Gameday Preview: Penguins at Senators

Tonight’s game marks the first of three between these two teams this season. It is also the first time these two teams have met since the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Penguins disposed of the Senators in five games.

Gameday Preview: Penguins at Senators
Pittsburgh Penguins's Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates his second-period goal during an NHL hockey game against the Calgary Flames in Pittsburgh Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pittsburgh Penguins (27-10-1)
@
Ottawa Senators (14-7-7)
Canadian Tire Centre: 7:30 pm ET
TV: Sportsnet East, RDS

Backstory…

Tonight’s game marks the first of three between these two teams this season. It is also the first time these two teams have met since the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Penguins disposed of the Senators in five games.

With 55 points, the Penguins have an 18-point gap on the third Metropolitan playoff seed and a 15-point gap on the second wild card position currently held by Toronto.

The Penguins have been dominant against Eastern Conference competition, compiling a 20-8-1 record this season. If there is one saving grace for Ottawa, it is that Pittsburgh has not fared as well on the road as they have at home – the Pens are 17-3-0 at home and 10-7-1 away from the Consol Energy Center.

Storylines…

Tonight is the last game for each team before the Christmas break and both teams appear, at least when looking at the standings, to be going in diametrically opposed directions.

With looming back-to-back games versus the Bruins, this week bears the potential of being the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Senators’ season. Although the Senators are only five games back of the second wild card position, other teams vying for the same wild card position do have a number of games in hand on the Sens.

Pittsburgh on the other hand is rolling, having won seven in a row and nine of their last 10 games. Much like the Senators last season, the Penguins have maintained their success despite an inordinate number of injuries afflicting their roster.

Although Evgeni Malkin has missed the team’s past five games, the fact that they have been able to overcome the absence of blue line regulars like Rob Scuderi (missed past 27 games, ankle), Deryk Engelland (currently serving five-game suspension), Paul Martin (missed past 13 games, leg), Brooks Orpik (missed past seven games, head injury) and Kris Letang (missed past five games, upper body) is simply incredible. Pens fans can thank Sidney Crosby (seven goals, 18 points), Chris Kunitz (six goals, 12 points) and Marc-Andre Fleury (7-1-0, 1.97 GAA, .936 SV%) for their efforts during the month of December.

On the Ottawa injury front, things are a little less crowded. Having left Thursday’s game versus Florida with an undisclosed upper body injury, it is anticipated that Mika Zibanejad will return to the lineup tonight.

Craig Anderson will make his second consecutive start for the Senators.

Interesting Stat #1

Via ManGamesLost.com: As of December 22nd, the Senators (16) and Penguins (200) have suffered the least and most number of man-games lost due to injury this season.

Interestingly, the Eastern Conference’s leaders, the Penguins and the Anaheim Ducks, are also ranked first and second in man-games lost due to injury.

Interesting Stat #2

Ottawa’s won/lost record in games that ended in regulation this season is 11 wins to 17 losses for a winning percentage of .392. Should they maintain this pace, it will mark the team’s worst regulation winning percentage since the 1995/96 season, in which they had 18 wins and 59 losses (.250).

Interesting Stat #3

Sidney Crosby is getting a lot of attention for his current ten game point streak, but since Nov. 13, Crosby has had a point in 18 of Pittsburgh’s last 21 games.

Interesting Stat #4

There have been 16 games this season in which Sidney Crosby has registered more than one point. In these games, Sidney has scored 12 goals and 39 points and the Penguins have a perfect 16-0-0 record.

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