Everything is locked up for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators have yet to clinch a playoff spot. Though it’s likely that they will and the biggest thing to decide for them is their seeding. There is a good possibility they could be the Pens’ first round opponent.
The lineup for the Penguins is going to be far from normal. The regular four injured players that haven’t played the past few games will likely all be out again. Kris Letang could join that group as well after it was announced early on Sunday that he was ill. Might as well sit him. Why not? What is there to lose. If I’m Dan Bylsma, I start having some fun with the lineup. Let Steve MacIntyre center the first line. Pull a Michel Therrien and let Brooks Orpik play wing. Dig Zach Boychuk out of whatever hole he was buried in and let him goaltend.
That’s not to say that the game won’t still have storylines. Matt Cooke will once again play the role of the villain. The Sens will certainly be going after Cooke since he is responsible for injuring the defending Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson.
Guys like Matt Kassian and Chris Neil will be licking their chops to get a piece of Cooke. It’s just a question of how much it matters to them. Cooke could easily answer the bell and fight one of these guys early in the game and have it end there. But why do that? The Senators are the team with something to lose in this game. Make them concern themselves with Cooke instead of actually playing hockey. Take their attention away from completing the more important task. Their fans won’t mind if they lose as long as they get a piece of big, bad Matt Cooke. Trust me, they’ve gone a tad overboard.
Even with the Penguins likely resting a lot of their injured players and possibly playing a relatively safe style of hockey, winning would still be fun. They are currently on yet another winning streak. This one is at six games at the moment. Beating Ottawa would also give the Pens the season sweep against the Sens which is something they just recently completed against fellow Northeast Division teams Boston and Montreal.