Pittsburgh Penguins Look To Fight Off Division Rival Rangers for Playoff Spot

Nick BarillaContributor IFebruary 28, 2009

Early Thursday morning, Pittsburgh Penguins fans found out that Ryan Whitney had been traded to Anaheim for heavy hitter Chris Kunitz.

The Penguins, who recently fired head coach Micheal Therrien, have found success with interim coach Dan Bylsma, at least for the time being. Pittsburgh has posted a 3-1 record under Bylsma and the Pens are in the process of making the playoffs.

The 2008-2009 Penguins were well aware that they needed to back up last seasons success with a winning season this year. Though they lost key players such as Ryan Malone, Jarkko Ruutu, and enforcer Georges Laraque, the Pens attempted to fill those holes this season with the additions of Miraslov Satan, Ruslan Fedetanko, and most recently, Chris Kunitz.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fluery has had a good season thus far, but his playing this year is not as stellar as last year's playoff performance.

As of February 28, 2009, the Penguins have 68 points and are in 10th place in the playoff race behind the Carolina Hurricanes in ninth with 69 points, and the Buffalo Sabres, who currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot with 70 points.

The New York Rangers are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with 70 points as well. So if the Penguins win their game Sunday against the Dallas Stars, and the Rangers, Sabres, and Hurricanes lose, they will have a spot in the playoffs, for the time being.

The only roadblock that seems to be in the Pens' way is the health of Sidney Crosby, who has been scratched the past two games, and is not playing Sunday either.

With the absence of Crosby, expect Chris Kunitz to step up as an offensive leader.

Sergei Gonchar is finally back from the injury that has sidelined him all season, which will continue to bring much needed success.