Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rare (So Far) Game vs. Division Foe Boosts Intensity

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rare (So Far) Game vs. Division Foe Boosts Intensity

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - Over the remaining five months of the NHL regular season, the Penguins will get mighty familiar with their divisional foes.

That's in large part because they haven't played them a whole lot so far.

The Penguins game Friday night against the Washington Capitals was just their third divisional game this season. Twenty-six of their remaining 65 games - a full 40 percent - will be against Metropolitan Division teams.

The Penguins immediate upcoming schedule doesn't include a whole lot of divisional games, either, with (their next one Nov. 27 against the Philadelphia Flyers), but they are looking forward to the level of play a Metropolitan rival can bring.

"I think everybody does," defenseman Olli Maatta said. "You know you're going to see these guys many times, even in the playoffs. I think there's always something extra for both sides."

The good news for the Penguins is that they have generally been good in divisional games under coach Mike Sullivan. They were 2-0 this season in such games before Friday night thanks to road wins against the Capitals and New York Rangers. They also went a division-best 20-8-2 within the Metropolitan in 2016-17.

Those in-division games likely will be even more important this season as the Metropolitan appears to be tightly bunched. Entering Friday, six of the seven teams were within three points of the division lead

"You just go one game at a time," said center Riley Sheahan, who played his first division game Friday since being acquired from Detroit in October. "I think if you look too far into the stats and into the schedule, you start to drive yourself a little crazy. You just go game by game, shift by shift."

As for these two specific teams, both seem to have started slightly slower than they would've liked, but that won't matter when the puck dropped Friday night.

"Both teams are good teams, and I can speak from our side, we certainly have a lot of respect for Washington and how talented they are," Sullivan said "I think, quite honestly, they're probably more concerned about their team and we're concerned about our team. We're tying to make sure we do everything within our power to put our team in a position to win hockey games. …

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