Penguins eager to maintain edge over Ottawa

Field Level Media

The Pittsburgh Penguins don't know what the Ottawa Senators might throw at them Monday when the teams meet at PPG Paints Arena.

And they don't much care.

At this point, three games from the midway point of the season, the Penguins have seen countless scenarios, encountered many versions of adversity, and they are still standing, above the playoff cutoff.

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"We've been in pretty much every situation you can think of this year," said top-line winger Bryan Rust.

Pittsburgh enters Monday having played just two periods with a full lineup, and many of the team's injuries have been of the long-term variety to key players. There have been poor starts, late comebacks and lots of momentum shifts in between.

Saturday, the Penguins blew two three-goal leads before Jake Guentzel scored with less than two minutes left in regulation and Rust added an empty-netter for a 6-4 win and home-and-home sweep against the Nashville Predators.

Or, for the Penguins this season, just another night at the office.

"The emotions of the game were so high and low," Guentzel said. "I think you're going to go through that during the stretch of the season. So just to come out on top, I think it's big for us. We're finding different ways to win."

Especially at home. Pittsburgh leads the NHL with 15 home wins and has at least a point in 13 of their past 14 at PPG Paints Arena (11-1-2).

Home has been good to the Penguins against Ottawa.

Pittsburgh has won seven straight and stands 9-0-1 in the past 11 games against the Senators at home, the latter stat line dating to Feb. 13, 2013.

Overall, Pittsburgh is 4-1-2 in the past seven meetings between the clubs regardless of venue.

Despite the variety of challenges this season, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan hopes his team will grow just a little more after Saturday's game.

"It's a great opportunity for us ... to take lessons out of this without getting hurt, without getting stung in the win-loss column," he said. "So we've got to make sure that we hold one another more accountable (for) continuing to play and stay focused on the details of our game. If we do that, I think we'll do a better job of controlling momentum."

While the Penguins called off their practice scheduled for Sunday, the Senators fell 4-3 in overtime to the New Jersey Devils in an early evening home game and then traveled to Pittsburgh for its back-to-back games.

Ottawa is 5-3-4 this month, has points in five straight games (2-0-3) and has gone beyond regulation in four of its past five games. The Senators have struggled on the road, going 5-13-3.

Like the Penguins, Ottawa is dealing with injuries. That includes veteran defensemen Ron Hainsey, Dylan DeMelo and Nikita Zaitsev.

With Craig Anderson starting Sunday and Anders Nilsson missing the past six games because of a concussion, it appears that Marcus Hogberg will start in goal Monday for Ottawa in what will be his sixth appearance this season.

"(Hogberg) has done a nice job, and he's certainly capable of playing in this league, so we're not going to rush anybody (back from a concussion)," Senators coach D.J. Smith said.

Pittsburgh seems likely to give goalie Tristan Jarry his seventh start in the past eight games.

--Field Level Media

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