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October 25, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Celebration Daze


Beau Bennett returned to practice today after missing five games with an undisclosed injury. He said he hurt himself celebrating a goal in an Oct. 13 game against Montreal.

You can see it here.

Doesn’t look like anything unusual, but there it is. I don’t think Bennett was messing with reporters. Coach Mike Johnston made mention of it being an unusual injury too. Either way, Bennett has now joined an elite group of athletes that includes …

Kendrys Morales

Bill Gramatica

and Ford City’s Gus Frerotte

Not a list anyone wants to be on.

Bennett said he’s cleared and ready to go, that he started skating two days after the injury happened. He’d be a welcome addition for the Penguins because he was perhaps the team’s best offensive player in the preseason.

Some other notes from today’s practice:

— Bryan Rust is out for a while after taking a shot to the hand last night in Nashville. Johnston said he didn’t have a timetable, but it was beyond day-to-day.

— Bobby Farnham is on waivers. The Penguins would need a roster spot to activate Bennett, and Farnham is apparently the odd-man out. All eyes now turn to Newark. Devils coach John Hynes loved Farnham when they were together in Wilkes-Barre and GM Ray Shero signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Brown. On the other hand, the Devils are on a four-game winning streak, so they might not be inclined to mess with their lineup.

— After starting last night’s game in Nashville on the fourth line, David Perron was back up on the second line today with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Sergei Plotnikov dropped down to fourth-line duty. Perron is without a point and it’s hard to argue he’s done a lot to earn a top-six spot, but neither has Plotnikov. Bottom line: Perron is a skilled player and his game probably fits better on the second line than on the fourth line.

A look at how they lined up:

Injured: Fehr

Extra: Clendening

Bye for now,



October 25, 2015

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Postgame: Penguins 2, Predators 1 (OT)


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Penguins have some major questions on the power play.

Like checking the NHL rulebook to see if they’re able to decline the penalty, seems like.

Scoring goals still hasn’t come easy. But, man, that goaltender. They have one of the NHL’s best right now. Maybe the best.

Marc-Andre Fleury stole the show Saturday at Nashville during a 2-1 win over the Predators.

Just some absurd numbers to come out of this one. Nashville had 70 shot attempts, 39 on goal. The Penguins had 42, 25 on goal.

Fleury stopped all but one.

In eight starts, Fleury has allowed 16 goals. Pretty impressive stuff.

“Right off the bat they came pretty hard at us. Got some pucks to the net. After that, I thought we settled down.

“The building gets pretty loud. They get behind them a lot. It’s fun to play a game here, but I’m glad we got two points at the end.”

=Some series stuff that I couldn’t fit into my game story:

The Penguins have won six of the past seven meetings with the Predators and four in a row at on the road. They haven’t lost here since Jan. 8, 2009. Nashville, meanwhile, suffered its first home loss of the season, as its three-game losing streak came to a close.

“It probably doesn’t feel as good as it should,” Chris Kunitz said of the win. “I don’t think guys know how good that team is. How good their goaltender is, how well their D move the puck and the speed play at.

“To come into their rink and play a hard-fought game, I know we’re struggling to score goals, but it feels really good to get a win.”

=Speaking of Kunitz, was all smiles afterward. You could tell he’s been putting a ton of pressure on himself to perform. And scoring a goal, his first in the regular season since March 29, 2015, felt pretty darn good.

I asked Kunitz to talk postgame. He was more than willing — most are following an overtime win — and I think he got a chuckle out of me saying something about him blasting the stuffing (I didn’t say stuffing) out of that puck.

“You want to help your team offensively,” said Kunitz, who has two goals in his past 29 regular-season games. “Hasn’t been going my way. Geno made a nice drop pass. Just tried to put a good shot on net. Found its way in.”

=The power play was ugly tonight.

The might actually be too kind of an assessment.

They generated two shots on a five-minute major and didn’t do much more on a minor penalty early in the second period.

Here was coach Mike Johnston after:

“The five-minute and the next power play after that, I just thought our loose-puck recovery in the offensive zone, how we came up with speed … they took away the drop pass. If they’re going to take away the drop pass, then we have to be able to react to it. We have two options on the power-play breakouts

“(We need to) go to the second option a little bit quicker. The five-minute power play, we didn’t get anything. They had a power play right after, they didn’t get anything. It seemed like both power plays weren’t giving the other team any momentum tonight. I think they’re probably saying the same.”

