Pens Travel to Bean Town
The Pittsburgh Penguins will add a player who scored 100 points last season to their lineup on Thursday.
Soon enough, they should add Sidney Crosby, too.
The Penguins, tabbed by many as the big winners at the NHL trade deadline, will show off their new look Thursday when forward Marian Hossa makes his debut in a road game against the streaking Boston Bruins.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Boston -117 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 88% of bets for this game have been placed on Pittsburgh +107 (View NHL Bet Percentages).
Defenseman Hal Gill, a Boston-area native and former Bruin, will also play his first game in a Pittsburgh uniform after being acquired from Toronto at the deadline, but Hossa was Tuesday's big prize when the Penguins (36-21-7) completed a five-player deal with Atlanta.
Pascal Dupuis also came to Pittsburgh in the trade, and will likely play Thursday.
"It's a privilege for us to get help like that and we're going to be ready to play well and make a long run," Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "We're a good team, but we just got a lot better."
Hossa has 26 goals and 30 assists this season after scoring a career-high 100 points in 2006-07, tying for sixth in the NHL. He is expected to eventually play on a line with Crosby, who could return as soon as next week from an ankle sprain that has kept him out since Jan. 18.
"If I play with Sid, it's great, he's one of the best centermen in the league and would be a pleasure to play with, but I leave that up to the coach (Michel Therrien)," Hossa said.
The Penguins have been pretty good even without Crosby, going 10-4-4 since the 20-year-old superstar's injury, thanks partly to enormous contributions from Evgeni Malkin. The 21-year-old center has 13 goals and 19 assists in 18 games without Crosby, taking over the NHL points lead and moving within one of last season's total of 85 points he notched as a rookie.
His outstanding play is a major reason Pittsburgh could move alone atop the Eastern Conference standings with a victory Thursday.
Malkin had a goal and an assist on Tuesday as the Penguins beat the New York Islanders 4-2. Pittsburgh was outshot 23-6 in the first period and 52-21 for the game, but goalie Ty Conklin stopped all of the first-period shots as the Penguins took a 2-0 lead.
Conklin's 50 saves were a career high as he improved to 17-4-5 with a 2.19 goals-against average this season.
"I haven't seen a goalie steal a game like that this year," said Whitney, a Boston-area native who played three seasons at Boston University. "He is probably our MVP since Sid went out, he and Malkin. It's not something we want to make a habit of though."
The Penguins are 4-0-2 in their last six games, but they'll be contending with another hot team in the Bruins (33-23-6), who have won four straight and recently completed a 4-0-1 road trip.
They started a three-game homestand with a 4-0 win over Ottawa on Tuesday night as defenseman Zdeno Chara scored twice, David Krejci tallied his first NHL goal and Tim Thomas earned his second shutout of the season with 22 saves.
Thomas had been pulled from a 5-4 shootout win at Florida last week after allowing four goals on 12 shots in the first two periods, and didn't start the next game.
"It was nice for me to come back with a strong game," Thomas said. "Important for me, but important for the team to keep the streak rolling."
Unlike Pittsburgh, Boston will head down the stretch run without any additional help - aside from the possible return of injured forward Patrice Bergeron - as general manager Peter Chiarelli declined to make a move before the deadline. Chiarelli visited the team before the game to explain his rationale.
"He said he believed in this team," Krejci said. "He said we have good chemistry on the ice, and that's why he didn't make any trades."
The Bruins are tied for sixth in the East with two games in hand on the New York Rangers, who also have 72 points. The No. 6 seed could be a coveted one in the postseason, considering the first-round matchup would likely be against the Southeast Division winner.
Carolina leads that division with 71 points, eight fewer than fourth-place Pittsburgh.
The Bruins are 1-1-1 against the Penguins this season, including a 2-1 win in Pittsburgh on Feb. 13.
by: Staff Writers - Email Us
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