Especially in this condensed season, every game takes on extra significance for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens have done a good job of navigating their schedule so far, but some stiff tests still lie ahead. In the coming weeks, the Penguins have the opportunity to solidify their position at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Let's look ahead and see the three most crucial games left on the slate.
Last time out, these two squads put on a defensive clinic. The Habs and Pens relied on sound defensive play and stellar goaltending as key components to their game. Sidney Crosby was the difference in that game, rocketing a net-seeking missile past Carey Price for the 1-0 victory.
Pittsburgh and Montreal have laid claim to the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference, and every game between these clubs is a potential Conference Final preview. In the next go-round, the Penguins will likely face this foe without Crosby's services.
How they cope with this adversity will go a long way toward showing what kind of playoff team the Pens will bring to the table this year.
Talk about a slugfest.
These two teams have put on some ugly performances in recent years, but for hockey purists, the game shouldn't be played any other way. Boston and Pittsburgh have a brand of hockey that is ready-made for the playoffs, and this matchup should be another treat.
Pittsburgh has won a couple of one-goal games against Boston in the recent past, and the playing field could be even more level with the injuries that the Penguins have suffered lately.
This is one to circle on the calendar.
In addition to being a potential second-round matchup, the Senators just always seem to give the Penguins fits.
Pittsburgh is 2-0 against the Sens this year, but both wins were definitely hard-fought. Depending on the status of both teams from a health standpoint, this one could be a highlight of the latter part of the NHL season.
It won't have the same star power as it would if Jason Spezza was squaring off against Sidney Crosby in the faceoff circle, but it will be one to watch nonetheless.