After what feels like another off-season has taken place since the last game, the Penguins are back in action tonight. Since Saturday night, a lot has changed. Only 1 team in the conference (Washington) has less points than the Penguins, though the good guys are tied for the lowest number of games players (23).
Funny with all the talk of scheduling (see below), tonight's opponent is the Western Conference Dallas Stars, lead by the resurgent and record setting Mike Modano.
The long break came at a good time for the Penguins to get a little health. Important checker Max Talbot got to rest his ankle which would have kept him out any games this week. Very important defenseman Sergei Gonchar's groin seems to be on the mend as he practiced a little yesterday. It remains to be seen if either will be in the lineup tonight. I suspect Gonchar will, as a veteran who eats up 26+ minutes a game he usually doesn't practice between games anyways. I think Therrien might like the current lineups and combos enough not to bump a guy like Tyler Kennedy out of the lineup to make room for Talbot....The team is on a 2 game winning streak, if you can remember that far!
But now, as they say business is about to pick up. After only playing 4 games in the past 12 nights (and none in the past 5); the Penguins are about to embark on 13 games in the next 24 nights leading up to the short Christmas break. This chunk of games will include 8 total road games (including a rare cross-country road trip for all 3 Western Canadian teams) and 4 divisional matchups (3 of those in unfriendly confines).
To look far ahead, the stretch after this (Dec 23rd to Feb 1) is much less taxing, just 15 games in 40 nights and only has one extended road trip (a 3 game stretch for both Florida teams who seem to haunt the Pens plus Atlanta). After THAT lull in the schedule things get hectic again with 14 games in 26 nights from Feb 2nd to Feb 26th.
Ok, I think that's all the schedule analysis you or I could handle for now.
So let's just settle on that this little mini-marathon is another chance for the Pens to make up ground in the chase for a playoff spot. I highlighted the 9 game streak of divisional opponents and the Penguins responded by going 2-6-1 and are in jeopardy now of losing the pack of teams in the middle of the conference. Hopefully at the Christmas break we can look back on this stretch of games and see better results.