Banged-up Penguins look for 3rd straight at Winnipeg

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The shuttle from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to Pittsburgh has been a busy one already this season.

And so far, a successful one.

Joe Blandisi, Sam Lafferty and Adam Johnson, all recalled from the American Hockey League in the past week, combined for three goals and six points as the Penguins defeated the host Minnesota Wild 7-4 on Saturday night.

The trio will try to continue that trend Sunday when Pittsburgh plays in Winnipeg.

“For me, they’re not AHL guys. They’re Pittsburgh Penguins, and that’s how we look at them,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “These guys are all good players. They can all play in this league. They’re capable of being impactful on the game. That’s why they’re here, and that’s why they’re in our lineup.”

Johnson and Lafferty each scored their first NHL goals Saturday, with Johnson doing so in his home state.

Lafferty’s goal was an empty-netter to clinch the victory.

With Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bjugstad and Alex Galchenyuk all out with lower-body injuries and Bryan Rust sidelined with an upper-body injury, the Penguins had to turn to their minor leaguers.

“They’ve shown that they can come in and have an impact on the game,” Sullivan said. “Our fourth line had three goals tonight, but they did more than that. They can all skate. They defended hard. They helped us get momentum on the forecheck.

“We put them in defensive-zone situations against their top people, and they did a good job defending.”

The Jets, who are opening a six-game homestand, will be playing their third game in four nights, including a 3-2 overtime victory Saturday in Chicago. Mark Scheifele scored the winner after the Jets rallied from a two-goal deficit.

Winnipeg has allowed the first goal in all six of its games this season, but has rallied to win four times, including three straight.

The Jets trailed 2-0 after the first period against the Blackhawks.

“I swear it was a seven o’clock start,” Jets forward Blake Wheeler told NHL.com with a smile. “The first period, you got to credit them. They obviously were quicker than us. They made it difficult for us to play our game, but that wasn’t us. That’s not the style of play that we need to have and we’ve developed in training camp that’s given us success this year.

“Two thirds of that game was real good, and we’re human, it’s not always going to be perfect.”

Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stopped 27 of 29 shots for his third consecutive victory.

“He had to big in the first especially, and then for the rest of the night, I think we squeezed it pretty good to the point that he had to make a couple more saves, but he wasn’t asked to do too much,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said.

Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers scored a power-play goal in the second period, and Andrew Copp tied it in the third.

“We were tapping each other, ‘Let’s go get another one right now,'” Copp told NHL.com. “You don’t want to be giving away points in the Central Division. I don’t think we were playing for (overtime). We were out there to win.”

–Field Level Media

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