VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Chris Kunitz may or not play Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
That was what Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Tuesday after Kunitz missed a second consecutive practice because of what Johnston called “maintenance.”
We saw Kunitz in the dressing room after. He looked fine. Then again, he was in street clothes, not hockey equipment, and didn’t appear to be battling anyone in front of the net.
So, it looks like Wednesday’s morning skate will be rather important.
A few other tidbits:
=A ton has been made of the July 28 trade that sent Brandon Sutter to Vancouver and brought Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening to Pittsburgh.
While Clendening has only played one game and would receive an incomplete were this a high school class, Bonino has passed with flying colors.
Bonino has won 54.1 percent of his draws, has played with a rotating cast of linemates, has killed penalties, has seen power-play time and has two goals. Not bad at all.
“He’s never a player whose performance I’m going to measure by numbers,” Johnston said. “He’s got a great personality. He’s a chemistry guy. He’s a very good penalty killer. We use him on the power play. He’s a good, two-way center. He distributes the puck really well. If you’re playing on the wing with him, you know you’re going to get the puck at the right time. He’s been a good addition to our team.”
=The Penguins did a decent amount of power-play work today, and a big focus was Crosby down low, to the left of the goaltender. He also had the freedom — as they’ve been trying to do; this isn’t a today-only thing — to roam and make plays behind the net. With Phil Kessel on the left half-wall and Evgeni Malkin on the right half-wall, this could be a very dangerous alignment.
If, of course, they would set up like this consistently.
=Mt. Lebanon native Matt Bartkowski, a defenseman who signed as a free agent with the Canucks this offseason, has a really rockin’ mustache.
Why’s this important? I don’t know. But I think it’s cool, and I asked him about it after practice.
“It’s Movember,” Bartkowski said. “The real question is, ‘Where’s yours?’ ”
Fair enough. I told Bartkowski I’d embarrass myself if I even tried.
=I swear I’m not making this up: The Penguins and the Rangers are tied for the best defense in the league at 1.82 goals-against per game.
Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Fleury is a tick behind Henrik Lundqvist when it comes to save percentage (.943 compared to .942). Fleury leads regulars with a 1.71 goals-against average.
Here are a couple different takes on Fleury’s ridiculous start.
First, Johnston, expanding on team defense and offense:
Marc-Andre had a great year last year, and he’s come back with a hot start to the season. We have a strong belief even though the (goal) production hasn’t been there, we have a strong belief that we can score. I’m happy with how we’ve started from a defensive perspective. Certainly I would like more goals, but you can’t force that. If your team has confidence in your ability to defend, you know that on a given night you’re not going to play well at that end of the rink.
Sounds like he’s playing pretty well. When I was there the past couple years, he was solid the last two years. I think he’s just carrying that on. He’s taken a lot of heat in the past for weak goals and all this stuff. When I played with him, I never saw it. I’ve always seen a solid goalie who’s one of the elite guys in the league. Again, he takes a lot of heat for whatever reason. I think people are starting to realize how good he is.
=Something else to pay attention to tomorrow: the third period.
The Canucks have blown four third-period leads this season. The Penguins, meanwhile, are 0-30-6 in their past 36 — since Jan. 5, 2014 — when trailing after two periods.
=Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller offered an interesting assessment of the Penguins.
How many of you would agree with this?
When you break and push, they turn the puck around pretty quick. I find they’re a little bit more patient than other teams. Some nights it’s not really a track meet, but they’re going to go the other way on you a little bit.
All from me for now. Time to explore Vancouver a bit more. Went for a run this morning through Stanley Park. Simply incredible. Beautiful city.
Be GRATEFUL to each other,