A week ago the Penguins had lost 6 straight games and had thus fallen out of the Eastern Conference top 8. Jordan Staal had joined Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang on the injured reserve and the Penguins looked quite vulnerable. Fast forward just one week and the Pens have won 4 in a row and find themselves in 6th place in the East and just 8 points behind the 1st place Rangers.
Much of the credit for the Pens last week should go to Evgeni Malkin who is red hot. Malkin is currently riding a 4 game scoring streak in which he has 7 goals and 2 assists and a +8 rating. Malkin is playing some of the best hockey of his NHL career creating countless opportunities for himself and his line mates without much of a supporting cast.
The Canadiens on the other hand have showed no sign of turning the corner and improving on their dismal start to the season. Montreal has just 4 wins in their last 15 games. Montreal, currently ranked 25th in the league standings, is just 4 points ahead of the 29th place Oilers.
It’s a backup night as both Carey Price and Marc Andre Fleury will watch from the bench tonight and Brent Johnson and Peter Budaj will start in goal.
HW’s Victory Keys
Limit chances for Evgeni Malkin: He is in beast mode right now and P.K. Subban and Josh Gorges will have their hands full tonight.
Faceoffs: Both the Canadiens and Penguins are in the bottom third of the league in faceoff percentage and puck possession is always key.
One or Less: Peter Budaj must have learned by now if it is tough to pick up wins with the Canadiens if you allow more than a goal. In his only 2 wins this year he allowed just one goal. Every other start he has allowed more and picked up a loss.
Peter Budaj has never beaten the Pittsburgh Penguins 0-1-1 with 5 goals against in 2 games.
Montreal is 2-1 lifetime at the Consol Energy Centre and 2-0 lifetime on Fridays in January in Pittsburgh.