Penguins Looking to Close Regular Season on High Note

Pens trying to clinch first round home ice advantage

Josh Rowntree
April 03, 2018 - 4:13 pm
Evgeni Malkin

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - The Penguins will be able to take a shot at defending their Stanley Cup titles when the playoffs begin next week. But before that, a pair of potentially critical games awaits a Pittsburgh team with some questions heading into the franchise’s 12th straight postseason.

Coming off a 3-1 home loss Sunday to Washington, the Penguins will look to rebound in a matchup at Columbus Thursday. The meeting could very well decide which team hosts a first round playoff series just days later. The following night Pittsburgh hosts Ottawa in the regular season finale.

Having three days off, Pens coach Mike Sullivan is gearing his team up with spirited practices.

“As a coaching staff, we’re always trying to find that balance of giving our team an opportunity to recover and rest and at the same time trying to continue to work on things to get better and refine our game,” he said.  

With such an accomplished group that has had postseason success without winning the division, it would be easy to overlook the importance of finishing strong.

“I don’t think I look that far ahead,” Sidney Crosby said. “I know that doesn’t really serve you that well to do that. I think you’re just preparing for the first series and sometimes the first one is just as intense, if not more, as the other ones.”

Even after what could have been viewed as a demoralizing loss to the Capitals, the vibe in the locker room was more of anger and quiet confidence that a series would produce different results.

“We know what kind of guys we have in here,” Patric Hornqvist said. “We believe in ourselves and we want to go for our big goal and that’s winning the Cup. Now we’re one step closer, but still, there’s a long way to go.”

“I will always believe (in) my team, I always believe (in) this group,” Evgeni Malkin added. “I see these guys every day and we (are) still hungry. We talked a lot about this year, like, everyone's like 'what's going on with this team?' We lost a couple of good players, but we (are) still great.”

After Tuesday practice the Pens Award recipients were announcing including MVP: Malkin and Player’s Player: Crosby.