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Rossi: Zatkoff – the guy in net Sunday, the backup Shero is not seeking to replace.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Jeff Zatkoff kept the cannon quiet the last time the Penguins played at Nationwide Arena.

He will get that chance again Sunday night.

Coach Dan Bylsma said Zatkoff will make his eighth start for the Penguins.

Starting with a 19-save shutout at Columbus on Nov. 2, Zatkoff has surrendered only nine goals in his last six appearances, all wins.

The Penguins have allowed an average of 30 shots in his last four starts – an indication, perhaps, they have grown confident in his ability to make quality stops and thus are wiling to open up offensively in games Zatkoff plays.

GM Ray Shero is already looking at adding to his club, especially in the wake of a likely season-ending knee injury for winger Pascal Dupuis. Shero already was seeking a third-line winger with some grit, and now is looking at options to play with captain Sidney Crosby and winger Chris Kunitz on the top line, where Dupuis had become an anchor.

The Penguins do NOT want to force such a significant role on Beau Bennett, a promising winger who is once again injured and is not expected to play before February.

Notable, though, is that Shero is not known to be seriously exploring options for a veteran backup goalie. The Penguins have grown confident with Zatkoff as the No. 2 – and comfortable with the idea of Marc-Andre Fleury not having a veteran safety net in the playoffs, as was the case last season with Tomas Vokoun.

 

>> Defenseman Rob Scuderi has not played since Oct. 26, when his ankle was broken in a loss at Toronto.

Scuderi has declared himself ready to play against Columbus, and he was one of 14 skaters to participate in an optional practice at Nationwide Arena. However, coach Dan Bylsma gets the final call, and he has opted for the “game-time decision” route when it comes to Scuderi’s return for Sunday night.

The Penguins averaged 25.5 shots allowed per game in 10 full games played by Scuderi before his injury. That would rank second in the NHL.

As it is, even with Scuderi having missed the last 29 games, the Penguins are fifth in average shots allowed at 27.3 – and that includes an eight-game stretch without all top-four defensemen and 16 with only two.

 

>> Defenseman Kris Letang has full mobility in his elbow, which required a procedure to deal with an infection, Bylsma said Sunday. He is on this trip, but is skating on his own in Pittsburgh. Letang has been wearing a protective casing on the elbow to help it heal.

 

>> Center Evgeni Malkin (left leg) spent an extra 40 minutes on the ice after the Penguins’ Sunday-morning optional practice. He is hopeful of being cleared for contact for a Monday practice in Newark, N.J. Malkin will miss a seventh straight game on Sunday night, but he has not been ruled out at New Jersey on Tuesday.

 

>> Washington native Riley Barber contributed a goal and an assist in the United States’ 8-0 victory over German in a third Group A game at the World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden. Barber is the captain for Team USA, which is 3-0-0 with a goal differential of plus-5. The Big Game – USA vs. Canada – is Tuesday. If you do not know what that game is big, you are reading the wrong blog.

Follow the WJC here: http://www.worldjunior2014.com

 

THE #TribHKY Sunday Pops…

>> Concussion treatments continue to change, and maybe Sidney Crosby’s activity-based approach was ahead of its time: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5303060-74/concussion-orpik-treatment#axzz2osvy8rqF

>> The notes (from Saturday), including a hint from Bylsma of things to come regarding lineup decisions: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5303062-74/malkin-penguins-scuderi#axzz2osvy8rqF

>> AHL correspondent Jonathan Bombulie chips in with his regular ­­– but always wonderful – notes from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5302995-74/leblond-games-barre#axzz2osvy8rqF

 

Say hello if you are in Columbus. I’m the guy hoping to save his ears when that cannon blows.

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi has covered the Penguins for parts of every season that Sidney Crosby has played in Pittsburgh. So, since 2005. He has led the Trib's NHL coverage since 2007, when he became the primary Penguins beat reporter. He joined the Tribune-Review in November 2002. Rossi, 35, is local chapter president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. He also dabbles in radio, as ClearChannel's "Penguins Insider," and TV, as "NHL Insider" for Root Sports Pittsburgh, and as a semi-regular contributor to The Final Word, a Sunday sports show that airs on WPXI. In 2012, Rossi was recognized nationally by Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism for his coverage of youth sports for a Trib series that investigated concussion protocol. In 2013, he teamed with Carl Prine for an investigative piece about athletes' charities what was honored regionally. A graduate of West Virginia University and Keystone Oaks High School, Rossi was raised in Crafton and Green Tree and currently resides in Brookline. He is currently working on the authorized biography of Evgeni Malkin. Follow him on Twitter: @RobRossi_Trib

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