Preview: Red Wings at Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins failed to secure their 13th consecutive postseason appearance on their initial attempt when they fell short in the opener of a home-and-home series against the Detroit Red Wings. Fresh off their second loss in three games, the Penguins look to keep their composure as the teams reconvene in the Steel City on Thursday night.
"We can't be frustrated, it's a useless emotion at this point," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said on the heels of Tuesday's 4-1 setback in Detroit. "We've just got to make sure we get ready for the next one. That's the mindset that we have to have. We still have to solidify a playoff spot." Phil Kessel scored late in the first period to reach the 25-goal plateau for the ninth time in his last 11 seasons and boost his point total to four (three goals, one assist) in two meetings with the Red Wings. While Kessel has been heating up, Tyler Bertuzzi has been downright sizzling as the 24-year-old scored his second goal of the contest midway into the second period and notched an assist on Anthony Mantha's second goal of the third to set a franchise record with his fourth straight three-point performance. "I think I'm a little shocked right now; it is hard to comprehend this. ... We've having fun playing hockey right now," Bertuzzi said after Detroit extended its season-high winning streak to six games.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Detroit, AT&T SportsNet-Pittsburgh
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (32-38-10): The top line of Dylan Larkin, Mantha and Bertuzzi have combined for 17 goals and 21 assists during Detroit's winning streak. "We're clicking and we're winning," said the 22-year-old Larkin, who has scored five goals and set up six others during his six-game point streak. "This is huge toward building confidence toward next year. We're doing this against good teams and we're doing it at home and on the road." Mantha has seven of his career high-tying 24 goals and seven assists during his six-game stretch, highlighted by a five-point performance in Sunday's 6-3 victory against Boston.
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (43-26-11): Pittsburgh's setback kept it two points behind the second-place New York Islanders in the congested Metropolitan Division while Carolina's 4-1 victory over Toronto on Thursday moved the upstart club within two points of the Penguins. "You only have so many chances to clinch, so we have to get this tightened up. We've got these guys again next, and we know what they can do. We've got to be ready for that and go out and get a win," said captain Sidney Crosby, who has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in his last dozen games versus Detroit. Jake Guentzel also picked up an assist, giving him 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in his last 16 games.
1. Pittsburgh can also secure a playoff spot should Montreal lose to Washington on Thursday.
2. Detroit C Andreas Athanasiou has collected 11 points (six goals, five assists) in his last nine contests.
3. Penguins C Matt Cullen is expected to skate in his 1,515th career game on Thursday to move past longtime Red Wing Steve Yzerman for 19th place all-time in NHL history.
PREDICTION: Penguins 4, Red Wings 3