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PreVIEW: An early look at Penguins vs. Panthers

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From BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., a good morning (skate) to the Dear Readers… 

= Penguins lines/pairings from the AM practice

It was hardly a full session, though it was attended by:

Defensemen: Letang, Orpik, Niskanen, Bortuzzo, Engelland and Maatta

Forwards: Jokinen, Vitale, Kobasew, Jeffrey, Bennett, Adams, Malkin and Sutter

Goalies: Zatkoff, Fleury

 

= Injury Update

  • D Kris Letang (lower body) joined teammates for the morning practice, his first session since Sept. 27. He also worked extra after the session, with a focus on absorbing contact.
  • RW Matt D’Agostini (lower body) did not practice Friday, though he did skate on his own after the team session. Coach Dan Bylsma has said D’Agostini could resume practicing around Oct. 16 or 18. The Penguins play at Philadelphia on Oct. 17. Those dates are rapidly approaching.
  • RW James Neal (upper body) did not practice Friday. He is week-to-week.
  • D’Agostini and G Tomas Vokoun (blood clot) are on the long-term injury list.

 

= Watch for This n’At

  • Jeff Zatkoff is set to make his first NHL start in goal.
    “I’ve been waiting for a while,” Zatkoff said.
    That is not lip service.
    Zatkoff, 26, has spent the last five seasons in the AHL. He joined the Penguins organization for last season, going 26-20-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .920 save percentage for AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
    He did not show signs of nervousness Friday morning.
    “The closer it gets the better I’ll get,” Zatkoff said. “Time is the worst part.”
    He joked that, like any goalie, he would appreciate “a lot of shots from the outside” to start this game.
    Starter Marc-Andre Fleury said he would not offer any advice to Zatkoff, but only because he would not want to interfere with any routine Zatkoff might have.
    Fleury did offer a scouting report on his backup:
    “He’s patient and reads the play well. I find he takes up a lot of room.”
    Florida has produced seven goals in four games, but Fleury said the Panthers are “better on offense” than that number suggests.
    The Penguins have surrendered an average of 27.3 shots-against in three previous games. They play a style that travels well.
    In other words, Zatkoff probably should not be challenged all that much. But, as the saying goes, that is why they play the game.
  • Letang will not play, and it seems like there is a decent chance he will not play at Tampa Bay on Saturday night, either.
    “Today’s practice wasn’t an indication he’s ready to go or not ready to go,” Bylsma said.
    “We’ll see how the next three days go.”
    Notable, perhaps, is Bylsma’s continued refusal to say Olli Maatta is a lock to return to his junior club (London) before playing a 10th game and triggering this season as the first of his entry-level eligibility.
    Bylsma, on the potential for Maatta and Letang to both dress when Letang is cleared for game action:
    “I don’t know the cap (and) roster situation… (but) I could see circumstances where that is the case.”
    Maatta, 19, can play in only six more games for the Penguins or this will count as Year 1 of his entry-level deal.
    This is a critical two nights for him because coaches want to see how he handles playing when the Penguins do not have favorable matchups because road teams own the first change. Also, the back-to-back games will test him physically and mentally, as will Lightning scorers such as Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, whom Maatta could find himself on the ice against on Saturday night.

 

 

= The Read

 

 

= Hear Here:

Pre-game TV/radio hits:

Rossi: RADIO: Penguins HD Radio/TribLive Radio with Brian Metzer (5:40 p.m., http://sportstalk.triblive.com).

 

Be Excellent to each other,

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.

 
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