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Pens Points: Crucial Games Ahead

Penguins open crucial home-and-home set against the Blue Jackets tonight at PPG Paints Arena. Start your game day right with the latest team news in today’s Pens Points.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday night’s win can hopefully serve as a springboard for the Penguins as they stare down a crucial home-and-home series with division rival the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at PPG Paints Arena. A good result from the pair of games will be vital as both sides are locked in a tight playoff race at the moment.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM and will be broadcast on AT&T Sports Network.

Start preparing for tonight’s contest with a new Pens Points...

Matt Cullen became just the 20th player in NHL history to hit the 1,500 games played mark on Tuesday night against the Panthers. Putting that amount of games into perspective only adds to the significance of Cullen’s achievement. [Pensburgh]

If the Penguins are to make the playoffs this season, it will be on the back of their captain Sidney Crosby, just as it has been so many times before. With his team sitting right on the playoff bubble, Crosby has once again elevated his play to another level just when he needs to most. [Penguins]

Crosby’s recent tear has vaulted him to fourth in the NHL scoring race and directly into the thick of the MVP race. While Crosby racking up the individual numbers, his focus is solely on the playoff chase. [NHL]

Patric Hornqvist left Tuesday night’s contest for a bit after blocking a shot but he did return later on. Hornqvist did not practice on Wednesday but the team said it was just for a maintenance day. Kris Letang was a participant in practice but wearing a non-contact jersey. [KDKA]

Entering this crucial home-and-home set with the Blue Jackets beginning tonight, the Penguins have found their fair share of success against their division rivals already this season. Having that continue through Saturday will go a long way in boosting their playoff prospects. [Trib Live]

Since the turn of the new year, the Penguins penalty kill has been downright bad, allowing at least one power play goal in 14 of their last 20 games. Recent success against the Canadiens and Panthers is giving the unit hope that the tide is starting to turn in their favor. [Trib Live]

With his two goals on Tuesday night, Jake Guentzel is on pace to score 40 this season for the first time in his young career. Playing alongside Sidney Crosby certainly helps Guentzel’s goal scoring numbers but he also possesses an “it” factor that sets him apart from the average winger. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

No goals against the Panthers means Phil Kessel saw his goalless streak hit 16 games, but the chances are definitely there. Even as he continues to struggle, Penguins fans are throwing their support behind Kessel and that caught the eye of Sidney Crosby on Tuesday night. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Dwan Street is a lifelong Pittsburgh Penguins fan and recently she was in a pretty terrible car accident on the way to her hockey game in Canada. After hearing about her accident, the Penguins reached out to offer their support and replace her hockey equipment lost in the crash. [CBC]

News and notes from around the NHL...

To anyone hoping the NHL will change its much maligned playoff format then we have some bad news for you. Word coming from the recent NHL meetings in Florida says league officials are happy with the format currently in place and do not expect any changes in the near future. [TSN]

If the NHL wants to grow the game then it must face the reality of racism in hockey head on. Here is where NHL executive Kim Davis and she is steadfast in her belief that the league is committed to making the game more accessible for minority fans and players. [The Undefeated]