PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – You ask even the most casual hockey fan about the Pens over the last month or so and one of their observations most likely would be Jeff Carter stinks. He sure didn’t Wednesday as the Pens play in Dallas Thursday.
Carter scored a pair against Colorado in the upset win at the defending champ. It was his first goal in 12 games, just his third and fourth since January 8. It was also only the third time he’s been a plus in plus/minus since early January.
He was part of a fourth line that made an impact on Wednesday. Something rarely seen from the Pens bottom two group all year. Beyond the scoring, the were in the Avalanche zone and doing the little things to make it harder on their opponent. They also defended well playing increased minutes in the altitude in Colorado. Sullivan will also like to use short shifts and more from the fourth line with the back-to-back against the Stars Thursday.
“I think we’ve played well since our group was put together with (Josh) Archibald and (Drew) O’Connor,” Carter said. “We’ve started to click a little bit. It’s nothing pretty with our line, we are trying to work and grind teams down.”
“It’s unbelievable, you want to see guys produce,” said Pens forward Jake Guentzel. “Four lines contributing.”
“I’m thrilled for him,” Sullivan said. “This guy is a good hockey player and even better person who cares about the Penguins and wants to win. He wants to contribute and help us win.”
Wednesday night he did that, even with all of the criticism around him. When they needed him in a must-win game in a tough environment, Carter showed up.
“I could care less what you guys write to be completely honest with you,” Carter said. “You can do whatever you want. All I care about is what happens in here (locker room).”
Even with the gratifying win in Denver, the Pens remain in a battle for the playoffs. Currently the Islanders lead with 82 points in 72 games. The Pens with 80 in 71 and the Florida Panthers with 79 points in 71 games. Washington is fourth with 74 points in 72 games followed by Ottawa with 73 points.
“It’s a tough time of the year,” said goalie Tristan Jarry. “We have to win games. We were good throughout the lineup. The power play was good, the penalty kill was good. That helps us a lot.”
“Our team is well aware of where we are at,” Sullivan said. “We’ve been playing in a high-stakes environment, that’s the reality of it. We know exactly where we are. We have to keep scratching and clawing. We have to keep putting our best game on the ice.
Hopefully we can have complete efforts like that night-in and night-out and it will help us win.”
Pens recalled goaltender Dustin Tokarski and forward Filip Hallander from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Thursday on an emergency basis. The 33-year-old goalie is 12-11-5 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in the AHL this year. He’s appeared in four games with the Penguins.
Hallander is one of the team’s best forward prospects. The 22-year-old appeared in two games in early November and in the AHL this year, 11 goals, 22 assists in 40 games.