December 5 – Day 54 – If there are emperor Penguins, are there any from the legislative branch?

Time to start another week the only way we know how: with more hockey. There’s four contests occurring this evening, all at 7 p.m. eastern: Florida at Boston (NHLN/SN/TVAS), Ottawa at Pittsburgh (RDS2), Buffalo at Washington and Arizona at Columbus.

The Steel City looks to be hosting the best game of the evening, so we’re off to PPG Paints Arena!

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Ottawa comes to town sporting a 15-8-2 record, good enough for second place in the Atlantic Division. The reason they’ve been able to find such success is due totally to their goaltending that has allowed only 59 goals, tying for eighth-fewest in the NHL.

Craig Anderson has made 18 starts this season, and looks to be in line for another tonight after spending time with his wife during her cancer treatment. Even with something that could be a distraction (don’t get me wrong, life comes before sports), he’s still had a successful season so far, earning a 12-5-1 record with a .93 save percentage and 2.2 GAA – the sixth (tied) and 14th-best efforts among the 42 netminders with nine or more appearances.

That effort has been necessary for most of the season, but the Senators‘ defense has been improving. Last time we featured Ottawa, they were allowing the ninth-most shots-against average, but they now rank only 13th-worst, allowing 30.8 shots-against-per-game. As usual, that defensive effort has been led by Captain Erik Karlsson, who’s 73 blocks is tops in the Canadian capital.

The Senators‘ defense has continued its strong play even when disadvantaged. Ottawa ranks ninth-best in the NHL on the penalty kill, refusing to yield a goal 84.6% of the time. This is where Dion Phaneuf has taken command, as his 15 shorthanded blocks lead the club.

Unfortunately for Ottawa, the other special team has been nowhere near as competitive. Successful on only 12.6% of opportunities, the Senators‘ power play is third-worst in the league. Don’t tell Mike Hoffman though – his eight power play points are the most on the squad, as are his four man-advantage goals.

Winners of their last two games, the Penguins enter tonight’s game with a 15-7-3 record, good enough for second-place in the Metropolitan Division. They’ve earned that success by scoring 78 goals, the fourth-most in the NHL.

It’s finally happened. Even though he gave Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin a six-game head-start, Captain Sidney Crosby has taken the points lead in Pittsburgh, with 26 to his credit. 16 of those have been goals, which is seven more Malkin’s nine, the second-best goal-scorer on the squad.

Where the Pens still need to improve is on their penalty kill. Even though Ian Cole has 11 shorthanded blocks, to his credit, Pittsburgh ranks fifth-worst in the league at neutralizing their infractions, stopping only 78.4% of opponents’ power plays.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Ottawa‘s Anderson (three shutouts [tied for second-most in the NHL] among 12 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league] on a .93 save percentage [tied for eighth-best in the NHL]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (16 goals [tied for league-lead] among 26 points [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]), Kessel (16 assists [tied for seventh-most in the league] among 24 points [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]), Malkin (16 assists [tied for seventh-most in the league] among 25 points [eighth-most in the NHL]) and Matthew Murray (2.02 GAA [sixth-best in the league]).

Pittsburgh is heavily favored to win tonight’s game, indicated by the -225 next to their name. Although Anderson is having his best season in Ottawa since his 2012-’13 campaign, the Penguins simply have too many weapons to overload him and his defense. Pittsburgh should win.

Hockey Birthday

  • Kevin Haller (1970-) – This defenseman was the 14th-overall selection in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo, but he played for six teams and seven franchises (he mad the trip from Hartford to Greensboro). His favorite days were probably spent in Montréal, where he hoisted the 1993 Stanley Cup.
  • Olli Jokinen (1978-) – This center was the third-overall selection in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent far more of his time in Florida than with Los Angeles, the team that drafted him. Somehow, even though he played 17 seasons, he’s only made one playoff appearance.
  • Niklas Hagman (1979-) – Another Fin, this left wing was a Florida selection in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. He played 770 games over his 10-season career and notched 301 points.

In our fifth game in the last nine days to require extra time, Detroit beat the Islanders 4-3 in overtime in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Anders Lee (Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas) didn’t wait too long to get the home Isles on the board, burying a wrist shot only 5:16 into the game. The Wings drew even again 7:37 later when First Star of the Game Mike Green (Frans Nielsen) scored a scary slap shot from outside the face-off left circle. The 1-1 tie held into the first intermission.

The Red Wings notched the lone tally of the second period with 5:20 remaining in the frame. Green (Thomas Vanek) takes credit again, but this time with a wrister to give Detroit a one-goal edge.

The Islanders tried their hardest to score quickly each period, and they were successful two-of-three times. Third Star Johnny Boychuk scored only 1:52 after returning from the second intermission to once again level the game. With 6:54 remaining in regulation, Henrik Zetterberg (Jonathan Ericsson and Tomas Tatar) scored a tip-in goal, but that lead lasted only 2:33 before Josh Bailey (John Tavares and Dennis Seidenberg) leveled the score once more at three-all. This tie was unbroken in the remaining 4:21 of regulation and forced five minutes of three-on-three overtime.

Second Star Danny DeKeyser (Tatar and Zetterberg) needed only 1:02 of that extra period to bury a wrist shot, securing the bonus point for the visiting Red Wings.

Petr Mrazek earned the victory after saving 32-of-35 shots faced (91.4%), leaving the overtime loss to Jaroslav Halak, who saved 30-of-34 (88.2%).

Detroit‘s win pulls the road squads within two points of the homers in the DtFR Game of the Day series. It stands at 29-19-8.

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