Let me quickly sum up the injury news, then hit some other notes.
Marc-Andre Fleury practiced and looked fine. He said he had no setbacks and his recovery was moving in the right direction. It’s entirely possible he could play tomorrow night. He also said he felt rusty and his timing was off, and he still has to be cleared by doctors to play, so this one is very much up in the air.
Olli Maatta looked good to go, skating with the top four defensemen. Beau Bennett rotated in with the fourth line but didn’t sound as optimistic as Maatta when talking about playing. Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust are skating but not practicing with the team.
Coach Mike Sullivan on the impact of the injury situation:
“We’re not going to change how we play if we make a lineup decision. This team has established an identity for itself and has played to their strengths for a long time and I think there’s a belief in the room that if we play a certain way, we give our team the best chance to win. And we’re a competitive hockey team. Regardless of who we move in and out of the lineup, that will never change.”
Some other notes:
— Bovada.lv released playoff series odds today:
Washington -290 Philadelphia
Dallas -225 Minnesota
Anaheim -180 Nashville
Penguins -150 Rangers
Tampa Bay -150 Detroit
Florida -145 Islanders
Los Angeles -145 San Jose
Who do you think the most live underdogs are? I’d say Philly and the Islanders.
They also released Conn Smythe odds:
Braden Holtby 17-2
Patrick Kane 15-1
Jonathan Quick 15-1
Sidney Crosby 16-1
Alex Ovechkin 18-1
— One of the big decisions Alain Vigneault will have to make is which of his sometimes-criticized defensemen to play against the Crosby line. I looked back at the four regular season meetings between the teams and came to a conclusion: I’m not sure Vigneault has many good options. Crosby pretty much worked whatever D pair the Rangers threw out against him this season.
Take the March 13 meeting, for instance. At 5-on-5, the most common pair out against Crosby was McDonagh-Girardi. Crosby was plus-7 Corsi against McDonagh and plus-6 against Girardi.
Kevin Klein had one good matchup with Crosby, putting up a plus-5 Corsi against him in about seven minutes of ice time March 3. Maybe go with him. And good luck.
— Finally, I don’t know if you get tired of these look-how-far-the-Penguins-have-come stats, but I was thinking of one today.
I remember being in Chicago on Jan. 6 when the Blackhawks beat the Penguins 3-1 in a game nowhere near that close. They outshot the Penguins 37-18. A blowout, essentially. I remember thinking the Penguins were getting better under Mike Sullivan, but they were still light years behind the Blackhawks in every way imaginable.
Chicago was 25-13-4 for 54 points with a plus-17 goal differential. The Penguins were 19-15-6 for 44 points with a minus-5 differential.
Bye for now,