Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang are expected back in the lineup when the Penguins end a four-day Christmas break with a game against the Minnesota Wild at 8 p.m. Eastern tonight.
Crosby skated with Chris Kunitz on his left and David Perron on his right. That sounds like a reasonable combination, especially since Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel both scored twice last Monday against Columbus, so it makes sense to leave their lines alone (Sheary-Malkin-Hornqvist, Wilson-Bonino-Kessel).
It also makes sense if you look at the possession numbers. Here’s a look at Crosby’s Corsi For Percentage since the start of last season with the 13 forwards currently on the roster.
Settle down on the Scott Wilson there. He and Crosby played together for 21 seconds. You could make a case for Conor Sheary playing with Crosby. Those gaudy Corsi numbers came in about 23 minutes together. That’s at least a somewhat larger sample size.
But forget all that. Among the wingers that have routinely played with Crosby over the last season and a half, Kunitz and Perron produce the best possession stats.
— Coach Mike Sullivan said there are no injury concerns with Malkin and Sergei Plotnikov after they got banged up in the Columbus game on Monday. I wouldn’t bet my car payment that Malkin is 100 percent after the knee-on-knee hit from Boone Jenner, but he said he’s good to go tonight.
— I have seen some complaints on Twitter about Kevin Porter being in the lineup while Plotnikov looks to be the healthy scratch tonight. I think it’s a simple matter of penalty killing. With Pascal Dupuis out, the Penguins only have three bona fide PK guys in Bonino, Fehr and Cullen. I think Sullivan is much more comfortable with Porter in that fourth spot than he would be with Plotnikov or Wilson or one of his top-six forwards.
— Letang looks to be paired with Olli Maatta tonight. The Dumoulin-Lovejoy pair remains intact. Trevor Daley and Ian Cole are a new pair. The Penguins really want Cole to get it going. They want to see what they saw out of him at the end of last season. But with David Warsofsky having played reasonably well, Cole’s leash is not that long.
— Finally, the Penguins have a strange game day schedule today, flying into Minneapolis this morning, then having a morning skate at 12:30 Eastern time before the game.
This type of schedule only pops up when Dec. 26 falls on a Saturday. Normally, the 26th is one of the Christmas break days off mandated by the CBA.
Here’s the rule 16.5b, if you’re into such minutiae.
“December 24, Christmas Day, and December 26 shall be off-days for all purposes, including travel, and no Club may request a Player’s consent to practice on such days for any reason, provided, however, if December 26 falls on a Saturday and the League has scheduled NHL Games on such date, December 23 may be substituted as an off-day for all purposes, including travel, instead of December 26.”
More after the game,