Gameday #48: v. Carolina Hurricanes

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PITTSBURGH PENGUINS v. Carolina Hurricanes

Consol Energy Center, 7:30 PM, Root Sports

The last week of the regular season has been almost unbearable to watch if you’re a Penguins fan. The Pens have dropped 2 of their last 3, but none of it has mattered because for the last seven days they’ve had their spot in the postseason locked in. There’s been lots of intrigue around the rest of the league. In the East, 5 teams clinched playoff berths, the Capitals in particular have been impressive. Nobody really wants to earn the number 2 spot and the Northeast Division championship. In the West, the Blackhawks won the President’s Trophy and the Blue Jackets are still possibly capable of making the playoffs. But the Pens haven’t been doing anything, and you know what? That’s just fine with us. The Pens have been getting rest, they’ve been getting healthy, and there hasn’t been any of the traditional drama of the last week of the season.

But in some way, shape, or form, tonight’s game does matter. Before the start of tonight’s game the Penguins will have a much better understanding of who they’ll be playing in the Conference Quarterfinals: the Islanders played their final regular season game last night, which ended in an overtime loss. By earning one point the Isles moved up to sixth in the conference. However, the Rangers just dismantled the Devils 4-0, leaving only the Islanders and Senators as possible opponents.

And then there are the players. As we reported yesterday, Paul Martin and James Neal will be back in the lineup tonight and the Penguins are expected to utilize the following lines (at least amongst forwards):

14-71-18

9-36-12

10-16-24

15-27-48/19

So in other words, the Pens look to reunite the “Best Line in Hockey, 2012 Ed,” and it seems likely that Sid will resume skating between Duper and Iggy when he’s healthy. From there Jussi will probably drop to the fourth line flanked (definitely) by Craig Adams and one of Tanner Glass, Tyler Kennedy, and Beau Bennett depending on matchups. We’re not expecting the world from either Paul-Mart or James Neal, but we hope they can come in, look comfortable, and play in control.

And maybe we’re just being sentimental, but we want to win this one. The Pens have dropped their last two, and it would look much better to win your last regular season game going into the playoffs than to lose three in a row on your way. Also, Jordan Staal finally returns to Consol Energy Center ice tonight. The Pens should want to beat him. Speaking of, Josh Yohe wrote a greatly condescending piece comparing his season to Brandon Sutter’s. Hard to believe that Sutter hasn’t played in the postseason yet, he must have joined the big team in 2010.

Does today’s game matter? Not in a literal sense, but from a symbolic sense this is not one to take lightly.

So ready for the playoffs. Go Pens.

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