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September 25, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Who’s playing Thursday vs. Wild


Here’s a look at who will play for the Penguins on Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild at Consol Energy Center.

Notice no Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz or Evgeni Malkin. Crosby and Kunitz practiced (mostly) on Tuesday. The club was off Wednesday. Evgeni Malkin hasn’t skated (that we can see or the Penguins will acknowledge) since Sept. 8.

Head coach Mike Johnston said he wanted Greiss and Zatkoff to get full games. Greiss played all 60 minutes at Columbus Tuesday. Figure Zatkoff will get the whole thing against the Wild.

Still no Daniel Carcillo. Curious to bring a guy in, give him a tryout contract and not play him. Will be interesting to see how  Johnston organizes his forwards and defense. Probably looking at defense-wise: 4-7 … 41-47 … 6-8. Again, just a guess.

Forwards, maybe: 23-16-19 … 42-57-72 … 38-13-17 … 49-25-59? If it were me (and obviously it is not), I would give Megna a look in a top-six role. He’s had, in my completely useless opinion, a very strong camp.

1 Thomas Greiss G
37 Jeff Zatkoff G
4 Rob Scuderi D
6 Scott Harrington D
7 Paul Martin D
8 Brian Dumoulin D
13 Nick Spaling F
16 Brandon Sutter F
17 Blake Comeau F
19 Beau Bennett F
23 Steve Downie F
25 Andrew Ebbett F
38 Zach Sill F
41 Robert Bortuzzo D
42 Kasperi Kapanen F
47 Simon Despres D
49 Oskar Sundqvist F
57 Marcel Goc F
59 Jayson Megna F
72 Patric Hornqvist F

Will have pregame stuff from Consol yesterday morning. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 23, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Pregame: Penguins at Columbus, 7 p.m.


One of the most intriguing battles for the Penguins this preseason features backup goaltenders Jeff Zatkoff and Thomas Greiss.

Not wanting to rotate the two from period-to-period, head coach Mike Johnston said Greiss will play the entire game at Columbus tonight.

“I think for the goaltenders — and I talked to them a little bit about it, I talked to (goaltending coach) Mike Bales — to have a game and know you’re in the game, I think that’s a better evaluation,” Johnston said after the team’s morning skating and a non-game group practice. “They want us to have a good evaluation of them as we move through camp.”

The Blue Jackets are here on Saturday, and I would expect Zatkoff to play in that one.
Tonight, I would expect forwards Steve Downie and Scott Hartnell to introduce themselves to each other — like they don’t know each other already.

Here’s guessing someone tries to stir the pot and soon.

Rookie first-round draft pick Kasperi Kapanen also makes his NHL debut tonight. I asked Johnston about his anticipation seeing Kapanen play against someone other than his own team.

“He comes into this camp, and he’s a little bit in awe,” Johnston said. “I thought the last couple of days, especially yesterday … if you watch yesterday in practice, he hung on to the puck well. He showed some of his skill. Looks like he had extra jump in his stride.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him play against Columbus tonight.”

>>Your news out of the morning skate include the obvious, stuff that was probably already plucked from Twitter: Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz skated; Evgeni Malkin did not; and the team finished practice with yet another set of sprints.

Kunitz, Derrick Pouliot, Daniel Carcillo and Nick Drazenovic skated before practice with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar.

Radio/TV: 105.9 FM
About Columbus: The Blue Jackets acquired Hartnell in the offseason from Philadelphia. Got him for Plum native R.J. Umberger and a fourth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. They also signed former Penguin Brian Gibbons. … Columbus set franchise records last season in wins (43), road wins (21), points (93) and goals scored (226). … Missing from that team, though, is center Ryan Johansen, who’s in the middle of a nasty contract dispute after scoring a team-high 33 goals. … Expect Sergei Bobrovsky to get the start in net and Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski to play together as a defensive pair.
The series: Pittsburgh won all five regular season meetings a season ago, outscoring Columbus 16-7 in those games. G Jeff Zatkoff earned his first NHL victory/shutout Nov. 2 of last year when the Penguins won, 3-0, and Zatkoff made 19 saves. Zatkoff was actually 2-0 against Columbus last season, allowing three goals on 47 shots (.936 save percentage).
Next up: Thursday vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m.

The Trib’s Penguins page
The Penguins’ own gameday page
The Blue Jackets’ gameday page’s preview

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 23, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Postgame: Pens fall to Detroit, 2-1, to open preseason


Beau Bennett said he’s eating his vegetables.

His shot certainly looked healthy when he scored in the second period during Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Red Wings in a preseason game at Consol Energy Center.

Off a faceoff in the right circle, Bennett took a pass from defenseman Taylor Chorney, glided backward — Root Sports color commentary Bob Errey said he was “doing the moonwalk,” yet another reason why the man is awesome — and whipped a wrister that beat Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard glove side.

Bennett’s wrist are healthy. Need proof? Watch the replay of that goal.

“In recent years, I’ve been shooting out there, just kind of muffing it toward the net,” Bennett said. “(Monday), I was trying to pick spots.”

Bennett said he was banged up last preseason, fighting through an injury for the first five games, but that’s not been the case this year. Not even close. Offseason surgery and rehab on his wrist have him feeling 100 percent.

“It’s nice to come in and be really healthy, eat my vegetables and have strong bones,” Bennett said. “It’s been a good summer.”

Other observations from Monday:

>>The Penguins fared well in the faceoff circle, better than I thought. They won 28 of 47 draws for a 60-percent success rate. Center Brandon Sutter went 14-5 for an absurd 74-percent mark. Jean-Sebastien Dea, who’s had an impressive camp and rookie tournament, won four of his five draws.

>>Pavel Datsyuk is good. Just ridiculously good. The pass he made to Tomas Tatar … the gathering of the loose puck then roofing the shot over Marc-Andre Fleury … Datsyuk is special.

But why the heck is the guy playing in the third period of a preseason game when he gets creamed by Rob Scuderi? We’ll likely never know the answer to that question.

“You’re facing a pretty good player there, a world-class player,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said of Datsyuk.

“His puck movement, seeing players away from the puck,” Johnston added, “he’s going to test your penalty kill.”

>>So will penalties, and the Penguins had too many of those. Six, to be exact. And Detroit converted twice on the power play.

The Penguins’ top PK unit was Blake Comeau, Paul Martin, Nick Spaling and Scuderi, with Spaling and Scuderi logging more than 6:00 on the penalty kill.

Not good.

Considering two of those four are new, Johnston admitted there’s still some work to be done. Oh, and the Penguins went 0 for 4 on the power play, handing the special teams battle to the Red Wings.

“Do we have some things to work on? Sure,” Johnston said. “We have a lot of killers who hadn’t worked together before out there. With the changes, we have to implement some things on our special teams units.”

Scuderi didn’t think it was much of a problem.

“I think on the first one it was just a missed assignment. Mistakes happen,” he said. “The second one I thought was a pretty fortunate bounce. You have a scramble in front. They have five guys, we have four. It ends up in the back of our net. It’s something we want to work on, but I wouldn’t read too much into it. It’s one game.”

Thanks for reading, as always, folks. Really.

Some #TribHKY links for Tuesday:
Josh Yohe takes a look at all those offensive defensemen
Short gamer on Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Red Wings
Notebook: Crosby gets some early work
Lineups for Tuesday’s preseason game at Columbus

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 23, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Lineup at Columbus Tuesday


Here’s a look at which Penguins will play Tuesday at Columbus:

1 Thomas Greiss G
37 Jeff Zatkoff G

6 Scott Harrington D
8 Brian Dumoulin D
10 Christian Ehrhoff D
23 Steve Downie F
25 Andrew Ebbett F
27 Craig Adams F
32 Pierre-Luc Leblond F
36 Bryan Rust F
38 Zach Sill F
42 Kasperi Kapanen F
45 Adam Payerl F
46 Dominik Uher F
52 Harrison Ruopp D
53 Tom Kostopoulos F
54 Tom Kuhnhackl F
55 Philip Samuelsson D
57 Marcel Goc F
58 Kris Letang D
63 Conor Sheary F
65 Alex Boak D


September 22, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Previewing Red Wings at Penguins, 7 p.m., preseason


The last time the Pittsburgh Penguins played a game at Consol Energy Center … alright, you all know how that ended.

Well, we’re here. With a new coach, a new general manager and plenty of new players. Oh, and a new beat reporter.

Three days of camp practices are over. A 7 o’clock game with Detroit looms tonight.

Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling were acquired from Nashville and will play against the Red Wings. Blake Comeau signed as a few agent and will also dress.

“It’s good to get it going again,” Hornqvist said. “We have a new coach, a new GM, and I’m one of the new players. There are a lot of new situations out there that you try to get better at and get a game plan of how we want to play in certain situations. That’s what preseason is all about: get in shape and do the right things out there.”

“It’ll be good,” Spaling said. “It’s nice to get to a real game. I think everybody has been waiting all summer to start back up. It’s go-time tonight.”

It’s tough to predict line combinations for tonight because there were none at the morning skate. Only winger Beau Bennett playing with center Brandon Sutter seems like a lock.

