NHL Network Showcase: 3 Storylines for Penguins vs. Bruins

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The Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins face off for the sixth time this season Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, NESN, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV) in the “NHL Network Showcase presented by SAP.” 

The Penguins (24-11-2) are tied with the New York Islanders for second place in the eight-team MassMutual East Division, two points behind the Washington Capitals. They are nine points ahead of the fourth-place Bruins (18-10-5). Pittsburgh has won five in a row, has points in seven consecutive games (6-0-1) and were 12-3-1 in March, tied with the Colorado Avalanche (12-2-3) and Vegas Golden Knights (12-5-0) for the most wins during the month.

The Bruins have four games in hand on the Penguins and hold a three-point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers for fourth. The top four teams in the division qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here are 3 storylines to keep an eye on: 

 

Life without Malkin

The Penguins are 6-1-1 since Evgeni Malkin sustained a lower-body injury March 16 that has the center week to week. Captain Sidney Crosby has scored 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in the eight games and 184 points (64 goals, 120 assists) in 150 games playing without Malkin. His 60 points (15 goals, 45 assists) in 47 games lead active NHL players against the Bruins.

 

Supporting cast

Pittsburgh is generating offense with four of its 12 regular forwards (Malkin, Kasperi Kapanen, Teddy Blueger, Brandon Tanev) out because of injuries or NHL COVID-19 protocol. Jason Zucker (lower body, missed 18 games) and Mark Jankowski (protocol) each returned Monday.

Jake Guentzel has scored nine points (four goals, five assists) and Bryan Rust has scored eight (five goals, three assists) with Malkin out. Jared McCann has scored six points (three goals, three assists) in five games playing second-line center in Malkin’s place.

 

Heavy lifting

Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak form the top line for the Bruins. “The Perfection Line” has combined to score 92 points (38 goals, 54 assists). The 17 other forwards to play for Boston this season scored 85 points (37 goals, 48 assists) in 31 games before David Krejci and Craig Smith each had three assists and Nick Ritchie scored one goal in a 5-4 shootout win against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, when Marchand had one goal and one assist in his return from protocol.

The Bruins have scored 52 goals at 5-on-5, 30th in the NHL ahead of the Buffalo Sabres (49). The power play is 11th (22.8 percent) after going 8-for-43 (18.6 percent) in March. Boston averaged 3.00 goals per game before defenseman Brandon Carlo sustained an upper-body injury March 5 and 1.80 in the 10 games Carlo missed, better than only Buffalo (1.77) in that stretch. 

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