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Updated 1 hour ago

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Kris Letang knows the company line well.

Frankly, when discussing the strength of the schedule the Penguins will face the rest of this season, it's the only line he needs to know.

“Every game in this league is hard,” Letang said. “We don't care about the opponent in front of us. We want the two points, and we have to play our game for that.”

It's a classic outlook, equal parts respect for and indifference to the team's upcoming foes. If the Penguins play poorly, they can lose to anyone. If they play to their potential, there's no one who can beat them.

For the two dozen players in the locker room, any discussion beyond that is just noise.

Taking a few steps back and looking at the big picture, however, a different story emerges.

A great opportunity sits in front of the Penguins with two months left in the regular season. Their remaining schedule is, in a word, soft. If they merely beat the teams they should beat, they could go into the playoffs on quite a roll.

Starting with a Saturday night matchup with Arizona, the Penguins will play 20 of their final 29 games against teams not in a playoff spot after Friday night's games.

Starting with last Tuesday's game against Calgary and running through a visit to Dallas on Feb. 28, the Penguins will play just one playoff team — Columbus — during a 10-game stretch.

On top of that, they're done facing the teams in first place in their divisions — Washington, Montreal, Minnesota and San Jose — having gone 6-4-0 against the quartet.

It sounds like a potential bonanza in the standings, but there are a couple of caveats worth noting.

First, it's not like the Penguins have a perfect winning percentage against losing teams.

In fact, the Penguins have lost this season to four of the five teams that have made coaching changes since August — Colorado, St. Louis, Boston and the Islanders. The only coaching-change team they're unbeaten against is Florida.

Second, not all non-playoff teams are created equal.

The two teams the Penguins faced on their most recent road trip, Colorado and Arizona, are hopelessly removed from the postseason picture. The next two teams the Penguins will face, on the other hand — Vancouver and Winnipeg — are fighting for their playoff lives. As cornered animals, they are, by definition, dangerous.

“They're right in the hunt,” defenseman Trevor Daley said. “They're all trying to find their game, and when they look at us, it's a pretty good matchup for them to try to get their streaks going the right way. It's something we're going to have to respect.”

The irony of the Penguins having a relatively soft schedule the rest of the way is they play in the toughest division in the league.

Washington is trying its best to run away and hide at the top of the Metropolitan. Columbus and the Rangers are neck and neck with the Penguins.

If the Penguins want to keep pace, beating up on teams with inferior records won't just be a good idea. It will be a necessity.

Captain Sidney Crosby said he can't remember ever playing in a division as unrelenting as the Metropolitan is this season.

“It's been really tight,” Crosby said. “It's a good challenge for us. It's good in a way. Sometimes you get points, and you feel comfortable. With the way things are in our division, it pushes you to continue to stay hungry for those points and play the right way and continue to push.

“I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing for us. I think it's good. We'll have to continue to make sure we're getting better, just like everyone else.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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