=There was also quite a bit of vitriol directed at Johnston on Twitter for not challenging James Neal’s goal. I can see why. Barret Jackman absolutely touched Fleury, and what in the world do you have to lose there?

Johnston didn’t challenge.

Said they didn’t think it was goaltender interference.

Here’s Johnston’s explanation when I asked postgame:

“We talked about it on the bench. I haven’t looked at it yet, so I’m not sure. We talked about it on the bench. We looked at it up top and inside. We didn’t feel at that time it was a challenge. I’ll have to look at it again.”

Fleury said Jackman absolutely touched him, though he didn’t “run him.”

“I couldn’t rotate and push the way I wanted to because he was right there,” Fleury said. “I don’t think the guy really ran me. Happened pretty fast. I was looking at the puck. It hit my face. By the time I found it, it was already on the stick.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 24, 2015

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Gameday: Penguins at Predators, 8 p.m.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Penguins need to get well, to discover some offense.

And they probably could have picked a better scenario in which to do it.

Nashville is good.

Really good.

They’re 6-1-0 and have scored 12 goals in regulation in their past three games. The Penguins, of course, have 11 goals total all season.

“They’re scoring a lot of goals,” Sidney Crosby said. “Definitely have to be aware of those guys coming up into the rush and creating a lot that way. Hopefully we can spend some time in their end and generate some things ourselves.”

Here are eight things to know for tonight.

1. Phil Kessel will play with Evgeni Malkin for the first time. He had spent the previous seven games on Crosby’s wing.

“I don’t think it changes anything for me,” Kessel told me. “Just play the game. Play my game. Things will work themselves out.”

2. Marc-Andre Fleury was the first goalie off. He’ll start. It’s his eighth consecutive start. He’s the only NHL goalie, along with Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop and Vancouver’s Ryan Miller to play every one of his team’s games.

Fleury has been hot against Nashville, too.

He’s 5-1 with a 1.65 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage in his past six starts against the Preds.

3. Expect Nick Bonino to be in the lineup. He worked on the second power play this morning. There were no line rushes, but he skated on a line Friday with left wing Chris Kunitz and Daniel Sprong.

“I feel good,” Bonino said. “I’ll talk with the coaches here coming up. I was able to practice yesterday and today normally, so I feel pretty good.”

4. The Penguins could stand to score first tonight. Nashville has scored the first goal in all seven of its games, striking within the first 10 minutes of the game on three occasions.

Meanwhile, the Predators have not allowed a first-period goal this season. They’ve outscored the opposition 6-0 and have outshot them, 80-63.

5. Could be a good game for Crosby. He has 3-6–9 in his last three games here.

For the record: I don’t blame Crosby. Great town. Great BBQ. The Ryman is just a killer place to see a show.

Overall, the Penguins have won five of six in the series and three straight in this building.

“Hopefully we can continue it,” Crosby said. “But it’s not something you want to talk about.”

6. James Neal is on another planet right now. Has five goals and six points in his last three games, all wins.

“We have a good thing going right now,” Neal said. “We’re playing good hockey.”

7. The Penguins’ top power play remains Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Kris Letang and Kunitz, while the second unit was Ian Cole, Olli Maatta, Bonino, David Perron and Patric Hornqvist. Don’t be surprised if Daniel Sprong rotates onto the second unit, too.

8. The Penguins don’t get chances. They don’t shoot the puck enough. Both are criticisms the team has gotten recently. Are the chances as Grade A as they’d like to think? Probably not. But they have been there. The shots? Yeah, they’ve really been there.

I was surprised to learn this morning that the Penguins lead the NHL in shots-on-goal per game at 33.7. Is it a matter of time before they start going in?

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 23, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Line changes



Ten takeaways from the new line combinations that coach Mike Johnston unveiled at practice today:

1. If there’s a quick fix for the Penguins’ offensive problems, it’s switching Kessel and Hornqvist. Call me naive, but I think it might make a pretty big difference. Malkin and Kessel think the game creatively. Crosby and Hornqvist are straight-line guys. It should work better.

