The playoff teams in the Eastern Conference have been determined, but the seedings are still very much up in the air.
Because of that, a lot of eyes will be watching what happens when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Detroit Red Wings for a Saturday matinee.
Entering Friday’s action, the Penguins (44-23-11, 99 points) were two points ahead of the Washington Capitals for the third playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals have a late Friday game against the league’s worst team, the Arizona Coyotes.
Whichever team secures the third spot will play a division foe, either Carolina or the New York Rangers, in the first round instead of being a wild card and playing the league’s best team, the Florida Panthers.
The veteran Penguins are happy to have already clinched a playoff spot but would like to use the last four games of the regular season to earn the best matchup possible and go into postseason play with momentum.
The Penguins are coming off an impressive 4-0 home win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday.
“We feel good about our team,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We believe in the group we have and we believe in the depth we have at all positions. Regardless of what our lineup looks like on Game 1 (of the playoffs), we feel very good with the group we have.”
The next challenge for Pittsburgh is a Detroit squad that is out of the playoff picture and looking to play spoiler.
Detroit (30-38-10, 70 points) is coming off of a 5-2 loss at Florida on Thursday, but as the Red Wings showed on Tuesday in a 4-3 win at Tampa Bay, they can be a dangerous opponent. They are playing loose and a lot of young players are hungry to audition for roles next season.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said there is definite value for his team in performing well these last four games.
“I think you get a chance to measure yourselves and see what you are good enough at and what you’re not good enough at,” Blashill said. “I think that’s important both as a hockey team and as individuals. I think if each one of us takes it and looks at it is ‘OK, how can we be better?’ … then it’s always valuable. Nobody wants to lose. You always want to win. It’s way more fun when you win, but at the end of the day, you have to grow and get better.”
Detroit is playing without captain and leading scorer Dylan Larkin, who will miss the rest of the regular season after core muscle surgery earlier in the week.
This is Pittsburgh’s only visit to Detroit this season.
The Red Wings won the first meeting between the teams on Jan. 28 in a shootout, 3-2, before Pittsburgh answered with an 11-2 blowout of Detroit on March 27. Evgeni Malkin had a hat trick and eight other Penguins scored goals in that one.
–Field Level Media