NHL Game Preview - Jets v Penguins

 
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Penguins preparing for physical challenge vs. Jets

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins won the past two Stanley Cup titles as a speed team. Whether they set a trend or are just following one, they are one of many clubs playing that style now.

Their opponent Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena is a little different. The Winnipeg Jets' style includes a pronounced physical element.

"I think there's still a handful of teams in the league that play a heavy game," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said Wednesday. "I think Winnipeg has a little bit of a hybrid style in that they can skate as well. They're a team that has good size, that has a physical element to their game, but certainly they can skate as well."

When the teams last met, a 7-4 Penguins win March 8, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler fought, a carryover from a hit Malkin laid on Wheeler in an earlier game. It was one of two fights in that game.

"(Thursday) is a good test for us," Malkin said. "They might be the most physical team in the league. We need to play like (Tuesday) night."

Pittsburgh (6-3-1) had a strong bounce-back game Tuesday with a 2-1 overtime win over Edmonton, helping to erase the memory of a 7-1 loss Saturday at Tampa Bay.

"We knew as a team we could play a lot better than the effort we had in Tampa. That wasn't who we are. That wasn't our identity," Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. "(Tuesday) we competed pretty hard."

The Jets (4-3-0), meanwhile, have nothing to feel bad -- or good -- about from Saturday. Or Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. They have been off since Friday's 4-3 win over Minnesota, their fourth win in five games.

"I personally don't like having this many days between games," Winnipeg defenseman Tyler Myers told the team's website. "When you have this much time off, you want to keep that pace up. That's a big part of our identity with this team. We like to play fast. I think we've been doing a pretty good job of it. We have to make sure with these practice days to keep that pace up."

Particularly, coach Paul Maurice said, against a club like the Penguins.

"Getting back up to speed and intensity of an NHL game against a team that's got tremendous speed," Maurice said of the biggest challenge coming off his team's stretch between games.

"You play the Stanley Cup champions, you're going to be buzzing, because you know they'll make you look bad if you're not."

The layoff helped the Jets get healthier as they begin a stretch of three games in four days -- two of them against Pittsburgh, which visits Winnipeg on Sunday -- and four games in six days.

Forward Matt Hendricks was activated from IR and is expected to make his season debut Thursday after being out with a foot injury.

"That's a heck of a hockey team we're going (to play) in Pittsburgh, and a tough building to play in," Hendricks said.

Pittsburgh is going in the other direction in terms of injuries. Defenseman Justin Schultz is the latest added to the list. He left Tuesday's game and is being evaluated for a concussion, so he is doubtful for Thursday.

Updated October 26, 2017

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