The Penguins have been in one of their worst offensive slumps in recent memory lately, managing just three goals in three games, and all of which have come on the power play. Thankfully, they have the opportunity to right the ship tonight when they host the struggling Nashville Predators at Consol Energy Center.
The Preds are on the tail end of a seven game road trip that has seen them go that 2-3, give up 20 goals, and get shutout twice.
The Penguins recent fortunes have not been much better. They are 0-3 in their last three games, including losses to division rivals New York and Philadelphia. They have not scored an even-strength goal since Jussi Jokinen’s empty netter to close out the Blue Jackets back on November 2nd, and have been marred by injured to key defenseman Rob Scuderi and Paul Martin.
However with Martin slated to return tonight and recently injured wingers James Neal and Beau Bennett beginning to find their game since returning after several weeks on IR, many see tonight’s tilt as a golden opportunity for Pittsburgh to get back on track offensivly and end their three game skid.
This matchup is still relatively novel. Since coming into the league in 1998, the Predators and the Penguins have only met 17 times, with just six of those meetings coming within the last nine years. In fact, five members of the Penguins roster have never played against Nashville, all of which makes tonight’s game all the more intriguing.
Nashville plays a style that is, in most regards, a pretty stark contrast to the one Dan Bylsma prefers to use in Pittsburgh. A team that lacks any serious offensive firepower, the Preds make up for it with good goaltending and a tough, grinding defensive style led by rookie standout Seth Jones and perennial Norris-trophy contender Shea Weber, although their ability to prevent teams from scoring took a huge hit recently when it was announced that starting goaltender Pekka Rinne would miss several weeks with a Staph infection in his hip.
On the other side of things, Pittsburgh is experiencing similar problems, albeit with a radically different roster and style of play. So much has been made of the Penguins recent offensive woes, namely Evgeni Malkin and his 11 game goal drought. If the Penguins are to have any success in the upcoming weeks, Malkin has to get going, both by scoring goals and creating offense for his line mates James Neal and Jussi Jokinen.
Tonight’s game is really up in there air. It could go either way, and with so little history between these two teams, how the score shakes out is really anyones guess.