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Pens Push: The smart move to keep injured players back, and details from a new Pens book.

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A quick update, dear readers, as the Penguins get set to play in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for the first time since 1996:

= First, I’m not there. Neither is my trusted partner-in-crime Josh Yohe. Turns out that Trib sports columnist Dejan Kovacevic is a huge fan of Winnipeg and requested this trip. I suggest asking him about this love affair via Twitter. He is at @Dejan_Kovacevic … also, his latest blog entry can also be found here: http://blog.triblive.com/

= So, in case you haven’t heard, Trib colleague Andrew Conte has a book coming out about the Penguins. A news reporter writing about the Penguins? Trust me, he and the book are legit. It’s called “Breakaway: The Inside Story of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Rebirth,” and over the next few blogs I’m going to share some reasons why you should rush a store and look for it. Here is the first:

Chapter 3: Goes into detail about what was happening inside the Penguins’ organization when the Crosby lottery was taking place, including insights on William “Boots” del Biaggio III (pg. 50), who had a purchase agreement for the team.

 Andy and I teamed for nine months during the 2006-07 season to work on the Penguins’ arena dealings for the Trib, and as I’ve said before I learned more from him over that time than I have any other reporter. So it will be my distinct honor to interview him Tuesday night at the official book party release at TGI Friday’s at Consol Energy Center. The show gets underway at 6 p.m., and it’s open to the public. Some topic he’ll be discussing:

 How that story we worked on together became this book – specifically, the process that went into one story, which was very politics heavy, turning into another, which is a behind-the-scenes look that Penguins fans will find fascinating regarding ownership and management.

  • The moments, while reporting for this book, that really surprised Andy, and how it shaped his book narrative.
  • The foray into the sports world, which was a totally new experience for Andy, who is one of the Trib’s best investigative reporters. He’s used to shaking out information from people; but talking to the athletes is something that is completely different, and many of Andy’s experiences in doing that will be interesting to fans who are interested in what it’s like to be asking questions to these larger-than-life hockey players.
  • His interview with Malkin, which provided Malkin his first real opportunity to open up about his departure from the Russian national team. I thought I knew Malkin well before reading some of his comments in this book, and Andy will be going into that in great detail.
  • Time pending, we might talk about the night I tried to step in front of an SUV to get comments from the Penguins after their first meeting with public officials. (Of course, I’m a bit hesitant to give any of my “fans” any ideas.)

 For more information on Andy’s book log onto www.cardinalpub.com

 –

= As you know by now, none of the injured players (Cs Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Dustin Jeffrey, and D Brooks Orpik) made this trip, which continues Tuesday at Minnesota. I’ve received some Twitter/email questions about what this mean, but I really think everybody is overreacting. It means that none of those players were going to play in these two games, and with the team likely holding an optional game-day practice on Tuesday, each player could receive better treatment in Pittsburgh. Also, if they want to skate, well, there is ice at Consol Energy Center and that foursome could probably push each other pretty well, no?

As for Malkin – hey, I’m the one who endorsed him not going. As I blogged after a loss to Buffalo on Saturday night, all the indications I’m getting is that scar tissue has flared on his surgically repaired right knee. People are second-guessing his decision to play Thursday against Washington, but I won’t. That game, given what it meant symbolically globally for his fellow Russians, was something special for Malkin. Also, he had taken several days of rest before it.

With Malkin there is probably going to be a few months of give (him a spot in the lineup) and take (him out of the lineup) because of the nature of his recovery. This isn’t the NFL, where a player returning from knee-ligament surgery can sit out practices all week, pull it together once a week for four hours, and then repeat that process over the course of five months. The Penguins – yes, I know I’ve mentioned this before – are playing practically every other day for the opening five weeks of the season. If Malkin is sore he shouldn’t play. When he feels OK, he should. This, it seems, is the process until he starts feeling like his old self – and it may take a couple of months.

Again, fans should want Malkin and Crosby and Orpik (and Jeffrey, trust me) ready for April, not mid-October or early-November. The Penguins are going to make the playoffs. The whole regular season should be about trying to get them healthy when those real games begin.

= That said, if asked about Orpik, I’d tell you I’m a bit worried. I keep referring to his injury as a re-aggravation of an abdominal injury that required surgery. I’m doing that because Orpik said during the last days of training camp that he pushed himself too hard in camp’s first practice. Maybe it’s more of a tweak than a re-aggravation, but in either case, the word I’m getting is that real caution will be used going forward.

Remember, Orpik hasn’t been healthy in either of the past two postseasons, and while a lot of attention gets paid to other reasons the Penguins didn’t advance past Round 2 in either of those series, nobody should diminish what a healthy Orpik brings. He is, respectfully, the team’s best defensive defenseman, and really the team’s only physical presence on the back end. They need him to be able to bring all of that in April, because even with the “Big Three” centers and G Marc-Andre Fleury, I’m don’t envision these Penguins realizing their full potential this spring if Orpik isn’t able to skate, hit and direct as he does so well for the defense corps.

 

Cheers,

Rossi

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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.