2. You’d have to be somewhat hesitant about putting a guy who has played one game since November on the top line, but Dupuis’ performance last night might have been the best for a left winger on this team so far this season. So it makes sense.

3. The biggest complaint with the new combinations that I’ve seen on Twitter has to do with Sprong. Why not try Sprong in the top six?  I don’t think that’s a great idea. Sprong said he’s comfortable on the left side, but putting an 18-year-old on his off wing is a recipe for zone-exit disaster. Plus, there’s a very real chance Crosby or Malkin would overcompensate for having Sprong on their line by focusing on defense. They do that sometimes. It’s an admirable quality in a lot of cases, one many star player don’t have. But it’s not what this team needs right now.

4. It’s not like Sprong can’t score on the third line. Bonino is a good, skilled centerman for him to work with.

5. Plotnikov hasn’t really done anything to earn a top-six spot. His No. 1 qualification for the job is that he’s not Kunitz or Perron. That’s enough for now.

6. Kunitz has no points but he leads the team in hits. That sounds like a bottom-six winger, doesn’t it? And that’s where he is.

7. Perron is on the fourth line. Which is one step away from being on the fifth line. Which is where he’ll probably be if he has another game like he had last night.

8. Eric Fehr rotated in with both of the lines in the top six in practice at all three positions. I don’t know exactly where he will fit in when he returns from the injured list in a week or so, but it will be in a prominent role.

9. Looks like Rust has moved ahead of Porter and Farnham for the last forward spot. He’s driven possession with his speed.

10. Finally, not my takeaway, but Crosby’s. “We’re not scoring enough,” he said. “That’s usually what happens.” Yeah, that about covers it.

One more important note before I go.

Nick Bonino said he was feeling OK after taking an elbow to the head from Jason Demers late in last night’s game. Face was a little sore, but that’s it. Johnston said Bonino would have to be cleared by trainers before he plays tomorrow night in Nashville.

Demers is scheduled for a disciplinary hearing this afternoon.

“I think the league takes care of these things,” Bonino said. “In today’s game, the onus is to stay away from guys’ heads. I think the league will take into account the play. We’ll see what they say.”

Bye for now,



October 23, 2015

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Postgame: Stars 4, Penguins 1


“We have to play better hockey. If you look at it as a whole, it’s not bad. We’re one-game under .500 right now. I think we’re a better team than that.”

That was Penguins captain Sidney Crosby postgame following Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars here at Consol Energy Center.

He raises an interesting question.

Who are the Penguins?

I don’t know. Do you?

They were a hot mess during the second period tonight, only marginally better in the third. The start was OK, but they trailed 2-0 after the first. Is that supposed to get fans excited?

I like to stick to numbers. People can’t argue with them. So I tend to do that.

The numbers say the Penguins have three top-six wingers without a goal, two without a point.

The numbers say the Penguins committed nine turnovers tonight, five during a disastrous second period.

The numbers say the Penguins have failed to score on the power play in six of seven games, including blowing a six-on-three advantage against the Stars.

The numbers say the Penguins have scored a total of 36 goals in their last 22 regular-season games under coach Mike Johnston.

The numbers say the Penguins had won three in a row prior to Thursday.

The numbers say the Penguins have beaten a 1-3-2 team (Toronto) and another playing the second of a back-to-back set (Ottawa).

The numbers say the Penguins have one third-period goal this season — against Florida — and have surpassed the two-goal barrier just once, also against the Panthers.

But walking around the dressing room and looking at lockers, they look like a collection of stars, an all-star team. One that should score three goals in their sleep. They look like they should be an offensive juggernaut with maybe a defensive question mark or two.

On the ice, I watched Rob Scuderi miss Olli Maatta tonight by a mile, then David Perron essentially set up Jason Spezza for a goal.

I’ve seen Crosby go two games with one shot attempt.

I’ve seen Crosby attempt 14 shots in one game, score, put up three points, place three shots on goal and dominate.

I’ve heard Johnston chastise the entire left side of his forward lines — he did it tonight — then insert Pascal Dupuis there. Yeah, the same guy who hadn’t play in 11 months because of a life-threatened bout with blood clots.

“They’re a quick team,” Crosby said. “You have to execute. I don’t think we were great through the neutral zone in the second. On both sides, offensively we didn’t create enough. We had some turnovers. Not a good combination against a quick team like that that can make you pay when they get odd-man rushes.”

=The Penguins practice Friday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry before flying to Nashville.

Will Daniel Sprong get a shot in the top-six? Don’t know. But I think he should.

He has five games left before they need to act or send him back to his junior team. Play him with skilled players. He can not score, too.

=The word “resolve” was used several times postgame. Do the Penguins have any was the basic context.
Remember, their last win when trailing after two came during the 2013-14 season. They want 0-18-5 in such situations last year.

“Our resolve to stick with it has to be better in those key moments of the game,” Johnston said.

This probably isn’t good. The Penguins are the third-oldest team in the league. They might lack for speed or jump or flexibility or the ability to stay up past 11 p.m., I don’t know. But you wouldn’t think they’d lack resolve.

They do. Apparently.

“We need a little more resolve,” Scuderi said. “We lose three games to start the season, it wasn’t an ideal start. We’ve stuck to it; we have three wins. Sometimes I think we have to get off the rollercoaster.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 22, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Pre-game: Pens vs. Dallas


The big news heading into tonight’s game with Dallas is the unexpected return of Pascal Dupuis. The team estimated he’d be out four to five weeks when he suffered a lower-body injury in practice Oct. 4. If there are no snags before faceoff, he’ll be back in less than three.

Dupuis is the emotional leader in the locker room, so his return will obviously have an impact in that way. I’m curious to see where he fits into the lineup. Coach Mike Johnston said he plans to manage Dupuis’ ice time and slot him in with different line combinations.

This short story has a couple of quotes from Dupuis in it about his return.

— Daniel Sprong is back from Canada with his visa issues handled. Johnston said he’s going to sit him out tonight since he hasn’t practiced for two days.

“Those things happen. There are little bumps in the road,” Sprong said. “I’m just happy to be back. I can’t wait to get my opportunity to play again.”

Johnston said neither the visa issues nor the return of Dupuis will impact the team’s decision to keep Sprong beyond nine games or not.

— Judging by morning skate, Sprong will be joined by Bobby Farnham on the list of scratches. Kevin Porter, who missed practice yesterday with an undisclosed injury, skated today and said he’s close to 100 percent.

— I stopped by the Dallas locker room to talk to winger Antoine Roussel about guys who can fight and score. He mentioned his teammate Jamie Benn as one of those.

“Having a guy like Jamie Benn on your team that can do it all, that can fight tough guys, I guess it’s pretty scary for all the teams,” Roussel said. “To have that good a player that can, if you (mess) with him, he can actually beat you up, guys leave him alone.”

— An interesting comment from Johnston about line matching. It might be a dying art form.

“I don’t see it happening as much anymore with forward lines,” Johnston said. “Cody Eakin is a guy they put in there because he is responsible both ways and can play against top lines. But I don’t see the true matchup up front anymore. It does happen at times. It’s more of a defense match. That’s the big one, where we can get our lines against a certain defense pair if we feel that’s a better matchup. We look more for defense match on our side.”

More after the game tonight. Bye for now,



October 21, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Updates on Bennett, Sprong, Porter


A few notes after Penguins practice this morning:

— Beau Bennett skated on his own before practice. Coach Mike Johnston said Bennett is making progress, but he hasn’t been cleared for even a game-day skate yet.

— Daniel Sprong was still absent. Johnston said he hoped to have an update sometimes today as to when Sprong would return from Canada, where he’s handling visa issues.

— Kevin Porter did not skate due to an undisclosed injury. Johnston said Porter was undergoing tests. If Porter can’t play tomorrow against Dallas, a call-up would be required. Defenseman Tim Erixon, who has been a healthy scratch for the first six games, was sent down today, so there’s a roster spot open for a call-up should one be required.

Porter played fourth-line left wing last night. The most logical replacement for that spot is Scott Wilson, who is tied for the WBS team scoring lead with five points in four games. If they want more skill, Conor Sheary is the guy Wilson is tied with for the scoring lead. A longshot is Tim Sestito. He’s playing on a tryout deal in Wilkes-Barre, so he’d have to be signed first, but he scored a goal the other day and Dallas is a big, strong team. I’ve heard Oskar Sundqvist is off a good start too, but I don’t know if you want to move him to the wing at this point.

— Tom Kuhnhackl is on waivers today. He’s been out since suffering an undisclosed injury in Detroit in the preseason. He’s actually already been practicing in Wilkes-Barre for a few days now. He has to clear waivers before he can be officially sent down.

— Johnston explained the procedure the Penguins will use for deciding whether to challenge a goalie interference or offside call on goals. Video coach Andy Saucier will be the point man for the process, monitoring the same video feeds that he NHL sees. He will relay his findings to the bench. Also, Jacques Martin is on the headset with Rick Tocchet, so his input will also be available.

Two quotes I wanted to share:

— Johnston on Marc-Andre Fleury, who has a 1.85 GAA and ,937 save percentage so far: “Each of the last three games, he’s made two or three really big saves at the right time. I look at the play early in the game on Jagr last night. Even though Jagr missed the net by a little bit, Flower stood his ground really well, didn’t give him anything. Forced him to make a fine shot, cut it fine, and he missed. He seems to be big in the net right now. I like his presence in the net.”

— Johnston on Columbus firing Todd Richards after an 0-7 start and replacing him with John Tortorella: “I’m not sure what happened to begin the season. I know they hang that on the coach a lot of times. To try to back up people in our fraternity a little bit, I really though the players, everybody looked a little bit nervous to start the season. Really nervous. That’s probably the result of their start. Last year, I thought they were a team on the rise with some good young talent.”

Finally, a plug for something I’m working on this afternoon.

— It’s brother vs. brother in tomorrow’s Penguins game with Dallas. Teddy Richards is the Penguins’ assistant equipment manager and his younger brother Josh holds the same post with the Stars. The story of their rise to the NHL is a poignant one, so make sure to check it out.

Bye for now,



October 21, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Post-game: Penguins 3, Florida 2 (OT)


Florida started 6-foot-5, 216-pound Erik Gudbranson and 6-3, 210-pound Willie Mitchell on defense tonight. On the very first shift of the game, Sidney Crosby split them to chase a puck into the offensive zone. They were so big, Crosby looked like James Harrison getting the edge on a 6-6 left tackle.

In the traditional sense, it didn’t lead to anything. Crosby didn’t score or even get a shot on net on the shift. In another sense, it led to quite a bit.

It showed what was to come from Crosby tonight. Using that darting, daring speed to hit holes in the opponent’s defense, he racked up nine shots on net. He also had a goal and two assists, snapping a season-opening five-game points drought that matched his career high.

Two of those points came on the power play — including an assist on Evgeni Malkin’s game-winner in a 4-on-3 situation 1:21 into OT — as the Penguins went 2-for-3 with the man-advantage in the game. They were 0-for-17 on the power play coming in.

Snapping those two streaks aren’t going to fix everything that ails the Penguins, but it will alleviate some stress from the team’s top players. That counts for something.

— Crosby ended his points drought with a power-play goal from the right circle in the first period. I think there were three key differences between that successful power play and all the unsuccessful ones before it.

First, Phil Kessel made a little drop pass to Malkin in the neutral zone, and Malkin entered the zone with speed, giving the Penguins plenty of time and space to set up. Second, Crosby shot quickly and decisively. Third, Chris Kunitz was tied up with Mitchell in front of Roberto Luongo, providing a good screen.

It goes to show you that when the power play’s going wrong, there probably isn’t just one reason for it. There are probably several.

— There were two 10-minute stretches where the Panthers put the Penguins on their heels — the first 10 minutes of the game and the middle 10 minutes of the third period. These are the kind of stretches I expected the Penguins to struggle with this season given the construction of their D corps.

The Penguins survived the first, largely because Jaromir Jagr shot high and wide on a scoring chance alone in front less than four minutes in. When he has time and space to make plays, the 43-year-old Jagr is still something to see.

The Penguins didn’t survive the second surge nearly as well. Quinton Howden and Derek MacKenzie scored three minutes apart to turn a 2-0 Penguins lead into a 2-2 tie.

— I think an exaggerated version of the score effect was in play for those goals. Exaggerated because a couple of calls went against the Panthers in the third, which I’m sure fired them up.

On the first, a Reilly Smith goal was waved off because he tipped in a Brian Campbell point shot with a high stick. It looked to me like the refs got it right, but it was very close.

A few minutes later, Crosby won a puck battle in the left-wing corner and passed to Rob Scuderi for a shot from the blue line. Kessel cleaned up the rebound to make it 2-0. Florida coach Gerard Gallant argued Kessel played the puck with a high stick before cashing in the rebound. Gallant may have been right. The video was inconclusive.

Later in the period, the Panthers had a call go their way when a Kunitz goal was waved off when refs ruled he pushed Luongo into the net. Again, a judgment call, but it looked like the right one to me.

— With Daniel Sprong out due to visa problems, the bottom six was pieced together. I thought Bryan Rust had a nice game, using his speed to drive possession, but otherwise, I think the Penguins are going to need to get some guys back from injury before those two lines start to look more dangerous.

— You can blame me for the Florida comeback if you’d like. I was looking up Marc-Andre Fleury shutout stats when it started, and that’s a jinx if there ever was one. Anyway, did you know that with his next shutout, Fleury will tie Frank Brimsek on the NHL’s all-time career list with 40? When you tie a guy whose nickname was Mr. Zero on a shutout list, you’ve done something good.

— I think the Penguins are going to have to turn in a more complete performance than this, an overtime win over a middling opponent, to really get people excited about what they’re doing, but they are 3-3, which didn’t seem all that probable a week ago.

Bye for now,



October 20, 2015

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Gameday: Penguins vs. Panthers, 7 p.m.


You don’t get more entertaining than Jaromir Jagr’s annual return to Pittsburgh.

You don’t get more frustrated than the Penguins’ have with their power play recently.

Both forces — and Jagr, at 43, is exactly that — collide tonight at 7 p.m. Should be great.

A few notes:

=Rookie forward Daniel Sprong is out tonight. Work-visa issues in Canada. Coach Mike Johnston said he was supposed to have resolved them yesterday, but an appointment got pushed back.

Take out of that what you wish. You’d think there are enough people around a pro sports franchise, and the stakes are high enough, that this wouldn’t be an issue. Yet it is. No word on whether Sprong will be back for Thursday’s home game against Dallas.

Bobby Farnham will take Sprong’s lineup spot.

=Pascal Dupuis and Eric Fehr skated this morning. What’s this mean? They’re getting closer. Neither will play tonight, but it will be interesting to see if they go to Nashville for Saturday’s game. Would think next week is absolutely a possibility.

=Adam Clendening and Tim Erixon stayed on the ice later. What’s this mean? That your top-six defensemen will likely be Ian Cole, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Rob Scuderi, Brian Dumoulin and Ben Lovejoy. Marc-Andre Fleury was also the first goalie off, an indication he’s starting.

=One lineup tweak on the power play. Well, actually two. The top unit will feature Chris Kunitz in front of the net instead of Patric Hornqvist, who’s on the second unit. Also, Phil Kessel took plenty of reps from the slot position previously occupied by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

“I’ve never played there before, so I have to get used to it and adapt to that spot,” Kessel said this morning. “Try to get a goal.”

Johnston explained that he views the middle three spots in the Penguins’ 1-3-1 alignment as interchangeable between Crosby, Kessel and Malkin.

“We have different looks, with Geno on the backside, where he’s played before,” Johnston said. “Geno can slide to the middle, Kessel can slide back out. The good power plays have an interchange of players.”

The Penguins are 0 for 17.

Good power plays also have clean and crisp breakouts, which the Penguins have lacked. Watch this tonight. Notice how much time they spend screwing around in their own zone. Or if they’re able to successfully enter the Florida zone.

The Penguins actually been pretty solid once they’ve gotten set up. Just hasn’t happened as much as anyone would want. They’re looking for speed and deception on the wings when the Penguins are gathering speed in their own zone.

=Jagr’s media session was highly entertaining. Typical. We surround him, led by Root Sports play-by-play Paul Steigerwald.

“Steiggy,” Jagr says, “You look like a Grandpa.”

Steiggy points out that, yes, he is indeed a grandfather.

“I know,” Jagr says smiling.

Seriously — well, almost — here are some highlights:

On Jagr continuing to play despite his age:

“I go day-by-day. One day I wake up and I don’t like it, I’m leaving. But so far so good. As long as the health is there (knocks on wood) that’s important. If you’re healthy, you can work hard. I got some talent. I can still play the game. But injuries, something bad happens, it’s tough to come back.”

On Jagr interacting with the younger players on Florida’s team:

“I don’t mind. You have to use their energy. That’s the whole key. They’re a lot of fun. They have no fear. They don’t worry about anything. I like the attitude. That’s the way you should play. Go on the ice and have fun.”

Did you know Jagr carries a mullet around with him? Not kidding. I didn’t. It’s ridiculous.

“That’s yours Steiggy,” Jagr joked about the mullet. “I bought it for you. You owe me $20.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



October 19, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Crosby and slumps


“It’s just one of those things where he’s in a rut right now. It won’t be very long he’ll be in it, I know that. He’s a great player and when they break out, they can go the opposite way and everything they touch turns to goals.”

– Mark Recchi on teammate Sidney Crosby in the midst
of a five-game scoreless streak in 2009

It’s easy to see why Sidney Crosby’s active five-game points drought is raising some eyebrows. It’s unusual for him. Very unusual. For four whole seasons, from 2010-14, his longest scoreless streak was two games.

It’s not the first five-game drought of his career, however.

Early in the 2009-10 season, Crosby also went five games without a point. Let’s take a look back at that slump.

First of all, it came out of nowhere. Coming off a Stanley Cup championship, the Penguins got off to an 11-2 start to the season. Crosby had nine goals and seven assists in those 13 games.

The scoreless streak started with one of those running-into-a-hot-goaltender nights. A bad Minnesota Wild team got a great 34-save performance from Niklas Backstrom and the Penguins lost 2-1. Not only did Crosby not record a point, he fought Marek Zidlicky.

The Penguins then left for a three-game California swing. The first game, on Nov. 3, went fine. Pascal Dupuis broke a 3-3 tie midway through the third period and Crosby made a diving shot block in the goal mouth in the final minute and the Penguins beat Anaheim 4-3.

Then things got ugly. On Nov. 5, Crosby was shut down by the line of Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams and Los Angeles scored four times in the third period to beat the Penguins 5-2.

Two days later, Crosby hit a post in the second period, but the Penguins were routed 5-0 by San Jose.

On Nov. 10, the road trip continued in Boston and the Penguins were blanked 3-0 by Tim Thomas. Crosby’s scoreless streak hit a career-high five games.

The trip had gone poorly. Evgeni Malkin, Tyler Kennedy, Max Talbot, Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik were all out with injuries at one point or another. Chris Bourque, claimed on waivers from Washington on Sept. 30, was in the lineup. It was the first truly rough patch of the Dan Bylsma era.

On Nov. 12, Crosby’s scoreless streak ended with a whimper. He managed an assist on a Ruslan Fedotenko goal in a 4-1 loss to New Jersey. (Bourque had the second assist.) After the game, the Penguins held a players-only meeting to discuss their skid.

That’s when Crosby’s slump really ended. On Nov. 14, he had a goal and two assists in a 6-5 overtime win against the Bruins.  In the 10 games after the players-only meeting, Crosby had 10 goals and nine assists as the Penguins went on an 8-2 run. He was as good as he’s ever been.

There are some lessons to be taken from Crosby’s previous five-game skid.

First, the power play is a big part of it. The Penguins are 0-for-17 on the power play this season. They went 0-for-18 during his five-game drought in 2009.

Second, perhaps a change of linemates is in order. For the first four games of the 2009 slump, Crosby played with Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin. For the next two games, Bylsma put Crosby with Matt Cooke and Fedotenko. The big change, though, took place in the Nov. 14 game against Boston. Malkin came back from an injury and played on Crosby’s line with Fedotenko. That’s when Crosby had his breakout game.

Maybe Crosby is slowing down after playing an explosive style in high-leverage games for the last 10 years. Maybe these slumps are going to become more and more common for him going forward.

Or maybe all he needs is a couple power-play assists and a few shifts with Malkin to get on one of those Recchi-predicted scoring sprees.

Bye for now,


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