7:00 PM ET, April 11, 2009
Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The Pittsburgh Penguins hope to take the ice Saturday night still with a chance to get home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Evgeni Malkin feels his place in the points race is a lot more secure.
Malkin and the Penguins could have a lot at stake in their regular-season finale as they face another team headed to the playoffs when they visit the Montreal Canadiens.
It seemed uncertain Pittsburgh (44-28-9) would even make the postseason back in mid-February, but then-coach Michel Therrien was fired and the team has since gone 17-3-4 under Dan Bylsma to wrap up a playoff spot. Now the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and home-ice advantage for the opening round are within reach going into the season's final weekend.
The Penguins are tied with Philadelphia and Carolina for the fourth-most points in the East with 97. If the Flyers and Hurricanes both lose Saturday afternoon, the
Penguins can grab the No. 4 spot with a win over the Canadiens (41-29-11). A Carolina win would end Pittsburgh's hopes at the fourth seed.
"We want to win as many games as we can," Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said. "The standings are not set yet. We still want the home-ice advantage."
While Pittsburgh can finish no lower than sixth in the East, Montreal will end up seventh if it wins this game and the New York Rangers lose Sunday to the Flyers.
The Canadiens didn't clinch their place in the postseason until Thursday night with a 5-4 overtime loss at East-leading Boston, the team they will face in the first round if they finish eighth.
"We've had an up-and-down season but we kept it together tonight and stayed in the game," Montreal coach Bob Gainey said. "Our major objective was to get into the playoffs."
Malkin's main objective Saturday, especially if Pittsburgh can't move up to the No. 4 seed, will be holding on to the NHL points lead.
His 112 points are four better than Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who plays at Florida on Saturday night. Malkin's 106 points last season were second-best to Ovechkin's 112.
"Yeah, I feel good," said Malkin, who has four assists in the last two games -- three on goals by Sidney Crosby. "One game left, it's OK. I think it's too much points (for Ovechkin to catch him)."
When asked about Ovechkin possibly getting four points Saturday to tie for the league lead, Malkin replied, "I will score two. I will."
Malkin and Crosby each have three points in three meetings this season with Montreal, but the Penguins have lost two.
Pittsburgh will have a new source of offense Saturday with Miroslav Satan having cleared waivers Friday and getting recalled. He was sent to the AHL in a salary cap move at the March 4 trading deadline despite having 17 goals and 19 assists in 65 games.
The hottest player for Montreal has been Alex Kovalev, who has nine goals and eight assists in his last nine games.
Kovalev had one of the Canadiens' four second-period goals Thursday in Boston. Pushing the East's top team to overtime could give Montreal a boost, and a win over one of the league's hottest teams Saturday would provide another.
"The way we played on Thursday, there's no reason for us to be scared to face any team," Gainey said.
The Canadiens, though, are trying to snap a three-game losing streak during which they've allowed 11 goals.