PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins will be looking to snap a two-game losing skid when they host the San Jose Sharks Wednesday night.
On Sunday, the Penguins lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Chicago Blackhawks. They followed that loss with an inspired effort against the Washington Capitals on Monday. However, they were unable to solve Michal Neuvirth and lost 1-0.
Despite all the injuries to the forwards, the Penguins were playing without two mainstays on the backline this season on Monday.
Paul Martin was injured after being hit into the boards from behind on Sunday and did not dress for the Capitals game. Hours before the puck dropped Monday night, Alex Goligoski was traded to the Dallas Stars for James Neal and Matt Niskanen.
Both of the new acquisitions are expected to play in tonight’s game against San Jose.
The positive note is that the Penguins are still holding steady as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Washington is only three points behind, but there is a 17-point cushion between Pittsburgh and the ninth-seeded Buffalo Sabres.
Help appears to be on the way too. Chris Kunitz, Dustin Jeffrey and Mark Letestu have been getting good on-ice workouts in over the past several days and appear close to being able to return to the lineup.
There are no new updates on the status of Sidney Crosby, who is still suffering from a concussion.
The Sharks may not have had the start to the season they would have liked, but they have been red hot of late.
In their last 10 games, the team is 8-2 and have won four straight. Last night, San Jose marched into Joe Louis Arena and handed the Red Wings a 4-3 loss.
Goaltender Antti Niemi made 35 saves and Joe Thornton added a goal and two assists in the win.
Thornton is pacing the Sharks with 52 points (15 goals, 37 assists) this season. San Jose already boasts three 20-goal scorers with three others knocking on the door this season.
Leading the team is rookie center Logan Couture with 24 tallies.
In goal, it took some time for Niemi (21-15-3, 2.45 GAA, .919 save percentage, five shutouts) to assume the starting role, but he’s cemented his place over the last couple of months.
While unlikely, it’s possible that the Penguins will see an untested young goaltender tonight.
Carter Hutton was called up recently due to an injury to Antero Niittymaki. It’s not yet known if head coach Todd McClellan will roll the dice with Niemi on back-to-back nights.
Hutton has not appeared in an NHL game in his career and has a 5-3-2 record with a 2.97 GAA and .896 save percentage with the Worcester Sharks in the AHL.
Niemi has only faced the Penguins twice in his career and holds a 1-0-1 record with a 1.42 GAA and .949 save percentage.
For Pittsburgh, Marc-Andre Fleury (27-15-3, 2.26 GAA, .922 save percentage, two shutouts) is expected to be back in net.
Fleury is 1-2 with a 2.89 GAA and a .918 save percentage against the Sharks in his career.
Newcomer Neal is familiar with the Sharks having played in the Western Conference for two-plus seasons with the Dallas Stars.
Neal has scored six goals and added four assists in 14 career games against the Sharks.
The puck is set to drop at 7:30 p.m. and the game is being televised on Versus and Fox Sports Pittsburgh.