PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild <a title="Packers Oren Burks Jersey" href="http://www.packersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-oren-burks-jersey">Packers Oren Burks Jersey</a> , who meet Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena, have been winning and stacking together points, but both still are in tight races for a playoff spot with the All-Star Game break imminent.
Pittsburgh (26-21-3) has won seven of its past 10 games, including a 3-1 win Tuesday against Carolina, but still is just hanging on to a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Minnesota (26-17-5) has a six-game point streak, including a 3-1 win Monday against Ottawa, but sits just outside the wild-card spots in the Western Conference.
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The Penguins have lately found a level of consistency that was missing much of the first half of the season.
“Our team is feeling better about itself in our consistency of play <a title="Cowboys Mike White Jersey" href="http://www.cowboysauthorizedshops.com/authentic-mike-white-jersey">Cowboys Mike White Jersey</a> ,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “That’s what we’re preaching to our guys, we’re not so much trying to get ahead of ourselves, looking at games down the road. We’re trying to just stay focused on that one game in front of us.
“We have to stay in the moment. That’s a really important aspect of the mindset of the group and where it needs to be moving forward.”
The game is the final one before the break for both clubs.
“We want to make sure we finish strong before a few days off,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who is headed to the All-Star Game.
Crosby has 16 points over the past eight games, but he has gone four games without a goal, leaving him still one shy of 400 for his career.
“I’m aware of it <a title="Kentavius Street Super Bowl LI Jersey" href="http://www.49erscheapshops.com/cheap-authentic-kentavius-street-jersey">Kentavius Street Super Bowl LI Jersey</a> , but I would say that it’s probably not something you think about during the game,” he said of the milestone. “But when you’re hanging around it, it seems to come up a lot more often so it’s better just to get it over with.”
Minnesota doesn’t have that big a milestone pending, but the Wild feels some pressure to get a win going into the break, and beyond.
“I think we want to just keep it rolling,” Wild left winger Marcus Foligno told the team’s website. “We know the urgency in the league is picking up. It doesn’t seem like anyone is really losing in our division, which is tough <a title="Barkevious Mingo Super Bowl LI Jersey" href="http://www.seahawkscheapshops.com/cheap-authentic-barkevious-mingo-jersey">Barkevious Mingo Super Bowl LI Jersey</a> , and we have to make sure we keep winning from here on out.”
Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau, who has a history of using descriptive language, did so again when it came to the tight playoff race.
“Who knows when it’s going to end?” Boudreau told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I liken it to if this was golf, this would be like a Saturday where it’s starting to be moving day and everybody is always gathered close together and then by Sunday the field spreads out a little bit. We want to be part of that field when it does spread out.”
The game marks the first return to PPG Paints Arena for Wild veteran winger Matt Cullen, who was part of Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup teams the past two seasons.
“There are certain guys that the coaching staff I can go to, to get feedback, honest feedback <a title="49ers Tarvarius Moore Jersey" href="http://www.49ersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-tarvarius-moore-jersey">49ers Tarvarius Moore Jersey</a> , on where our team is at, and Matt was one of those guys,” Sullivan said. “He’s just a terrific human.
“Certainly, we miss him. He was one of those glue guys that I think helped bring the team together in the locker room off the ice, and his play on the ice speaks for itself. He was one of those guys that in the last two years elevated his game to another level that helped us win championships.”
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