The Pittsburgh Penguins have officially re-assigned rookie goaltender Brad Thiessen to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL. Brent Johnson has been activated from the injured list and will resume backup duties tonight when the Penguins meet the New York Islanders on Long Island.
Marc-Andre Fleury will again start tonight’s game after a poor showing against the Islanders on Tuesday, allowing five goals on 18 shots. He was removed after the second period. Fleury was also hit in the head by defenseman Paul Martin during the game and appeared to be shaken up.
– Kris Letang didn’t accompany the team on this road trip and will miss at least the next few games, though the Penguins are confident he will return before the playoffs.
– Matt Niskanen has joined the trip but is not expected to play tonight or tomorrow night in Buffalo.
– Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov won’t play tonight after suffering a lower body injury on Tuesday. Al Montoya will likely get the start.
– Pascal Dupuis has the NHL’s longest active point streak at 11 games and will look to make it 12 tonight.
– The Penguins now trail the New York Rangers by five points for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers have five games remaining while the Penguins have six.
Pittsburgh’s inability to beat subpar teams when the top seed is within range could very well come back to haunt them in the postseason. Three times now the Penguins have been within a point of the Rangers with a winnable game on the schedule that night, and the Penguins have lost all three times.
A series with the eighth seed Buffalo Sabres or Washington Capitals would be exponentially more favorable than a hard-fought series with the fifth seed Philadelphia Flyers. I would expect the Penguins to beat the Flyers if that’s what it comes down to, but the team may be so physically drained from what is sure to be a battle from the beginning, I’m not sure how much further they’d make it, especially if the team suffers any injuries.
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