Favorable Schedule Will Allow Pittsburgh Penguins to Gain Momentum This Week

By Jeff Ekiert
Brandon Sutter
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Even after dropping two straight games, the Pittsburgh Penguins can get back on track this coming week playing three subpar teams. They play their first two at home against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Nashville Predators. Then they complete a back-to-back weekend going on the road to play the New Jersey Devils Saturday.

The Penguins look to face a Flyers team that is the cellar dweller of the Metropolitan Division. This is a team that was expected to be more of a competitor this season, but a combination of injuries, poor defense and a bad start for captain Claude Giroux have plagued Philadelphia in the early going.

Giroux finally scored his first goal on Saturday in a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers after going the first 15 games scoreless.

This obviously is not the same team that gave Pittsburgh fits in the postseason two years ago. Though one could expect this one to get out of hand early, opening the door to dropped gloves and flared tempers. Chances are head coach Dan Bylsma already marked Deryk Engelland on his roster card in permanent ink.

If the Penguins can take an easy win Wednesday they can carry it into Friday when they face an offensively challenged Nashville team. Not only do they rank last in the Western Conference in goals scored, but they will also be without their most valuable player, goaltender Pekka Rinne, who is expected to miss three more weeks.

Pittsburgh would more than likely start Jeff Zatkoff against a Predators team that cannot pose as much of a threat on offense. This would allow Marc-Andre Fleury to get the nod against New Jersey Saturday.

The Devils go into this week still in the bottom three of the division and may be Pittsburgh’s biggest test this week. They are a team that has been struggling to find an identity this season and already dropped the opener against the Penguins 3-0.

With Martin Brodeur reaching the end of his Hall-of-Fame career, they are counting on Cory Schneider to continue Brodeur’s legacy. This would allow the Devils to maintain their reputation in the NHL as a defensively-sound team.

The Devils opened their season playing 11 of their first 16 games on the road and are looking forward to a breakout on their home ice this coming week.

However, with the Flower in goal for that game and James Neal back in the lineup, the Penguins should be on their way to building another winning streak after a tough pair of losses.

Of course you want to look at it from a “one game at a time” perspective, but it would favor the Penguins if they are riding a winning streak the following Monday when they face their biggest test of the season in the Anaheim Ducks.

Jeff Ekiert is the Pittsburgh Penguins/NHL beat writer for RantSports.com. Like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @jmekiert and add him to your Google account.

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