Pittsburgh Penguins Gameday 37: Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Wild (20-11-5) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (25-10-1)
Root Sports, NHLN-US, FS-N- 7:00 pm/et 
Consol Energy Center – Pittsburgh, PA

Matt Cooke returns to Pittsburgh as the Wild face the injured and tired Penguins.

The good news is that James Neal will be back in the line-up tonight. We assume that, at some point in the game, Neal and Cooke will engage in a headshot contest for the ages.

Sorry, we're still a little sad that this post from back in July 2012 still sits unposted on our site:


Leading Scorers:

Penguins: Sidney Crosby (19G, 30A: 49P)
Wild: Zach Parise (15G, 12A: 27P)

Starting Goaltenders:

Penguins: Jeff Zatkoff – Probably (5-2-0, 3.53 GAA, .911 Sv%)
Wild: Niklas Backstrom (2-5-2, 2.93 GAA, .900 Sv%)

Last Games:

Penguins: Defeated New York Rangers 4-3 [SO].
Wild: Defeated Vancouver Canucks 3-2 [SO].

Previews from Team Websites:  [Penguins] [Wild]

Opposition Blog: [The State of Hockey News]
What They're Saying: "Game #36"

Well my friends, one of my least favorite games of the entire season is upon us. And the fact that if comes so near the Christmas and New Year's holidays makes it even that much more annoying. The fact is, I hate the Pittsburgh Penguins. I hate everything about them, and no, this is not jealousy speaking. I have never liked them. Just because they have a bunch of stars on their team is absolutely no reason for me to fawn over them, like so many people seem to go out of their way to do.

First off, let's look at the respective 2013-14 records for the Wild and the Penguins. Minnesota is only six points behind Pittsburgh. That alone shows just how undominant the Pens are this season. Yet, all the national hockey media (on both sides of the border) will trip over themselves just to gush about Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh and their fans should be counting their lucky stars that the rest of the Metropolitan Division has forgotten to show up this season. In the Atlantic, Central and Pacific Divisions, it will most likely be a fight to the bitter end for division titles and playoff positioning. Not so for the Metropolitan. The Penguins are simply going to win their division by default this season, not by any show of dominance.

What Happened Last Time: October 18, 2011 – Pens won 4-2 [Our Recap]

Best thing about the NHL season are those games that get back at a team for previously caused pain. Case in point, last night: Minnesota has owned the Penguins over the years, going like 9-2. And, god, how they would suck the life out of the building in Pittsburgh. So last night the Penguins, the boring version of the Penguins, walked into Minnesota on the back end of a back-to-back and ruined everyone's night. Sweet justice. Pens got a big-time battle from Brent Johnson, and James Neal scored the game-winner, his league-leading sixth goal. Let's not forget the penalty kill, who have still not given up a 5-on-4 goal this year and are perfect in 27 road games so far this season.

Penguins Player(s) to Watch: Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta, because they might collapse on the ice from exhaustion.

Wild Player(s) to Watch: Matt Cooke, because you always kind of have to watch out for Matt Cooke.

Gif that Seems Appropriate for Today's Game: 

No gif. We wanted to repost these from the summer instead:

Pittsburgh Penguins lines from Daily Faceoff:

Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Harry Zolnierczyk – Jussi Jokinen – James Neal
Chris Conner – Brandon Sutter – Joe Vitale
Craig Adams – Zach Sill – Chuck Kobasew
Olli Maatta – Matt Niskanen
Brian Dumoulin – Robert Bortuzzo
Philip Samuelsson – Simon Despres
Jeff Zatkoff 

Minnesota Wild lines from Daily Faceoff:

Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Charlie Coyle
Nino Niederreiter – Erik Haula – Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke – Kyle Brodziak – Brett Bulmer
Torrey Mitchell – Zenon Konopka – Dany Heatley

Ryan Suter – Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella – Jared Spurgeon
Keith Ballard – Clayton Stoner

Niklas Backstrom

Dany Heatley is on their fourth line alongside Zenon Konopka. We wonder if there's a Zach Parise poster on Konopka's wall right now, or if his wall is just covered with the full text of "The Code" written in blood.