Here’s the basics on tonight’s Penguins lineup at Madison Square Garden.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin won’t play.
Crosby is getting the night off to rest, finishing the season with 44 goals. He’ll win the Rocket Richard for the second time in his career (unless Nikita Kucherov scores four or Vladimir Tarasenkov scores six).
Coach Mike Sullivan said everything remains encouraging with Malkin’s recovery from a shoulder injury and the team continues to take a cautious approach.
Olli Maatta will play for the first time since Feb. 16 after hand surgery. Sullivan said it’s a chance for Maatta to get his timing back. Sullivan also said this game isn’t an audition for a playoff job for Maatta. The decision about which defenseman to scratch will be based on more than this one performance.
Otherwise, expect a strong Wilkes-Barre/Scranton presence.
You’re looking at a lineup that includes Tristan Jarry, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Dominik Simon, Kevin Porter, Oskar Sundqvist. Tom Sestito, Derrick Pouliot and more.
The most significant among those are Jarry and Dea, who will be making their NHL debuts.
Here’s a thumbnail on Jarry.
The Penguins traded up to take him in the second round of the 2013 draft. The following season, his prospect stock soared when he led the Edmonton Oil Kings to a Memorial Cup championship, making key saves in tough spots all throughout the postseason.
Last year was his first pro season. He started out great, then fizzled late and lost his starting spot to undrafted fellow rookie Casey DeSmith in the playoffs.
This year, no second-half fizzle. Jarry is 28-15-1 and is fifth in the AHL in both GAA (2.15) and .925 save percentage.
NHL teams are often a little squeamish about handing the back-up job to a goalie in his early 20s, but I’d say there’s a better than 50-50 chance Jarry and Matt Murray make up the Penguins’ goalie tandem next season.
As far as playing style, he’s 6-2, so he’s not exactly like Murray, but there are similarities. He reads the play and doesn’t usually rely on crazy feats of athleticism. He’s got a very calm demeanor, so calm, in fact, that coaches and scouts sometimes would like to see him get more fired up.
Here’s a thumbail on Dea.
Undrafted and undersized (listed at 5-11, 175) Dea parlayed a strong rookie camp showing into an NHL contract in 2014.
He’s a crafty offensive centerman who has been working the past three seasons on improving his overall game. His stats this season aren’t eye-popping or anything – 17 goals, 32 points in 70 games – but with one important caveat: Only one of those goals and two of those assists were on the power play. For a while, the knock on Dea was that he could only produce on the power play. Eliminating that knock will help his NHL prospects tremendously.
This game, by the way, if I haven’t mentioned it already, is essentially a meaningless exhibition game.
Last night in Toronto was sort of like an exhibition game for the Penguins, but not entirely. I mean, there were all sorts of playoff ramifications.
The result was:
— Very good for the Leafs, who clinched a playoff spot and inched closer to third place in the Atlantic, which comes with a first-round matchup against Ottawa.
— Very bad for the Bruins, who now look to be slipping into a wild card and a first-round matchup with Washington rather than Ottawa.
— Pretty bad for the Capitals, who now have a much tougher road in the first round. The Backstrom-Ovechkin combination will have a hard time with Patrice Bergeron and the Bruins have some hard hitters.
— Pretty good for the Penguins. If they survive a first-round matchup with Columbus, they’ll probably be facing a Capitals team that had a much tougher time with Boston than it would have with Ottawa.
Tonight, none of that. If you’re watching, keep an eye on a few young guys like Jarry and Dea and that’s about it.
More after the game,