Although the Pittsburgh Penguins are stuck in an offensive slump, the schedule is in their favor this weekend as they host Nashville on Friday, then pay a visit to New Jersey 24 hours later.
The Predators (8-8-2, 18 points) have strayed from their usual stingy ways early this season, allowing more than three goals per game. Since their offense is once again less-than-impressive at 25th in the league, tonight’s visitors to Consol Energy Center could be just what the Penguins need to snap their three-game losing streak.
Yes, that also seemed to be the setup for Wednesday’s game against the struggling Flyers, but the lack of history between the Pens and Preds could function as a positive. Without rivalry emotion to deal with, perhaps Pittsburgh can focus solely on self-improvement after the 7 p.m. faceoff. The Predators have also dropped three straight, so they figure to be businesslike as well.
Saturday in New Jersey could be a different story. Although the Devils (6-7-5, 17 points) are just as goal-starved as the Predators, averaging 2.11 red lights per outing, they’re in the NHL’s top 10 when it comes to goals allowed. New Jersey may have started the season with seven straight losses, but the Penguins’ longtime division foe has won six of its last 11 to return to respectability.
Pittsburgh (11-7-0, 22 points) has gone in the opposite direction lately, dropping six of 10 in regulation time while netting exactly two goals per game during that span. Nevertheless, the Penguins should get greedy this weekend against inferior opponents, because their schedule stiffens early next week with first-in-the-Pacific Anaheim and improving Washington.
In news from today’s morning skate, coach Dan Bylsma confirmed goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will get his 16th start in 19 games against Nashville, and defenseman Paul Martin is expected to be in the lineup. Martin has missed the last two games due to a lower-body injury.