National Hockey League

The Penguins have a real shot to catch the Capitals and win the NHL's Metropolitan Division

Going into Friday, only the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins were outscoring opponents by more goals per game than Pittsburgh after adjusting for strength of schedule.

No wonder Pittsburgh General Manager Jim Rutherford was persistent in his quest to add winger Jason Zucker after failing to complete a deal for him last summer.

Zucker had 14 goals and 15 assists in 45 games for Minnesota this season, and when he was on the ice, the Wild generated more even-strength scoring chances from high-danger areas such as the slot and the crease than its opponents ( 86-76 ).

And most importantly, Zucker possesses quickness and skill that should make him an ideal match for Penguins Coach Mike Sullivan’s system, which prioritizes tempo with strong foot speed among the skaters.

In addition to stellar two-way play at even strength, only the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers allow fewer scoring chances per 60 minutes on the penalty kill than Pittsburgh.

Based on this year’s results, the Penguins entering Friday were expected to add 33 standings points to their total by the end of the regular season, the most by any Eastern Conference team per Hockey Reference’s playoff probabilities report.

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