Erik Karlsson of the Penguins faces both former teams in back-to-back games

An interesting feature on the Pittsburgh Penguins schedule has offered defenseman Erik Karlsson a walk down memory lane.

The Penguins played a road game in Ottawa on Tuesday night, falling into overtime, and on Thursday night, they welcome the San Jose Sharks to PPG Paints Arena.

For Karlsson, that means he is playing his two former clubs in doubleheaders.

Karlsson, drafted 15th overall by the Senators in 2008, played the first nine years of his NHL career there, winning the Norris Trophy twice (2012, 2015) before joining San Jose ahead of the 2018- 19.

By the time he was traded to Pittsburgh last summer in a blockbuster trade, Karlsson had added a third Norris Trophy to his mantle following his 101-point performance in 2022-23.

Karlsson has relished the chance to reconnect with old acquaintances, but after making his first trip to San Jose as an opposing player on Nov. 4, along with many games at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Center since leaving town six years ago, it dulls the excitement of the showdown. against previous teams.

“I’ve been to San Jose once already this year, so it took a little bit of that pressure off,” he said. “I’ve been in Ottawa to play against Ottawa for many years now. It’s definitely special because you have a lot of people around that you know and stuff like that. It’s just fun.”

Down but not out?

In the distance, the Penguins’ postseason hopes seem all but gone.

Inside, president of hockey operations Kyle Dubas choosing to trade star winger Jake Guentzel before the NHL trade deadline certainly suggested that belief.

And on top of that, the Penguins’ lackluster play of late, with the club holding a 1-5-1 record in March, lends some optimism that they’re destined for playoff hockey.

That said, for all the Penguins’ struggles this year and of late, several Eastern Conference foes also contending for the postseason have been largely unable to secure their position.

Entering Thursday, Detroit has lost six games in a row, while the Capitals and Devils have dropped one in a row. New Jersey is 3-7 in their last 10 games, compared to the Penguins’ mark of 3-6-1.

Inside PPG Paints Arena, “the track is getting shorter” is a phrase uttered semi-frequently by coach Mike Sullivan, illustrating a heightened sense of urgency his club must keep in mind as the regular season winds down.

The Penguins (28-27-9) entered Thursday’s game seven points out of the wild-card position with 18 games remaining.

Despite the poor results so far in March, this is exactly the position they were in a month ago on February 14.

On March 4, after a disastrous road trip to the Pacific Northwest and Alberta that was arguably the low ebb of the entire season, the Penguins were 10 points out of a wild card spot.

“We’re in a tough spot right now, but it’s not insurmountable,” Sullivan said. “For me, that’s the most important thing – to understand that we are not eliminated until we are eliminated. We have to control what we can and do everything in our power to stay competitive and win games.”

endnoteS:

• Tristan Jarry is slated to start in net against San Jose. Jarry is 18-21-5 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .909 save percentage this year. He most recently made 37 saves on 39 shots during Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Senators.

• The Penguins used the following lines and defensive pairings at Thursday’s morning skate:

8 Michael Bunting – 87 Sidney Crosby – 17 Bryan Rust

10 Drew O’Connor – 71 Evgeni Malkin – 67 Rickard Rachel

19 Reilly Smith – 20 Lars Eller – 48 Valtteri Puustinen

52 Emil Bemstrom – 55 Noel Acciari – 77 Jeff Carter

28 Marcus Pettersson – 58 – Kris Letang

27 Ryan Graves – 65 Erik Karlsson

7 John Ludwig – 73 YES Joseph

5 Ryan Shea – 18 Jesse Puljujarvi

• Power-play groupings were as follows:

Crosby, Letang, Rust, Orr, Bunting; Karlsson, Malkin, Rakell, Smith, Carter.

Justin Guerriero is a TribLive reporter covering the Penguins, Pirates and college sports. A native of Pittsburgh, he is a Central Catholic and a graduate of the University of Colorado. He joined the Trib in 2022 after covering the Colorado Buffaloes for Rivals and freelancing for the Denver Post. He can be reached at [email protected].

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *