Apr 9, 2014, 9:33 AM EST
NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Detroit Red Wings at CONSOL Energy Center at 8:00 p.m. ET followed by the Anaheim Ducks hosting the San Jose Sharks from the Honda Center at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
The Detroit Red Wings are one point away from clinching their 23rd consecutive playoff appearance and it’s only fitting the team they most recently saw in the Stanley Cup Final stands in their way.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference locked away and that means they’ll face the No. 1 wild card team. As of now, that makes tonight’s Rivalry Night showdown a playoff preview. If the Penguins are hoping to avoid the Red Wings in the first round, they’ll come out firing hoping to take advantage of a Wings team that played last night (a 4-2 win against Buffalo).
The Penguins have been “resting” players lately since they don’t have much to play for and getting anyone hurt ahead of the playoffs is bad news. Whether they break out the full deck against the Red Wings remains to be seen, but talk this morning from TSN’s Bob McKenzie surrounds the possible return of Kris Letang to the Penguins lineup.
If he does return from his stroke, it makes Pittsburgh that much more dangerous to deal with in the postseason and gives the Red Wings a better look at who they might be taking on in the first round. Of course, the Penguins will have to deal with a refreshed and healthy Pavel Datsyuk as well as Wings goal leader Gustav Nyquist.
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In Game 2 of tonight’s doubleheader, it’s a playoff-like situation with the Ducks hosting the Sharks.
If the Ducks knock off the Sharks, they’ll clinch the Pacific Division title and get to avoid having to deal with the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. If that’s not motivation enough for the Sharks to give Anaheim all they’ve got, they may have a problem.
Anaheim’s three point lead on San Jose with three games left to play puts the Sharks on the brink of having to deal with the Kings for the third time in the past four seasons. The Ducks come into the game on a bit more of a roll winning six of the past nine games. San Jose has won three of the past eight games.
The battle between the big centers in this game makes it worth checking out. Ryan Getzlaf is having a MVP-like season for the Ducks and Joe Thornton is as steady and excellent as he’s ever been. Toss in Logan Couture and Getzlaf could have his hands full.
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