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Rossi: Zatkoff’s a keeper. Crosby, too. Obviously.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Blasted, Jeff Zatkoff!!!

He allowed three goals on Sunday night.

Three.

That meant three firings of the cannon at Nationwide Arena.

Maybe it takes some getting used to, and certainly the Blue Jackets’ previous placement in the Western Conference left few opportunities; but, still, that cannon going off is the beat reporter sonic equivalent of sharing a room with Spinal Tap.

Zatkoff won his seventh straight game, by the way – and it easily meant the most since his first one. That is because this was the first NHL game he has played in front of his dad, who could not make the Zatkoff’s shutout victory at Columbus on Nov. 2.

As Zatkoff explained, his dad lives in Kentucky, and was engaged in some of his company’s year-end requirements for that contest.

People keep asking about the Penguins’ interest in a veteran backup goalie for Marc-Andre Fleury.

Keep asking, folks.

GM Ray Shero is looking for some elements right now, but a new backup is not on his to-get list. There is no indication he is even looking for one.

This season, with this lower salary cap, a veteran backup is not a luxury the Penguins can really afford unless Tomas Vokoun comes back to play – and there is no indication of that, either.

 

>> So, the Penguins have played three games in this building, counting an exhibition game that Dan Bylsma recalled Sunday night.

“I’m not sure where or why I thought James (Neal) was going to have a breakout year – I’m not sure it would be a breakout year because he’s got 40 (before),” Bylsma said.

“The first time we saw him in preseason, in this building, it was, like, ‘It’s too bad it was a preseason game,’ because it was an unbelievable performance in what he can do with his shot, getting open and shooting the puck.”

Neal has a lot of awesome numbers this season, particularly with 14 goals in 21 games (a 55-goal pace over a full season).

This number speaks loudest: 12 goals in as many road contests.

 

>> Speaking of numbers, this is my vote for the best of any for the Penguins in their first 42 games:

0

That is how many games captain Sidney Crosby has missed.

However, if you really want to know why he might be the MVP of the first half, consider this:

The Penguins are 8-2-0 in games missed by Evgeni Malkin. They have dressed no fewer than three AHL forwards in each of those games. Crosby has four goals and 17 points in those contests.

 

>> Team USA will unveil its Olympic roster on Wednesday.

Bylsma said Sunday that since Christmas Eve, his attention has turned from player evaluation to preparing for the tournament that will take place in about six weeks in Sochi, Russia.

As for Wednesday’s selection:

“I better not be surprised by anything,” Bylsma said.

Indeed, THAT would be a story.

 

>> Great atmosphere in Columbus, where Penguins fans seemed to fill half the rink.

Jack Johnson, a potential Team USA defenseman, told the Columbus Dispatch that the Blue Jackets were prepared to “play a road game” on Sunday night.

It must have felt that way when Neal’s third goal made an ice clearing of caps necessary.

That was a first for me in eight seasons going into visiting arenas.

 

>> Rossi, you Tweet, give me a name? Somebody. Anybody. Who does Shero like?

Grr-argh.

OK, start here: http://www.nhl.com/ice/player.htm?id=8471217#&navid=nhl-search

He will cost the Penguins, though. He would cost like no player since Marian Hossa, who in 2008 required sending away two roster players, a top prospect and a future first-round pick – and there would be no next-in-line winger for Crosby thrown into a deal this time.

Also, really, how many captains can one GM acquire?

Still, in replacing Pascal Dupuis, it’s not just a potential top-line fit to play with Crosby. It’s the need for a top liner that can also contribute on the penalty kill and fill a leadership loss in the dressing room.

That would be one special, um, Ladd.

 

LINKS N’AT

>> Penguins 5, Blue Jackets 3, and the visitors had the power, so to speak: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/pensgalleries/5327337-74/penguins-neal-kunitz#axzz2osvy8rqF

>> The Piece finally played, but what’s up with Kris Letang? http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5327364-74/penguins-games-letang

>> ICYMI, the ever changing world of concussion treatment had Brooks Orpik playing video games on his cell phone: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5303060-74/concussion-orpik-treatment

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

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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