Penguins’ focus should be on clinching, not seeding, coach Mike Sullivan says
On the surface, Sunday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes looks like a battle for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
With four games left in the regular season, the Penguins are holding down the spot and the Hurricanes are only two points behind.
The winner will have a good shot at staying in the Metropolitan Division bracket in the playoffs while the loser will likely have to navigate the Eastern Conference as a wild-card entry.
Coach Mike Sullivan, however, doesn’t look at it that way. His focus is even more short-sighted than that.
The Penguins’ magic number for clinching a playoff spot is three. Any combination of three points they earn or the Montreal Canadiens fail to earn will clinch a playoff berth for the 12th straight season.
Until that happens, Sullivan is interested in little else. He believes his players are approaching it the same way.
“They’re on the same page,” Sullivan said. “They’re well aware of where we’re at. We haven’t earned a spot in the playoffs yet and that’s our No. 1 priority. The way to do it is to make sure we stay focused on that one game in front of us, and that’s where our mindset is.”
Matt Murray will make his eighth straight start in net for the Penguins.
Evgeni Malkin (upper body), Kris Letang (upper body), Chad Ruhwedel (upper body) and Zach Aston-Reese (lower body) remain out with injuries, but all skated Sunday morning, Sullivan said.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .