The Pens are on the middle leg of their last regular season road trip, a three-game swing through the Mountain time zone, with a stop in Minnesota tonight. Yesterday was a fun day for the guys as they got to take a break from hockey and play some lacrosse.
Tonight though they are set to face the Wild team that is still comfortably penciled in to the first wild-card slot in the West, where they will most likely end up in the end of the regular season. That said, the Wild haven't been that hot at home of late, going 1-2-3 at home over their last 6 games. The Pens are 4-1-1 on the road over their last 6 games.
Following the recall of Andrew Ebbett, who was on a bit of a scoring tear in WB/S, we got the news that Jussi Jokinen will miss tonight's game with an upper body injury that's not expected to be serious. Joe Vitale has returned to Pittsburgh to have his injury further evaluated.
Probable Minnesota lineup: F Parise-Koivu-Coyle / Moulson-Haula-Pominville / Cooke-Brodziak-Fontaine / Veilleux-McCormick-Niederreiter. D Suter-Spurgeon / Brodin-Prosser / Scandella-Blum. Our old buddy and hockey's favorite philosopher Ilya Bryzgalov will be in net.
The Wild didn't do line rushes at their morning skate, so we'll only know the actual lines tonight, but Heatley is expected to sit tonight. At the morning skate Parise appeared to be no worse for the wear following a worrisome hit to the head against Chicago. Bryzgalov is 4-0-3 so far with Minnesota with a 2.11 GAA.
Possible Pittsburgh lineup: F Kunitz-Crosby-Stempniak / Bennett-Sutter-Neal / Pyatt-Ebbett-Gibbons / Glass-Megna-Adams. D Orpik-Martin / Niskanen-Maatta / Despres-Scuderi. Jeff Zatkoff, 12-3-1 over the last 16 games, will start in net.
The Pens didn't do line rushes either at the morning skate, so the lineup above is how I would put it together. Let's hear in the comments what your suggestions are and what you would do if you were Disco.
Zatkoff seems like the right choice to play tonight, leaving Fleury fresh to face Colorado tomorrow. He picked up a win against the Wild in December in Pittsburgh, making 24 saves on 26 shots in a 5-2 effort for the Pens.
Despite his unpopular signing, Matt Cooke has proved to be a great pickup for the Wild, and has contributed 10 goals and 16 assists. He also appeared to have put his stick on the goal credited to Haula against Chicago, although at this point it probably won't be changed.
This game also features the return home of Minnesota natives Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin. It should be a great game. Go Pens and go Badgers!