Here's hoping the Pens can find a way to beat those damn Devils...but I doubt they will. Unfortunately, the regulation unbeaten streak ends tonight - the Devils have their number big time.
Unthinkable 6 weeks ago, Penguins go for Atlantic Division lead
By The Associated Press
Friday, February 16, 2007
The Pittsburgh Penguins could be getting closer to winning their first division title in nearly a decade.
The team hasn't come within striking distance of the top spot this late in the season since taking the championship in 1997-98.
But with Pittsburgh only seven points behind Atlantic Division leader New Jersey, a game in hand and four meetings with the Devils in coming weeks, the Penguins are playing games with division title implications.
"It's fun," said coach Michael Therrien. "We're kind of surprising a lot of people. Our goal still is to be able to make the playoffs, and that's our focus."
The Penguins are on a 12-0-2 run and have 69 points, tied at third in the conference. The Atlantic-leading Devils and Penguins meet Friday night in East Rutherford, N.J.
But the middle of the Eastern Conference is tightly bunched. The seven-point differential between New Jersey and Pittsburgh is the same as that between the Penguins and the 10th-place New York Islanders.
"(The division lead) is not something on our mind a whole lot," said league scoring leader Sidney Crosby. "It's so close, and that's something that would be nice, but from the fourth position to the eighth spot, there's not a lot of separation."
The Penguins did not move into the top eight until the eve of the All-Star break.
Pittsburgh had the worst record in the Eastern Conference last season. Since moving back to the Atlantic Division in 1998-99, the Penguins have never placed higher than third and finished in last place four consecutive seasons.
But the hot streak has the Penguins not only in the playoff race, but thinking about potential seeding.
"We can get home-ice advantage," said forward Erik Christensen. "With each win, we get more confident."
After averaging 62.5 points the previous four seasons, Pittsburgh is on a pace for 102 points. In the division race, however, the Devils have been one of the few teams winning at the same pace as the Penguins this year. The Devils are 18-4-4 in their last 26.
"We aren't that far from where we were before we went on this streak," said forward Ryan Malone. "It's been a big part of the year so far, but we've still got a lot of games left, and we still realize that (Friday) night is a big test for us to see where we're at right now."