OTTAWA (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a lot more to play for tonight when they go on the road to take on the Ottawa Senators.
Pittsburgh sits only one point behind the New York Rangers for the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference lead, with a game in hand.
On Friday, the Rangers lost 4-1 to the surging Buffalo Sabres, which will give the Penguins a chance to overtake them in the standings.
This seemed improbable back on the morning of Feb. 21, when the Penguins were sitting in sixth place in the conference, 10 points behind the Rangers.
That night, the Penguins shut the Rangers down in a 2-0 win to spark the 13-0-1 stretch they are currently on.
New York will also be in action tonight when they go on the road to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Penguins can’t spend time looking up at the scoreboard tonight as they are taking on another playoff team in the Ottawa Senators.
Ottawa is currently in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and have lost three straight games, including an embarrassing 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Friday night.
During those three losses, the Senators have scored a total of three goals.
Jason Spezza leads the team in points with 76 (30 goals, 46 assists).
Defenseman Erik Karlsson is having a monster year and leads the team in assists with 53. His 72 points are good for second on the team.
In terms of goal scoring, Milan Michalek leads the way with 32 tallies this season.
In goal, Craig Anderson returned to the lineup Friday night and allowed three goals on 23 shots. Ben Bishop came on in relief and gave up two goals on nine shots.
According to several online reports, Bishop (3-2-2, 2.16 GAA, .918 save percentage) will get the start tonight against the Penguins. He has yet to see the Penguins in his young NHL career.
As for Pittsburgh, Evgeni Malkin continues to put up numbers at an alarming rate. In the five games since Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup, Malkin has seven goals and four assists.
Malkin has scored in each of those five games as well.
His 95 points (45 goals, 50 assists) are 10 better than Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux in the NHL scoring race.
Malkin also only trails Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos by five goals for the league lead. While unlikely that he’ll catch him, you can’t count Malkin out of anything at this point.
With four assists against the Predators on Thursday, James Neal has worked his way into the top five in the scoring race with 76 points. He is currently tied with Phil Kessel and Spezza for fourth. He is also tied for fourth in the league in goals with 35.
In his five games since returning to the lineup, Crosby hasn’t found the back of the net, but he does have seven assists and is a plus-8.
In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury (40-14-4, 2.24 GAA, .917 save percentage) became the first goaltender in the league to reach the 40-win mark on Thursday.
Against the Senators, he is 7-8-1 with a .3.57 GAA and a .892 save percentage).
The puck is set to drop at 7 p.m. and you can watch the game on Root Sports.
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