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Wild, Penguins meet looking to prevent 3-game skids

Sportsnaut
Nov 15, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Jon Merrill (4) shoots the puck during the second period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The inability to get various aspects of the game clicking at the same time continue to plague both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Minnesota Wild.

Each club looks to avoid a third straight loss when they meet Thursday night in Saint Paul, Minn.

Pittsburgh opened the season on a 4-0-1 stretch, then endured an 0-6-1 rut before winning two in a row. The Penguins, though, have followed that mini-run of success with a 5-4 overtime loss at Montreal and Tuesday’s 5-2 home defeat to Toronto.

Through 16 games, Pittsburgh has scored 56 goals and allowed 57. It’s also just 2-for-22 on the power play over the last eight contests.

“I think we have moments in the game where we generate scoring chances, we’re playing on our toes, we’re dictating the terms out there,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “And then, there are lapses in the game where we break down — the breakdowns are egregious, and they’re hard to recover from.”

Meanwhile, Minnesota dropped its first three games of the season, then followed with a 5-1-1 stretch. Since that spurt, the Wild are 2-3-1 — and coming off consecutive losses to San Jose and Nashville. It’s been a six-game span in which Minnesota has allowed 11 goals, but only scored eight and been shut out twice.

“We’re not giving a lot to teams, obviously,” Minnesota coach Dean Evason said. “We haven’t given up a lot of goals against. We’re doing a lot of good things in a lot of areas in the game.

“It’s funny because you work on one thing, and it kind of gets corrected, and another pops up. But, that’s what the season is for. That’s what 82 games are for, and we’re going to continue to grind at it.”

Pittsburgh finds itself amid a 6-0-1 run against the Wild, who are off to a frustrating 2-4-1 start at home.

All that said, Minnesota star Kirill Kaprizov leads the team with 10 goals and 18 points. He recorded a goal in each of the Wild’s two meetings with Pittsburgh last season.

Teammate Mats Zuccarello has a goal with three assists during his current four-game point streak. However, he has two goals for his only points over a seven-game stretch versus Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, ex-Penguin star Marc-Andre Fleury has stopped 80 of 83 shots despite losing two of his last three starts for Minnesota. Since leaving Pittsburgh after the 2016-17 season, Fleury is 4-3-0 with a 3.06 goals-against average against his former club.

Despite Pittsburgh’s recent struggles, superstar Sidney Crosby has two goals with three assists in the last five games. He’s totaled 28 points in 20 career games versus Minnesota.

Teammate Jake Guentzel has gone two straight contests without a point after recording a goal in four consecutive. However, Guentzel has a goal in each of his last three against the Wild.

Pittsburgh’s Casey DeSmith, who made 28 saves Tuesday, has just two wins and a 2.86 GAA in seven starts this season. He’s 4-0-0 with a 2.22 GAA all-time versus Minnesota.

Meanwhile, the Penguins’ Tristan Jarry has a 4.77 GAA during his current 0-3-2 rut.

–Field Level Media