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: http://penguins.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=538012&navid=DL|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.