Because of the need to dress a certain amount of veterans for preseason games — and with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz out because of injuries — the third member of that line, Steve Downie, will likely play tomorrow, head coach Johnston said.

Marc-Andre Fleury
will start in goal. His backup is Matt Murray.

“We’ll decide as we go through the game if Murray is going to get some action,” Johnston said.

By now, you should know a little bit about Johnston’s system: puck-possession, speed, pace, all the usuals.

Defenseman Rob Scuderi was asked what differences fans will see between what the Penguins will do tonight versus what they did under former coach Dan Bylsma, and I found his response interesting:

“I think we might be slightly more aggressive in the neutral zone,” Scuderi said. “Where I thought we might sit back a little bit, which a lot of teams do, to kind of wait and see what happens, I think we’re going to try and dictate the pace a little more in the neutral zone.

“Besides that, there are a few wrinkles that are different. It’ll be up to us to adjust and figure it out.”

About Detroit
Pittsburgh won two of three meetings against Detroit last season, including the only meeting at Consol. Two of the three required overtime. … Tonight Detroit will dress notables F Pavel Datsyuk, F Riley Sheahan, F Dan Cleary, F Tomas Tatar, F Darren Helm, D Niklas Kronwall and G Jimmy Howard.

The 2013-14 series:
Dec. 14 4-1 Penguins at at Joe Louis Arena
March 20 5-4 Red Wings (OT) at Joe Louis Arena
April 9 4-3 Penguins (SO) at Consol Energy Center


To our #TribHKY Penguins page
To the box score, which includes rosters
To the Red Wings page of the Detroit Free Press

>>Josh Yohe and I will have you covered tonight. If there’s one person in Pittsburgh left who doesn’t follow Josh, his Twitter handle is @JoshYohe_Trib. Mine is @Mackey_Trib.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 22, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Extras from Sunday, five things to watch


A busy week for the Penguins starts with a Monday night preseason home game against Detroit. Tuesday they’re at Columbus, then Minnesota and Columbus are here on Thursday and Saturday.

Head coach Mike Johnston said Sunday that he expects defenseman Olli Maatta to miss all of those games. If they’re lucky, they’ll have him back to test his surgically repaired shoulder for games at Minnesota on Sept. 29 and at Detroit on Oct. 1.

“It’s about competing,” Johnston said of the preseason. “It’s about competing for spots and learning how to play the system. But I don’t want the system and the strategy and the style of play to overtake the compete and the energy in the game.”

Here are five things to watch early on in the preseason:

1. Pairings. Will Rob Scuderi play with Kris Letang? Paul Martin with Christian Ehrhoff?

2. Third line. Johnston really wants Beau Bennett and Brandon Sutter together. Will it work?

3. Daniel Carcillo. Many have asked how he’s been doing. Fine. But you don’t toe the line — believe that’s what Johnston termed it — with your teammates in practices. Games will give Carcillo a forum to do what he does best, and that’s to be a pain and inflict it.

4. Goaltenders. How will Johnston use and evaluate Jeff Zatkoff and Thomas Greiss? Very doubtful they carry three goaltenders. Somebody has to prove something.

5. Simon Despres. His first game in the post-Dan Bylsma Era. Something tells me this will be quite a different year for Despres.

Tampa Bay all over again? Nah.
The Penguins have been working on a 1-3-1 neutral zone forecheck, but don’t expect Johnston to get too carried away with it.

He still wants to play with pace, tempo and a puck-possession style, the same things you’ve been hearing since he was hired.

“My feeling with the neutral zone forecheck is that it shouldn’t happen more than two or three times per game,” Johnston said. “If you’re really playing the right way, if you’re putting some pressure on the puck in the neutral zone … I don’t want to sit back and get into a forecheck.

“If a forecheck happens, it happens. Other than that, we’re going to try to push the puck a little bit and stay out of the neutral zone forecheck.”

Bennett’s take

As I wrote above, Johnston didn’t hide the fact that he’d love to have Steve Downie, Sutter and Bennett as his third line, specifically Sutter regularly paired with Bennett.

I got a chance Sunday to ask Bennett what he thought about that combination and whether he thinks it would be an effective third line.

“It’s a good mix,” Bennett said. “When you’re looking at piecing together lines, you look at three guys who complement each other. I think you can see that. ‘Sudsy’ is an all-around center. I try to be creative and make plays; sometimes I’ll be a little bit more risky than those guys. Downie will get in your face and be the guy around the net.”

‘They show up’

He’s yet to play a game here yet, but already the differences between Nashville and Pittsburgh are apparent to forward Patric Hornqvist.

Hornqvist was asked by TribLIVE Radio’s Ken Laird whether he felt comfortable in the city, and Hornqvist replied that he’s been enjoying himself. People notice him when he’s out, too, Hornqvist said.

Yes, even now.

Apparently this wasn’t the case before.

“That’s what people told me when I first got traded here,” Hornqvist explained. “They said, ‘It’s going to be a little different from Nashville, where nobody really cared about hockey.’ They show up. The fans were great (in Nashville), but you didn’t get recognized or anything like that. Here, it’s a sports city and you get recognized. It’s fun.”

Monday’s #TribHKY links

Penguins forward Megna’s skill set might be perfect fit
Notebook: Carcillo hopes to give Penguins a physical edge
Inside the glass: Ehrhoff, Martin look comfortable together
A look at Monday night’s lineup

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 21, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Penguins release lineup for Monday


The Penguins have released their lineup for Monday night’s preseason home game against Detroit.

Here’s what it looks like:

29 Marc-Andre Fleury G
60 Matt Murray G

4 Rob Scuderi D
7 Paul Martin D
13 Nick Spaling F
16 Brandon Sutter F
17 Blake Comeau F
19 Beau Bennett F
33 Reid McNeill D
34 Bobby Farnham F
39 Josh Archibald F
41 Robert Bortuzzo D
43 Scott Wilson F
44 Taylor Chorney D
47 Simon Despres D
48 Anton Zlobin F
49 Oskar Sundqvist F
50 Jean-Sebastien Dea F
59 Jayson Megna F
72 Patric Hornqvist F

Will have more on here later from today.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 20, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Special day ahead


Sunday’s Penguins practices will be special. Promise.

OK, special because head coach Mike Johnston said they’re going to work a lot on special teams, but special nonetheless.

I asked defenseman Kris Letang whether he was excited to get a look at what the team will be doing on the power play under Johnston.

“Obviously we want to know what’s going to be the system for power play and PK and the way that we’re going to play,” Letang said. “Special teams is something that teams take pride in being good at. Obviously I’m a guy who likes to act on both of those units. I’m looking forward to it.”

The Penguins ranked first (23.4 percent) and fifth (85.0) on the power play and penalty kill, but there was plenty of turnover there.

No more Dan Bylsma.

No more James Neal.

No more Brooks Orpik.

No more Jussi Jokinen.

Our first peak at what Johnston will do comes Sunday. Here’s his teaser from Saturday’s presser:

“The first 45 minutes will be a practice. We’re going to work on our defensive zone coverage, which we haven’t worked on yet. The scrimmage situation will be five-on-four. … Five-on-four breakout to a zone. That will be a little bit controlled, then it will be a full ice five-on-four.

“The key things for me are that our players understand our power play breakout and our end zone setup, how we’re set. Not people in certain spots but how we set up and a couple options.

“From a penalty killing perspective, (assistant coach) Gary Agnew will go over forecheck on the penalty kill and some of end zone reads and how we’re reacting to it.
“It should also give our goaltenders a fairly good evaluations. Once you five on four, they’re going to get some high-end shots, some high-quality shots, a little bit more than you saw in the scrimmage (Saturday).”

>>Line combinations were a hot topic Saturday, as Johnston paired Brandon Sutter with Beau Bennett and Steve Downie, a line he seemingly hopes sticks together.

What also happened — and what may be much more of a hot-button topic — is Johnston pairing Letang with Rob Scuderi and not Paul Martin.

Letang said he and Scuderi — whom management wanted him to play with last season — are trying to work it out here in the early stages.

“It’s a new system. It’s going to be different for both of us on the ice,” Letang said. “Maybe it’s better for (Scuderi) when we stay a little bit more back. We’re trying to work together. We’re trying to make sure we feel comfortable. Training camp is all about getting comfortable out there, getting loose. For sure we’re trying to work it out.”

Links to Sunday’s #TribHKY coverage:

GM Jim Rutherford wants to raise Cup again
Inside the glass: Sutter takes puck to face
Sidney Crosby was back for a day Friday … and that’s all it was

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 19, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Maatta a pleasant surprise


Olli Maatta wasn’t wearing a red jersey, as the Penguins opened training camp at Consol Energy Center Friday.

But Maatta was wearing an ear-to-ear smile, his surgically repaired shoulder causing him no pain or limiting him in any way.

“Shoulder’s feeling good,” Maatta said. “It’s getting better. When I got the surgery, I wouldn’t have thought it would be this good. It hasn’t bothered me as much as I was expecting it to. I had a pretty good summer, even though I had the sling on for two months.”

Maatta had shoulder labral repair surgery on May 22, and the timetable he was given was 4-6 months.

First-year coach Mike Johnston said Thursday that Maatta would wear a red jersey and absorb “limited or controlled contact” to open camp, though Maatta didn’t appear limited in any way; when the team closed practice with a three-on-three scrimmage between the blue lines, Maatta was a full participant.

“I was good for that,” Maatta said. “We just got to do some drills that I can do.
“I’m trying to be out there with the team as much as I can.”

Maatta enjoyed a breakout rookie season last year, totaling nine goals and 20 assists in 78 games. At times, especially now, Maatta admitted he was nervous. Not so much anymore.

“I’m not as nervous, for sure, but still excited about the season,” Maatta said. “I still come here to earn my spot. I want to show the new coaching staff that I can play big minutes on this team.”

Maatta said he’s a little bit ahead of schedule but wants to remain cautious in his return. No word on his plans for the first preseason game Monday at home against Detroit or Oct. 9 at home against Anaheim. Still way too early for that.

“With this, you don’t want to rush it,” Maatta said. “You want to make sure it’s full prepared when I get back. I’d rather miss a couple games now than lose another four months.”


>>Count Kris Letang among those who enjoyed what he saw so far of Mike Johnston’s system, even if it was a bit heavy on the skating.

“High-pace. I was surprised,” Letang said. “I don’t think you can get faster and harder than that. It was fun to see that. He bangs everything quick. He relies on us to be mature and make things right.”


>>>Believe it if you want, but Johnston said he found out about 30 minutes before Friday’s practice that Sidney Crosby would participate.

What Johnston saw of Crosby impressed him, along with pretty much anybody else watching.

“I was kind of surprised,” Johnston said. “I found out about a half-hour before practice that he was going to work his way through some drills. He stayed on basically until the last drill. I was kind of excited by that, to see that he was able to handle the drills.”


Links from Friday’s #TribHKY coverage
Our early story on Sidney Crosby rejoining the team for part of practice
Those third jerseys are, as forward Patric Hornqvist said, pretty “sick”
The rosters you’ll want to print and bring to Saturday’s open practices
Inside the glass: Johnston’s opening practice grueling
Notebook: Crosby practices, feels better
Finally healthy, Letang wants to make his presence felt as a leader


Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 19, 2014
by Jason Mackey

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Mackey: Penguins training camp groups


Here’s how the Penguins have split the team for practices through Sunday.
Today, Group A will practice from 9-10:15 a.m., Group B from 10:30-11:45.
On Saturday — which is free and open to the public — Group B will practice from 9-9:45 a.m. and scrimmage from 10-10:45 a.m. Group A will practice from 11-11:45 a.m. and scrimmage from 12-12:45 p.m.
On Sunday, Group A will practice from 9-9:45 a.m. and scrimmage from 10-10:30 a.m. Group B will practice from 11:15 a.m.-12 p.m. and scrimmage from 12:15-12:45 p.m.

Group A
4    Rob Scuderi    D
6    Scott Harrington    D
9    Pascal Dupuis    F
13    Nick Spaling    F
14    Chris Kunitz    F
17    Blake Comeau    F
27    Craig Adams    F
36    Bryan Rust    F
41    Robert Bortuzzo    D
42    Kasperi Kapanen    F
45    Adam Payerl    F
47    Simon Despres    D
49    Oskar Sundqvist    F
53    Tom Kostopoulos    F
54    Tom Kuhnhackl    F
55    Philip Samuelsson    D
57    Marcel Goc    F
58    Kris Letang    D
59    Jayson Megna    F
61    Matia Marcantuoni    F
63    Conor Sheary    F
64    Clark Seymour    D
65    Alex Boak    D

1    Thomas Greiss    G
31    Eric Hartzell    G
37    Jeff Zatkoff    G

Group B
3    Olli Maatta    D
7    Paul Martin    D
8    Brian Dumoulin    D
10    Christian Ehrhoff    D
12    Daniel Carcillo    F
16    Brandon Sutter    C
19    Beau Bennett    F
23    Steve Downie    F
25    Andrew Ebbett    F
32    Pierre-Luc Leblond    F
33    Reid McNeill    D
34    Bobby Farnham    F
38    Zach Sill    F
39    Josh Archibald    F
43    Scott Wilson    F
44    Taylor Chorney    D
46    Dominick Uher    F
48    Anton Zlobin    F
50    Jean-Sebastien Dea    F
52    Harrison Ruopp    D
56    Nick D’Agostino    D
72    Patric Hornqvist    F

29    Marc-Andre Fleury    G
30    Matt Murray    G
60    Tristan Jarry    G

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