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Rossi: Too much time for Pens’ top defense pairing?


NEW YORK – Dan Bylsma tried hard not to laugh.

He did, for the most part.

Still, it is a fair point – and an acknowledged bucket of cold water – to note the nearly 30 minutes played by each of Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta in the Penguins’ 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

After all, the Penguins do play again in less than 24 hours with their home game against Minnesota on Thursday starting an hour earlier than did their affair at the Garden.

But, hey, given the way things are going for the Penguins, who have the Metropolitan Division’s second best squad out of the lineup, Niskanen and Maatta will probably each turn hat tricks against the Wild.

Maatta, by the way, is playing like he’s more deserving of a Norris (top defenseman) than a Calder (top rookie) nomination.

Maatta informed me Wednesday morning that all his Christmas shopping is complete.

As for his wish from Father Christmas…

“Playing in the NHL is pretty nice, actually,” Maatta said. “Maybe playing in the Olympics.”

I claim no knowledge of who runs Finland’s Department of Santa, but here is guessing that person can find something to please one of it’s fine young bachelors.


>> Reason No. 8,654,723 to appreciate Marc-Andre Fleury: His candor.

Asked about the Rangers’ two late goals in the third period, which erased a 3-1 Penguins’ lead.

“It sucks,” Fleury said.


That is also true for reporters on deadline.


>> Craig Adams has my vote for Best Actor, though Jussi Jokinen and Rob Scuderi provided stiff competition. Kris Letang reminds me of Rob DeNiro’s Max Cady in “Cape Fear.”

So, this is Christmas, and what have YOU done for a card?


>> GM Ray Shero is carrying himself like somebody pretty pleased with what he is witnessing from his organization in terms of performing in the face of adversity.

He should also be pleased to know that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is happy with how the Penguins are standing by their public wish to eliminate headshots even though James Neal and Deryk Engelland have delivered a couple of those illegal hits in December.

Actually, a more accurate way to report it is that Player Safety folks think the Penguins have been “great” about holding firm when a lot of NHL clubs try to make it seem like their players never do much wrong.

The Penguins have been consistent since 2011 that they want head shots out of hockey. That has not changed even when their players are getting suspended for delivering them.


>> Winner, winner, Sutter dinner:


>> Engelland’s 5-game suspension, and how it is part of a disturbing December for NHL safety:


>> Neal’s suspension is over, and he is looking to get back to a start so dominating that only injuries – and headshots – an keep him from scoring:


>> Evgeni Malkin is out… until when, though? Also, more on the next alternates:


>> T’was neat to have columnist Dejan Kovacevic on a rare road trip. His look at the drafting and developing of these Penguins:


Be EXCELLENT to each other,






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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