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Pens, Wings share little in common ahead of matchup

By
Bob Duff, The Sports Xchange
Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings both beat the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime in the past week. Other than that, these two teams share little in common.

The Penguins (43-27-6) are second in the Metropolitan Division and getting ready to go after their third straight Stanley Cup, something that hasn't been achieved since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980-83.

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The Red Wings (27-38-11), 4-2 losers to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, are out of the playoffs for the second straight season, the first time that's happened to the franchise since 1981-82 and 1982-83. The Wings are 1-12-1 in their last 14 games.

"We play hard, but it's just the same thing every night," Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard told detroitredwings.com. "It's like Groundhog Day for us right now."

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The Wings have dropped 24 one-goal games, tied for the NHL lead. They've lost 12 straight games when they score less than three times.

"I think overall we are playing good but we don't score enough goals," Detroit right winger Martin Frk assessed. "We are right there and they just score on us. It's usually like five, six minutes left in the game and now we have to come back. It's a little bit tough.

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"It would be different if we could score a couple of goals ahead and have a better feeling going into the third period, instead of going in all these tight games."

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On the flip side, the Wings are 1-3-1 in the last five games when they score three or more goals.

"Blame it on the bounces, but it's out of my mind how many times we've lost because of little things that we don't get on our side," Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said.

The Penguins are afflicted by no such maladies. They've gone 24-9-3 in 2018, after sitting at one game above .500 (19-18-3) on Jan. 1 following a 4-1 loss at Detroit on New Year's Eve.

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The Pens have scored five or more goals 16 times in 36 games. In 30 of the 36 games, the Pens have scored at least three times.

Not surprisingly, leading the way are captain Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby recently joined Joe Thornton and Henrik Sedin as the only active NHLers with 700 career assists. He reached the 25-goal mark for the 10th time in his NHL career, and the 80-point plateau for the ninth time. In Penguins history, only Mario Lemieux has tallied 80 points more often (11 times). Lemieux (12 times) and Jaromir Jagr (11 times) are the only Pens to score 25 goals more often.

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Malkin scored his 42nd goal of the season, three off the NHL lead, in Sunday's win over the Flyers. He now has at least one point in nine of 12 games, and multiple points six times in 12 games. Malkin leads all NHLers in both goals (28) and points (56) during 2018 and has picked up at least one point in 27 of 36 games and at least two points in 19 of 36 contests.

"These are some of the best players of their generation," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told nhl.com. "There are nights where I drive home after games and replay the game in my mind, and I marvel at some of the things that these guys do."

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