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PITTSBURGH — It could be a trap game Saturday for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they host the Montreal Canadiens at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins (44-28-6) have not officially clinched a playoff spot and are clawing for positioning in the tight Metropolitan Division yet are a somewhat pedestrian 5-3-2 in their past 10 games.
In addition Youth Kalen Ballage Jersey , they have a showdown with Washington, first in the Metro, on Sunday.
Pittsburgh has had some trouble lately playing soundly against opponents that are out of playoff contention, with losses the past three weeks against the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings.
However, this will be the Penguins’ third game in March against Montreal, another also-ran club, and they have won the first two, both by 5-3. They will be going for their second-ever season series sweep of Canadiens and have won four straight and six of seven in the series.
What the Penguins are hoping for is a repeat of those two recent matchups with the Canadiens. Better yet, they would like to have a performance like the one they turned in Thursday with a gritty 4-3 overtime win against Metro foe New Jersey.
“This was our best 60-minute game in a long time,” Pittsburgh winger Patric Hornqvist, who is one goal shy of 200 for his career, said of the win over the Devils. “It’s the way we have to play from now on.”
Montreal (28-37-12) is 4-8-2 this month Connor Williams Youth Jersey , but it isn’t looking to serve as some sort of a tune-up for the Penguins before their game against the Capitals.
The Canadiens, who have been off since Monday, a 4-2 win over Detroit, are finding motivation by looking to the future and are giving a handful of young players a chance to prove themselves.
“Those guys are still working out kinks in their game and improving,” winger Paul Byron said Friday after practice and before the team’s flight to Pittsburgh. “There are a lot of positives I see on our team right now. That’s why it’s so important to finish strong. Anything you do now kind of leads into next year.”
Everything the Canadiens do will be watched closely by management.
“I don’t think anybody’s evaluation is done,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “It’s important that they prove that they’re fighters.
“I want to see character — not just the evaluation of the player on the ice, but what kind of character does he have? Is he a guy who’s going to fight to the end, or is he a guy who’s going to mail it in and say, ‘Let’s get these games over with?’ It means a lot. Not just from young players, but from veterans, too.”
Julien said backup Antti Niemi, who began the season with Pittsburgh, will start rather than No. 1 goaltender Carey Price.
Montreal could get defenseman David Schlemko back from an upper-body injury that has sidelined him for 12 games. He has medical clearance Youth Orlando Brown Jr. Jersey , but Julien has not decided on his lineup as far as skaters.
“You definitely want to be battling with the guys and on the ice,” Schlemko said. “Hockey’s a lot more fun when you’re playing games instead of bag skating by yourself. I’ve been working for weeks now on the ice to get back, so I’m definitely excited and chomping at the bit.”
The Penguins could get center Derick Brassard back after he missed the New Jersey game because of a lower-body injury.
Jimmy Butler needed about two quarters to look like his old self.
Once he did, the Minnesota Timberwolves looked good again, too.
Butler scored 18 points in his return from right knee surgery, Jeff Teague had 25 points and eight assists, and the Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakers 113-96 on Friday night.
”It feels like Jimmy’s that one piece that helps everybody be where their supposed to be at,” Wolves forward Taj Gibson said. ”I felt defensively it helps us a lot. But it’s good to get back to the old ways.”
Butler played 22 1/2 minutes and was 7 for 10 from the field in his first game since getting hurt against Houston on Feb. 23. He had surgery two days later for a cartilage injury and missed 17 games.
He made a difficult turnaround jumper to start the second half. He finished an acrobatic layup after receiving a lob pass from Teague. He even reached into his bag of defensive tricks with a steal that led to a breakaway dunk.
”He looked good,” Andrew Wiggins said. ”He got to his spots, he scored when he wanted to score. He was just playing his game out there.”
Minnesota moved into sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference.
Gibson also scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Karl-Anthony Towns had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were on the second night of a back-to-back. They lost to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
Julius Randle scored 20 points and added 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who have lost nine of 13. Josh Hart tallied 20 points and 11 rebounds off the bench Cheap Jeremiah Attaochu Jersey , and Brook Lopez had 18 points and six rebounds.
Minnesota started the third quarter with a 16-6 run and took a 67-64 lead on a basket Butler. Teague, Wiggins and Towns all made 3-pointers to give the Timberwolves an eight-point lead with 3:25 remaining in the period.
Towns capped an 11-2 run with a put-back layup to give Minnesota a 78-68 advantage with 2:12 remaining in the third. Josh Hart made a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer and the Lakers trailed 80-73.
Los Angeles went on a 9-0 run after trailing 36-32 in the second quarter. An 11-0 run four minutes later gave the Lakers a 52-40 lead with 3:08 remaining in the first half.
Gibson’s basket cut Minnesota’s deficit to 56-50. The Timberwolves trailed 58-51 at halftime. Despite shooting only 29 percent from the field, the Lakers outscored the Timberwolves 32-21 in the second quarter.
Lopez scored the first 15 points for the Lakers, outscoring Minnesota by himself over the first six minutes of the game. The rest of the team, however, scored only 11 points the rest of the quarter.
Timberwolves: Outscored the Lakers 62-44 in the paint. . All five starters scored in double figures.
Lakers: Channing Frye was assessed a flagrant 1 foul in the opening minutes of the second quarter. . Kuzma left the game in the third quarter with a mild left ankle sprain and did not return. . Luke Walton was assessed a technical foul in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers committed 21 turnovers, which the Timberwolves turned into 30 points. Minnesota, on the other hand, had only five turnovers.
”They got 100 shots up tonight, we got 79 because of turnovers and offensive rebounds,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. ”We talked about it after the game. It’s something that we’re going to have to continue to work on. We want to consistently be a good team. We have to get our turnover numbers down.”
Hart said Los Angeles and some lackadaisical passes, which contributed to the high turnover numbers.
”We’re young, but we’ve got to realize that each and every possession matters Dak Prescott Jersey Elite ,” Hart said.
TALE OF TWO HALVES
The Timberwolves broke the game open to start the second half and never looked back. They outscored the Lakers 62-38 and built a 21-point lead.
”First half, we just let them run free,” Wiggins said. ”Second half, I feel like we got into them more, we were the aggressor and we got out there on the boards also.”
A LOTTA LOPEZ
Lopez scored the first 15 points for the Lakers. He outscored the Timberwolves by himself, 15-14, through the first six minutes of the game.
”That’s how I need to be most nights,” Lopez said. ”I just need to be better for more games.”
Walton said he liked the way Lopez started the game.
”I knew that they would come out and try to knock us out, coming off that loss they had last night,” Walton said. ”I thought Brook did a really nice job kind of going blow-by-blow with them on the offensive side.”
Timberwolves: Host the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.
Lakers: Host the Utah Jazz on Sunday.