably expected it was coming, the loss of Ladd will prove an interesting factor in team chemistry.

Speaking of team chemistry, the Pens will have changes to their lineup as well. Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bonino, the second- and third-line centers, are set to return from injuries. Both have been out of the lineup for extended periods, and the Penguins have been worse for it.

Bonino lends the team more experience and depth than the current lineup offers, and Malkin will hopefully provide an immediate boost to the offense.

Most importantly, Malkin will rejuvenate the powerplay. When he was in the lineup, the Pens’ powerplay ranked eighth in the league with a 20.5% success rate. Without him, in these past ten games, it plummeted to 30th in the league… with only one goal scored on 24 opportunities.

The last – and only other – time these two teams met this season, the Jets won 1-0 as young Connor Hellebuyck ultimately came out on top in goal. Jeff Zatkoff did not have a bad game for the Penguins either, allowing only one goal on 28 shots, but the teams were so evenly matched that just a single goal was the deciding factor.

Bryan Little scored the game-winner in that matchup, but Little is out for the remainder of the season with fractured vertebrae. 

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The Pens have been less than stellar in midday games as of late, but hopefully this one will prove different. They boast a 14-game home winning streak against the Jets franchise, dating all the way back to 2006 when they were still the Atlanta Thrashers.

Look for all the Pittsburgh centers to make big impacts today: Sidney Crosby has a 6-game home point streak against Winnipeg, adding up to a total of 17 points. Additionally, though head coach Mike Sullivan hasn’t named a starting goaltender yet, expect that Marc-Andre Fleury will get the nod.