By Shane Darrow on March 18, 2014
The Pittsburgh Penguins are coming off of consecutive losses to the Philadelphia Flyers but are still in a dominant position atop the Metropolitan division. Losing to any rival is difficult, but the Penguins were missing some of their key players due to injury.
Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars there is a chance that the Penguins will be getting back both Chris Kunitz and James Neal, but if not, here are five guys who must step up.
Everything starts with the captain. The Flyers were able to shut out Crosby in consecutive games, which simply can't happen tonight against the Stars. Crosby has to produce in order for the Penguins to win games – he's the heart and soul of the offense.
If he goes pointless Tuesday night, it will be the first time all season he failed to record a point in three straight games.
Tanner Glass doesn't need to go out and score goals against the Stars, but he needs to be the guy creating the spark and shifting momentum toward the Penguins.
Whether it's a fight or a blocked shot on the penalty kill, Glass needs to be an essential piece of the Penguins' defensive strategy.
If Kunitz does return, chances are Lee Stempniak will be playing the right wing alongside him and Crosby. Stempniak is yet to score a goal since being traded to the Penguins, but has come incredibly close at times – including a shot he batted out of the air off the crossbar.
It's always huge when new guys contribute, and a healthy top line could be just what Stempniak needs to finally open the floodgates.
Crosby might be the heart and soul of the offense, but the defense will always start in between the pipes. Head coach Dan Bylsma reported earlier that Jeff Zatkoff will be getting the nod tonight, and he better not take the struggling Stars lightly.
If Tomas Vokoun is ever medically cleared and Zatkoff struggles toward the end of the season, there could be quite the controversy regarding the backup goaltender position for the playoffs.
Rob Scuderi has been awful as of late; it's just that simple. He has struggled killing penalties and even strength, and Tuesday night's game against the Stars could be the perfect moment for him to redeem himself.
He needs to make sure that no opposing forwards get behind him without paying the price. Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds made Scuderi look ridiculous during the Penguins' two losses to Philly.
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