Exhibition the first: Blue Jackets 5, Penguins 4 (OT)
Penguins goal scorers: RW Chuck Kobasew (2), RW James Neal, C Dustin Jeffrey
Thoughts from Columbus’ Nationwide Arena:
= This will become a very underappreciated (around the NHL) rivalry, as the fans of Ohio’s NHL Club will grow to loathe the Penguins. At first it will be the close proximity of our cities, but before long it will be about the competition. For a while, it will be about this: The Penguins, a star-studded franchise in a blueprint nontraditional market, and the Blue Jackets, the only professional game in a town and a franchise seeking a identity beyond Ohio State athletics. Whatever it’s about, it will be fun for fans.
= Note to self: Buy earplugs before the first regular-season game, as that blasted cannon nearly did to me what Keith Richards has spent 50 years doing to Mick Jagger’s left ear.
= D Brian Dumoulin looked to be favoring his arm after a hit by Blue Jackets RW Blake Comeau. Would be a tough blow for Dumoulin if he misses any time during the final weeks of camp because Penguins management is very, very high on him – with some within hockey operations confident Dumoulin is ready to push for an NHL gig now.
Of course, the numbers are against Dumoulin.
Again, coach Dan Bylsma does not want to carry eight defensemen, as he did in the truncated last season, because there is never enough opportunity to work a rotation of eight. So, seven will be the ideal number, and of the eight NHL-ready defensemen in camp, only Simon Despres would need not clear waivers to begin the season in the AHL. (Also, as noted in a #TribHKY Insider last week, Despres starting in the AHL would allow the Penguins to avoid making a trade of, say, Matt Niskanen for salary-cap purposes.)
= Kobasew probably is a long-shot to make this squad, but he has shown strong enough early in camp to maybe at least give the cap-strapped Penguins pause for thought on his potential value. It probably was no coincidence that C Joe Vitale, who is having a strong camp according to Bylsma, dropped the gloves in the same exhibition game in which Kobasew scored twice.
Kobasew is not just playing for a Penguins’ job. On tryout contract, he is playing for his NHL future – and he has shown so far with gritty play and impressive guile that he remains an NHL-caliber player.
= This might be the wrong organization for Jeffrey, because the Penguins, when healthy, do not need centers with his offensive upside.
Then again, the Penguins are rarely healthy, especially at the center position, so perhaps Jeffrey, who can also play the wing, is more intriguing to Bylsma now than at any time before.
Jeffrey has a nice shot, especially from the right side, and that showed in this game. He also seems, at first glace, to have an ease about him that perhaps was not as consistent in previous camps.
For at least a couple of seasons it has seemed Jeffrey was on the cusp of finding a regular role with the Penguins. Time may be short for him to do just that, but time has not run out on him yet. Jeffrey is definitely a player to watch this week in camp. Don’t take our word. Bylsma said so, too, after this game.
= Expect the first camp cuts by Tuesday. We are, believe it or not, 18 afternoons from the Penguins’ opening night. If Twitter is any indication – and, too often, Twitter is given too much standing as a measure of public opinion – there are no shortage of Dear Readers that cannot wait.
= A Canadian-born No. 66 played the hero for a significant victory by a Pittsburgh club. His name was Justin Morneau, not Mario Lemieux, and his RBI led the Pirates to their – wait for it – 87th win on Sunday.
Even the Hockey gods are Pirates fans.
Be Excellent to each other,