Six days ago, the Penguins recorded a rousing come-from-behind shootout win over conference-leading Montreal. They followed that with a clunker against Columbus and an epic clunker in New Jersey.
With those events as a backdrop, I think coach Mike Johnston did a pretty good job after morning skate of setting the scene for tonight’s 7:30 game with the Minnesota Wild.
“We had two bad games on Friday and Saturday. You heard the players. They take ownership for that. They take responsibility for it. We, as coaches, do as well. Now, the thing is now, you have to respond. You have to have a response. What type of response? I look back to the Montreal game. Same type of game we played against Montreal. We didn’t give up a lot early in the game and we started to generate as the game went along. We have to play that same style of game. Minnesota’s like Montreal. They’re a top team.”
There are a lot of storylines involving what it means to be mad at each other and entertainment value — Jason Mackey and Joe Starkey wrote about those in today’s Trib — but that’s pretty much it in a nutshell with the game a few hours away.
Some other notes from morning skate:
— Patric Hornqvist, who left Saturday’s game in New Jersey in the second period with an undisclosed injury and did not skate yesterday, was a full participant in morning skate. He said he was feeling good, but stopped short of declaring himself in the lineup tonight. Johnston said he hadn’t gotten the final OK from the trainers, but he thought Hornqvist looked good in practice.
The Penguins didn’t do line rushes, but Hornqvist was in a black jersey along with Pascal Dupuis, Sidney Crosby, David Perron, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Beau Bennett was in a white jersey with Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Eric Fehr, Daniel Sprong and Sergei Plotnikov.
Therefore, I think you can expect Hornqvist in the top six and Bennett in the bottom six to start tonight.
— All five players who missed yesterday’s practice with injury or illness — Hornqvist, Cullen, Sprong, Bonino and Rob Scuderi — were back today. Johnston said he will need to get a full report from the trainers before the game, but he expected most if not all of them to be ready to go.
“It wasn’t something that we thought there would be several players out tonight and we had to call anybody up,” Johnston said. “We should be fine with the players we have.”
— Adam Clendening and Sergei Plotnikov are the extras. They stayed out late at the end of morning skate, so if they’re in, it will be a late decision. Here’s Johnston on Clendening, who has dressed just once this season and has been a healthy scratch for 13 straight games:
“Anytime a young guy does go that long with that, we could send him down on conditioning to get some games, if it didn’t look like he would get in, but lately, with the sickness and everything else going on with our team, it looked like he might get in. Are we concerned if he stays out too long? Yes. We have to get him some games because he is a young guy. But evaluating our defense on a nightly basis and determining what we want to do, that’s what we do, as of yet, we haven’t made a change.”
— Speaking of potential call-ups, the AHL doesn’t have fancy stats like the NHL does, but Jason Iacona keeps a handy chart on his blog that digs a little deeper into some WBS numbers. Check it out here.
You’ll see that there is a full handful of WBS forwards with big-time goals for/goals against numbers so far this season — Scott Wilson, Conor Sheary and Dominik Simon chief among them. I wouldn’t think calling one or two up to fill in for the injured or ill would be a bad idea, if the cap allows.
— Finally, let’s take a quick look at what Johnston had to say about the Wild this morning:
“A couple things stand out for me. They’re quick and they’re skilled. Up front, you take a look at their group of forwards, they have quickness and good skill. On the back end, their defensemen make a very good first pass and they join the rush. Certainly when their goaltending came around last year, that’s when they really started to take off as a team.”
Now compare that to what John Hynes said about the Penguins before Saturday’s game in New Jersey:
“When you look at them, they have a great coaching staff. They have excellent goaltending. Both guys can play real well. They’re solid there. On D, they have components of everything. They have guys that can skate, move the puck and defend well. Then we know up front, they have four lines that are deadly. They’re playing really well right now. We know we have to have one of our better games tonight.”
The lesson to be learned here? Hockey coaches could give college football coaches a run for their money when it comes to talking up their next opponent like they are the greatest thing walking God’s green earth.
More later. Bye for now,