Comments

  1. tomas says:

    Have been reading Conte’s new book but I hope that when I finally reach the end he does mention something about how Howard Baldwin turned down the mid 1990′s original deal of a new arena + Pirates new ballpark for some quick Mellon Arena improvements instead of a brand new arena thus setting back the franchise 10 years. It is a book for every Pens fan to read to see how we finally got to the Consol Energy Center. Orpik’s injury is a concern because I don’t think the Pens can easily replace Orpik even with a trade.

  2. sabu says says:

    im really glad theyre back, but I have bad memories of winnipeg. most of it revolves around their hard nose play demanded there, fostered by guys like tom watt, doug smail, maclean, jimmy mann, etc.. (I wouldnt be surprised if they turn out to be the philly of the western conference down the road). This should be a chippy game .

    I know that the franchise okayed it, but that punk@ss evander kane (good hes not playing tonite) has some balls wearing bobby hull’s number nine.

    I want to see Quebec and the New England (not Hartford) Whalers as well.

  3. Pete says:

    Is Crosby still getting headaches?

  4. Carol says:

    Where’s our dynasty?

  5. sjb says:

    It’s ok Malkin isn’t playing because they have Staal to lead them. They’ll have no problem beating the Winnipeg’s of the league with Staalsy anchoring that team. Who needs Malkin, right? I say give Geno the month off. They’ll be just fine!

  6. Ray says:

    The Penguins and Flyers swapped positions last year and it is now the Penguins who are the goons. Last season Penguins had 71 fights to Flyers 41…..There will be no Penguins dynasty if the best the team can find is cast offs for their star centers, two who can’t stay in the lineup and the third is an underacheiver…. Watch the rest of the league in action on NHL center ice, available free now through Oct. 23 on Comcast and some satellite providers.

  7. jle says:

    “team’s best defensive defenseman, and really the team’s only physical presence on the back end”

    AMEN BROTHER

  8. sjb says:

    Who says Staal is underachiever? You mean you would expect more from a 2nd overall pick drafted ahead of the likes of Toews and Kessel? I thought all the good career 3rd-line, seldom scoring centers were normally picked that high up. It was Shero’s plan the whole time to pick someone not “too” skilled so he wouldn’t have have to pay him too much money. Yeah, that’s the ticket…

    Don’t worry, he’ll score another goal in another 3 or 4 games and we’ll all pretend everything is fine as we wait his next one in another 6 or 7 games. I hear that’s about right for centers picked 2nd overall above players not named Backstrom, Kessel, or Toews.

    Don’t get me started on Letang, who’s not qualified to carry Lidstrom’s jock, let alone get consideration for the Norris. His defensive play is brutal right now and pairing him with Lovejoy is doing him no favors.

  9. Carol says:

    I can’t listen to our TV guys any more. I can understand when Steigerwald sucks up, but when Letang plasters a guy from behind and Errey tries to make it sound like it wasn’t his fault, that’s enough for me. Fortunately, DirecTV allows me to watch the other team’s broadcast.

  10. Carol says:

    So a columnist pulls rank on the beat guys? I want to read hockey writers who cover the team and sport full time, not a part-time amateur.

  11. Joey says:

    Rossi has lost his fire, if you ask me. He’s too cool for this now.

  12. sjb says:

    Hey Rossi, I see Staal had a PP goal last night and I’m sure it will be like Christ walking on water for some, but just like Jesus had a wife, we’ll conveniently and purposely forget that Staal was mugged in his own end like an old lady which led to the Wild’s second goal. That’s what great two-way centers do right…turn over the puck deep in their own end? I guess that’s ok cause they won but that still doesn’t forgive it. Nice to see Staal is good for taking a shift off with the lead.

    Did Staal play ok last night? Sure. Was he any better than Neal, Kunitz, Dupuis, Vitale or even Park? No. Fact is; Staal has much room for improvement and until I see at least that effort (minus the brain fart at the end) in every game consistently, then he’ll never live up to his draft pick or his contract.

  13. Dan the Man says:

    Letang got off easy. As a repeat offender, he should have to sit his butt for five games minimum. How can Mario whine about a “garage league” and have career-killers like Letang, Asham and Cooke on his team? Big phoney.

  14. Jim Forney says:

    Where’s Kevin Gorman?

  15. Z Man says:

    Was that 53 goals that Rossi predicted for Malkin or 53 games played?

  16. dwf says:

    I can’t tell you how elated I am now that the Trib has a REAL sportswriter in Dejan! Thank you Trib management for not subjecting your loyal readers to another season of Rossi’s totally one-sided reporting of all things Pittsburgh. It is finally nice to see somebody write on what is really happening, especially when it comes to the Pens. The good, bad, and the ugly. Rossi, you need to take some time and read, no better yet, intern with DK and see how a real pro writes!

  17. Z Man says:

    It’s no secret that DK is a chemistry-killer.

  18. Harry the Horse says:

    Yeah, just ask Kevin Gorman what he thinks of him.

  19. Dan the Man says:

    Starkey is the best columnist here, although I didn’t care for his soft take on Killer Letang the other day.

  20. A Bomb says:

    How much better would we be with Johnson and a good young prospect in goal and a $5.5-million sniper to skate on the first two lines? Dude, MAF is killin’ us!

  21. Jay Walker says:

    Take away Sid and we’re the Winnipeg Jets in a bigger building!

  22. Carol says:

    Don’t agree. We’re the Phoenix Coyotes with filthy rich owners in a bigger building.

 
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