Gameday #43: v. Montreal Canadiens

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PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. Montreal Canadiens

Consol Energy Center, 7:00 PM, Root Sports

The Penguins can effectively lock up the first seed in the East over the next two games. With a win in regulation tonight the Penguins will cut the magic number between them and Montreal down to three points. That’s well into the “no chance that’s not happening” category. Boston can still disrupt the party but frankly Montreal has been the better team since March so they’re on the backburner for now.

As a public service: be advised that the Penguins (and all NHL, all professional sports teams) will be ramping up security in light of what happened in Boston. If you’re lucky enough to be going to the game, try to arrive a little earlier to accommodate the added security measures. Doors will open at 5:45 which I believe is 15 minutes earlier than usual.

You’ve probably heard, but the Pens are headed outside again next year. The NHL has unveiled its “Stadium Series,” an additional 6 outdoor games that will be played throughout the month of January 2014, in addition to the official “Winter Classic” which will be between Toronto and Detroit at Michigan Stadium. The Pens are slated to face the Blackhawks, people are already getting all worked up about what kind of jersey the Penguins could wear in the next outdoor game, for a good read on it, just check out Pensblog, they’ve already said everything we possibly could.

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Sam Kasan with Penguins’ Inside Scoop says that Fleury is starting in net, but that everything else is subject to change. A really tough nut to crack is where James Neal will slot in for these new lines. Geno is a gametime decision but I suspect he isn’t playing. With that said it’s just hard to picture where Nealer will play, he’s not a center by any stretch so you have to count him out there. You could slide him back to the left wing on the “first line” with Jussi and Iggy, but realistically, Kunitz has been better all season than Nealer, so why should he be demoted? Brenden Morrow has developed some insane chemistry with Pascal Dupuis and has been the hottest scorer in the last week, demoting him won’t work either. Presumably Beau Bennett would be on the chopping block but there is something that doesn’t ring true on a Morrow-Dupuis-Neal line, too much shooting I guess? And then it only gets more bizarre to think of Neal on a checking line. I don’t envy Dan Bylsma at this juncture, no matter what he does people are going to hate it.

Montreal has been falling apart at the seams lately, they’ve lost their last two games by a combined score of 12-4 and three of those goals came against Steve Mason. Carey Price has been pulled in each of those starts and the team hasn’t looked the same since.

Finish it off. Go Pens.

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