Not to suggest the Penguins have hit a rough patch, but LW Matt Cooke and RWs Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis are now the club’s healthy leading goal scorers, each with 10 markers. The loss of LW Chris Kunitz before this game – a 4-1 loss to Columbus at home – left the Penguins without four forwards (Cs Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Mark Letestu; and Kunitz) who have scored 75 of their 162 goals.
The latest on Crosby can be found here: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/breaking/s_722003.html
(Yes, if any dear readers are wondering, I’m growing tired of confirming denials of speculation about Crosby’s status. The bottom line: He isn’t symptom free yet, and that is all ANYBODY knows.)
Injured C Mike Comrie granted the media an interview after the game. He is recovering from hip surgery, and remains slightly optimistic of returning for the Stanley Cup playoffs. I asked Comrie if his unfortunate experience of dealing with long injury-related layoffs this season and in previous ones could be of use for players such as Malkin and Letestu, who are new to that aspect of the NHL game. His response:
“It’s one of the frustrating parts of being professional athletes – dealing with and it coping with it, watching your teammates and friends play. Sid and ‘Geno’ are such big parts of this organization that you’ve got to wait for guys like that to be healthy. It’s hard, but everybody is in this together and we’ve got some great guys in this dressing room to help each other out.”
Comrie has been a completely stand-up guy since his arrival for training camp, and looking back perhaps the so-called hockey gods were sending a karma-to-come message when he broke camp with the bum hip. Hard to believe that only five months ago there was hope he could be a 20-goal scorer on this team, one of four players anticipated to hit that mark.
I can say this: The Penguins would have loved to see Comrie play the left wing on a line with Jordan Staal at center and Malkin on the right wing. That was the plan, and it never left the drawing board in coach Dan Bylsma’s office because of injuries.
(Total aside: I chatted briefly with Comrie about his wife’s underrated movie “War, Inc.” I cannot recommend it enough – an oddly dark comedy that I caught on Showtime in December, and it was worth staying up until 3 a.m. to finish it. Then again, I’d watch anything with John Cusack. “You probably got it all figured out, Corey. If you start out depressed everything’s kind of a pleasant surprise.”)
Speaking of that “Say Anything” classic quote; this from new papa and Plum-native R.J. Umberger, on his Blue Jackets’ win:
“We didn’t show up on the ice, (and) from the drop of the puck they beat us to everything on the ice (a Penguins’ 7-1 win Dec. 4 at Columbus); there wasn’t one thing we did good, and they had the louder crowd and they were chanting against us in our own building. There were just a lot of things that happened that night that were embarrassing for us and it started with our play on the ice. I think they were trying to remind us tonight on the (video board).
“I was frustrated after that; that was embarrassing, especially for myself, people watching it back home and to see our team represented that way. Tonight, it was in the back of our minds.”
Umberger is one of the great underappreciated Pittsburgh-born athletes of all time. He is also a guy who will be mentioned a lot as rumored deadline-period acquisition by the Penguins, but I don’t buy it based off my conversations with people inside or out of the organization. Columbus scribes swear to me that the Blues Jackets would be loathe to trade Umberger, who is a huge dressing-room influence and a draw as a former Ohio State Buckeye star.
= Lastly, the Penguins game at Chicago on Feb. 20 has been selected for NBC’s “NHL Game of the Week.” That will leave the Penguins with just one remaining NBC game, as teams can play only four times on the league’s national broadcast network.