PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Penguins are the hottest team in the NHL heading into the holiday season. They have won seven straight games and sit tied for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Penguins will be tested at the end of the 2022 calendar year as they head into a stretch of important games against divisional rivals and playoff opponents. Five of their final seven games in December will be against teams in the top half of the Metro, including two matchups against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Working against the Penguins is their recent injury news for Jason Zucker and Jeff Petry. Neither will travel with the team on their two-game southern road swing, and both are expected to miss several weeks.
In Zucker's place will be Danton Heinen, who has been a healthy scratch for five of the Penguins past seven games. How will Heinen fit with the second line, and how does his play style change the approach for Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust?
Only four points separate second and sixth place in the tightly contested Metropolitan division. Considering how the NHL's playoff system works, divisional games are even more consequential for playoff positioning. The Penguins will need a steady performance to close out 2022 to avoid falling behind the pack.
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