While the Pittsburgh Penguins wait for Evgeni Malkin to return,
they’re certainly loading up on reinforcements elsewhere.
After pulling off their third trade of the week – this one a
stunning blockbuster to land Calgary captain Jarome Iginla – the
Penguins will try to extend the second-longest winning streak in
team history to 14 games on Thursday night against the visiting
Malkin’s absence from Pittsburgh’s last nine games with an
upper-body injury hasn’t slowed the Penguins, who have had the look
of a defensive juggernaut since the league’s reigning MVP left the
lineup. Pittsburgh (26-8-0) has allowed nine goals total in those
nine victories, the latest a 1-0 win over Montreal on Tuesday as
Sidney Crosby’s tally was the difference.
“I think everyone has bought into what we’re doing here,”
defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “Even our high-profile production
guys like Sid. They’re putting team goals way ahead of individual
goals. We all realized what our ultimate goal here is.”
If that goal wasn’t already spelled out with the Penguins
reeling off the NHL’s longest winning streak since New Jersey’s
13-game run in 2001, it’s become crystal clear with the moves of
the past five days. General manager Ray Shero kicked off his
shopping spree Sunday by acquiring Stars captain Brenden Morrow,
grabbed hulking defenseman Douglas Murray from San Jose on Monday,
then landed the biggest fish of all early Thursday morning by
getting Iginla from Calgary.
“We’re all in. We want to win,” Shero told the team’s official
website after the deal was made. “The team on paper doesn’t mean
too much. We have to do it on the ice.”
Hours earlier, the 525-goal scorer was reported to have been
dealt to Boston, but instead he’s heading to Pittsburgh – a
destination he apparently preferred when general manager Jay
Feaster presented him with three options.
It’s highly unlikely Iginla will be on the ice Thursday, meaning
Saturday’s visit from the Islanders is his likely Penguins
Morrow debuted Tuesday on the Penguins’ second line with Dustin
Jeffrey and James Neal, but could have a new center as soon as
Malkin is back. When that will be isn’t completely clear, though
Malkin has been working out for over a week and was considered a
possibility to play Tuesday until shortly before faceoff.
Defenseman Kris Letang won’t be back for seven to 10 days after
breaking his toe against the Canadiens in what was his first game
back after a three-game absence. But Murray should don a Penguins
sweater for the first time against the Southeast Division-leading
Crosby is hoping he’ll fit right in with a unit that’s been
lights-out since a six-game stretch from Feb. 26-March 9 in which
it gave up 27 goals.
“There are times we haven’t played our best, but our focus has
been strong defensively,” said Crosby, who leads the NHL with 54
In the process, the Penguins have become comfortable playing the
kind of tight-checking, playoff-style hockey that portends a very
promising spring. The Canadiens outshot Pittsburgh 37-25 on Tuesday
night and spent long stretches in the offensive zone.
Yet Marc-Andre Fleury was spectacular while stopping 22 shots
and Tomas Vokoun proved every bit Fleury’s equal when forced into
spot duty in the third period after Fleury left with an undisclosed
injury. Fleury was being evaluated Wednesday and his status for
Thursday is uncertain, though coach Dan Bylsma said Vokoun will
Though Pittsburgh insists it’s not focused on making a run at
the NHL-record 17-game winning streak put together by the 1992-93
Penguins, with some very winnable games on the horizon, it looks
like it has a chance.
“We’re all aware of where we’re at,” Orpik said. “We aren’t
trying to put anything to it, to be honest. We’re just trying to
play the right way.”
The Jets handed Pittsburgh one of its eight losses with a 4-2
home win Jan. 25 before the Penguins came away with a 3-1 victory
in another matchup in Winnipeg on Feb. 15.
Winnipeg, though, is 0-9-2 in its last 11 visits to Pittsburgh,
and the Penguins have scored eight, eight and six goals in the last
three meetings on their own ice.
The Jets come to town looking for a third straight win after
posting a 4-1 victory at Carolina on Tuesday to open a stretch of
five of six games on the road, where they’re 10-6-2.
“I’d like to be able to say we can build on it and go. We’ll
see,” coach Claude Noel said. “We’re going into Pittsburgh. They’re
a formidable opponent. … We’ve still got to get points. We’ve got
to win games.
“We’ve got a tough opponent coming Thursday so we’ll try to deal