Why's he got to go back to Atlanta so soon???
Jokes aside, a big question tonight is the starting netminder.
Ty Conklin should start, but we don’t know the team as well as Michel Therrien so we’ll defer to his knowledge.
Consider, though, tomorrow is February 1st, and the Penguins only play three games in the first 8 days of the month; hardly grueling by NHL standards. If we were calling the shots, we'd use Conklin thinking that he just had an all-star break and should still be the best option for the team to win. But, much like sending pitchers to the mound on short rest, it seems like NHL goalies playing in back-to-back nights in two different cities (neither one of them their home rink) do not generally fair very well.
So if it’s Dany Sabourin in net, perhaps it's understandable. But if he plays poorly and lets in 4 goals by the midpoint of the game again, there will be a lot more "what ifs".
The PG dug up a cool stat; you’d think a guy like Evgeni Malkin would feast against the Thrashers, since they’re not known for being very staunch defensively. They’ve conceded a league high 175 goals so far this season and their PK is 27th in the league at 79.3%. But Geno only has 1 career goal against them (in 6 games).
For the Penguins, getting some pucks on the net early, and perhaps striking a couple times quickly could deflate their opponents. This will also be Atlanta’s first game since the All-Star break so perhaps their legs won’t be under them for the early parts of the game.
Also, something to keep an eye on: consistency. As everyone and their mother’s blog has highlighted: while Sidney Crosby is hurt the supporting cast is going to have to be that much better to help Malkin get enough production. Last night it worked to a T; as Ryan Malone and Erik Christensen (two of the biggest poster boys for inconsistent production) both had multi-point games. Plus Jordan Staal scored a goal and Peter Sykora had one of his most impactful games of the year. Those four players (the most skilled in the lineup now other than #71) must keep it up and continue to get on the score-sheet to keep this train a’rollin.
The Devils and Flyers are idle tonight so a win would mean, for a night at least, the Pens would be in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division and the East's #2 seed. Not bad for a team going on 2 weeks of not having their best player.