There are just two days left of the 2011-2012 season for the Pens: tonight against the Rangers and Saturday versus the Flyers. While the Rangers have already clinched the division title, seeding for the Penguins and Flyers are still up for grabs.
The Pens are 3 points ahead of the Flyers (who lost to the Rangers in regulation on Tuesday night, whereas the Pens came up with a win in Boston), but New Jersey is still in the mix to rob the Flyers of their current 5 seed spot in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have 101 points, but the Devs are on their heels with 98.
The Pens play the Rangers tonight at home, but other games are taking place that are detrimental to other Eastern Conference teams. The next few days can mean the difference between a playoff birth or a day on the golf course, as well as what team the teams whom have already clinched a playoff birth will meet in the first round.
As it stands, the Rangers, Panthers, Bruins, Penguins, Flyers, Devils, and Senators are all guaranteed a playoff spot. The 8th spot is up for grabs by either the Capitals or Sabres. The games tonight that can determine the East seeding are:
Sabres vs Flyers
Rangers vs Pens
Panthers vs Capitals
Bruins vs Senators
Devils vs Red Wings
In order for the Pens to play the Devils rather than the Flyers in the first round, we need to win our next two games and the Flyers to lose their last games. The Caps and Sabres are tied in points (88), so their wins tonight are imperitive (but I’m rooting for the Sabres and I know most of you are as well).
Tonight, Marty Biron will be in net for the Rangers and Marc-Andre Fleury for the Pens. Matt Niskanen and Steve Sullivan, who were both injured during the game in Boston on Tuesday) will not be on the ice and surprisingly, neither will James Neal, who has a lower-body injury. According to Head Coach Dan Bylsma following morning skate, all three players are debateable for the game on Saturday, but should all be ready to go come next Wednesday when the playoffs begin. Dustin Jeffrey and Richard Park will play tonight. Brian Strait was recalled and will play for Niskanen.
Even bigger news is that Joe Vitale will be in the line-up tonight after taking a puck to the jaw courtesy of Zdeno Chara, who boasts a 108 mph slapshot. He actually caught him with a wrist shot, but that is probably equally as deadly. Today at practice Vitale said, “Luckily I have a pretty good-sized jaw. Lots of tissue there (laughs). But no, I’ll be alright…everything showed up fine. They said we’ll just sew you back up and that was pretty much it.”
Honestly, players don’t come any better than Joey V. Easily the hardest working guy on the ice for the Pens, gives 110%, plays all 60 minutes. He is consistent, has fantastic face-off percentages nightly (usually well over .500) and is one of the Pens best, hardest, and most clean hitters. He seems to hate wearing a helmet, though (and I may do some sort of contest around this for the first round of the playoffs).
Puck drops at 7:00. Let’s Go Pens!
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