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Pondering D pairings after Day 2.


Some notes and tidbits from Sunday’s practice at Consol Energy Center:


= I was kicking around defense pairings with radio broadcaster PHIL BOURQUE. If DERYK ENGELLAND makes the squad I’m intrigued what he might look like next to back-end leader BROOK ORPIK. Quite a punishing pairing those two big hitters would make. Still, presuming, as I am (for now), that BEN LOVEJOY wins this battle for the No. 6 spot, these are the pairings I’d like to see: Orpik-ZBYNEK MICHALEK, PAUL MARTIN-KRIS LETANG, ALEX GOLIGOSKI-Lovejoy.

… My thinking on Orpik-Michalek: They’d be a better puck-moving version of the shutdown pairing from 2009 (ROB SCUDERI-HAL GILL). Plus, Michalek’s sound own-zone play would afford Orpik more opportunities to make use of his intimidating physicality.

… My thinking on Martin-Letang: Two practice days in and it is clear that Martin is an effortless skater/stickhandler/puck-mover. Letang is a great skater and surprisingly physical, and his offensive game would benefit from working with a veteran such as Martin. It’s just a gut feeling, but I like how these guys would mesh. High-end? I’m thinking they’d be an Eastern Conference version – in styles, not production – of the NICKLAS LIDSTROM-BRIAN RAFALSKI pairing for Detroit.

… My thinking on Goligoski-Lovejoy: Playing with a rookie, Goligoski would be forced into more responsibility as the veteran presence on this unit. He has excelled in the past when stepping up – (early season power-play duty as a rookie when SERGEI GONCHAR was hurt in 2008) – and he has looked sharp in camp. Lovejoy will be solid, if unspectacular, and unlikely to take a lot of chances offensively. Staying at home won’t be a problem for him if he’s playing with a gifted offensive defenseman such as Goligoski.

= Not saying it was a slow news day, but the most interesting thread of conversation inside the dressing room was how players would help coach DAN BYLSMA help “celebrate” his 40th birthday. The team’s website reporter Jason Seidling predicted his story on the subject would be most popular among fans, and since he’s a good guy I’m calling on the Chipped Ice citizens to give a guy some web-hit love:|PIT|home

By the way, I asked Bylsma if he does anything better now than when he was 35. His response: “A lot of things.”

= So far, based off the eyes test, Cs MARK LETESTU and DUSTIN JEFFREY and LW ERIC TANGRADI are all showing strong in camp. On the JORDAN STAAL CIRCA 2006 METER, though, Letestu is providing most pause to wonder if he can be left off the roster. Still, two days, and a lot can change by the end of the exhibition opener.





Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.


  1. Frank says:

    Here’s my question…

    What’s up with Tyler Kennedy? This was a guy who I was expecting to have a good year last season and it turned out to be a nightmare for Kennedy. I respect the guys grit and determination, but results are the bottomline. I’m not expecting Kennedy to put up 30-some goals and 30-some assists, but 13 goals and 12 assists is not going to get the job done on this team.

    For an organization that has some thirsty young talent pushing for a roster spot and after the acquisitions of both Comrie and Asham, Kennedy better be looking over his shoulder this year. While I’m fairly certain he will be on the starting roster on opening night, I’m not so sure that will be the case come playoff time.

    In my opinion, when Shero calls you out earlier in the Summer and Bylsma has you playing on a line with Sterling and Jeffrey at training camp (a fifth line basically), that’s called the front office sending you a message – Either step up and prove to us that you’re worth keeping around or you will not be around for very much longer.

  2. espo33 says:

    Nightmare? I think that is a little harsh, no? He had 13 goals for a 3rd liner. I know there were draughts, long ones…but overall it wasn’t nightmare. He had more then Fed’s who for the most part was on the 2nd line and played in 16 games more (80 games) then Kennedy (64 games), the same as Kunitz who was on the 1st line (50 games) and was 5 less goals then Dupius who was on the 1st line for the most part (81 games). And then there was always Guerin, playing 1st line, 1st PP and he had 21 goals in 78 games. I mean Cooke was 15g and 15a on the 3rd line. I think he just needs to be more consistent in scoring because we have too many guys that were streaky last year.

    Rossi-On the D pairing I would have to see them actually playing. On paper I think Letang with Michelak might better. Letang was horrible when matched up with Gols and Gonchar. He was pretty good with Orpik, but i think Michelak is better then Orpik defensively. I don’t know his puck moving skills, but Orpik’s is terrible. Martin has some O skill and he is more level headed and can be a better partner and passer then Letang. I think with Letang he gets too nervous at times and fumbles the puck. So having Martin with Orpik together would be better. Plus we won’t have to worry about going against Ove, Stamkos, Semin, Philly guys, etc with only 1 shut down unit per se especially when we don’t have last change. You can have either Orpik or Michelak out there in most cases off a draw or on the ice.

  3. Frank says:

    Saying a player produced more than Fedotenko last season isn’t exactly a reason to march a parade down Centre Avenue in his honor. When a player has “droughts” (plural) and “long ones” at that, I would consider that to be a “nightmare” of a season.

    Oh well, maybe I’m expecting more than 12 even strength goals and 12 assists in the regular season from the guy? Maybe I’m expecting more than 0 points and a -6 in the playoffs? If those are considered high expectations, I would hate to see what some consider low expectations.

  4. espo33 says:

    I will agree in the playoffs he wasn’t great.

    But regular season, 12 goals and a +10 in 64 games for a 3rd liner averaging 12:35 minutes a game making $725K is pretty good. And I agree the droughts weren’t good, but even when not scoring he wasn’t playing bad hockey overall. This is a make or break year for him though. He is a UFA after the season and other guys in the minors are ready to take over if he is not able to take the next step. I can only root for the guy.

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