With the three-week NHL freeze going into effect this weekend as the NHL prepares to send scores of players to Sochi for the 2014 Olympic games, many teams and players, at least those not going, are beginning to think about how they’ll spend their three week mid-season vacation.
However, with three games in the next five days, the Pittsburgh Penguins must instead focus on staying hot down the stretch and preparing for three games in a condensed period of time and go into the Olympic break on a high note.
Vs. Ottawa, Monday, February 3rd.
The Penguins were humbled last time they faced the Senators, on the wrong end of a 5-0 drubbing a few days before Christmas. The Sens are 4-5 in their last nine games, and they have given up four or more goals in each one of those losses. One-time U.S. Olympic hopeful Craig Anderson has struggled to find his form again this season, something that Pittsburgh is likely to attack if he gets the start. It’s not often that the Pens get shutout and lose by five goals, so look for the big guns on the top two lines to come out firing.
At Buffalo, Wednesday, February 5th.
What else can you say about the Sabres that hasn’t already been said? The owner of the worst record in hockey will play host to the Penguins, one of the best teams in the entire league. The Penguins have owned the Sabres and Ryan Miller the last five seasons, and Sidney Crosby has a point streak against them that dates back to 2007. Still, Buffalo is a team that likes to play physical, so don’t be surprised to see it get chippy, especially if the games gets out of hand.
Vs. New York Rangers, Friday, February 7th.
Though Pittsburgh has had success against the Rangers in recent memory, I would think that this game will most likely be the closest of the three. Henrik Lundqvist is retiring to his former glory as one of the premier stoppers in the game, and winger Rick Nash has started scoring at a torrid pace, exactly what Team Canada was hoping for when they picked him.