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December 12, 2015
by Bill West


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Penguins vs. Kings pregame primer

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Less than a week after Los Angeles rolled to a 5-3 win over the Penguins on the West Coast, the teams meet again Friday night at Consol Energy Center. And unfortunately for the hosts, they’re playing without their best puck-moving defenseman, Kris Letang, who is out with an upper-body injury he suffered in Wednesday’s win over Colorado.
“With the (defensive) pairs, we will maneuver them around a little bit tonight depending on our matchups,” coach Mike Johnston said. “But with Letang out, I think everybody knows, we’ll be missing Letang. It needs to be made up. … Getting out of your zone is really critical against a team like Los Angeles.”
After a scoreless first period on Dec. 5, the Kings built a 3-0 lead 10 minutes into the second. Sidney Crosby’s goal two minutes into the third cut Los Angeles’ lead to 4-3, but the Kings, league leaders in goals against, clamped down to close out the game.
Though they matched the Kings’ nine shots in the final period, the Penguins trailed, 28-11, in that category after two frames.
“We waited and we watched a little bit early in the game,” Johnston said. “The first seven or eight minutes, we were good. Then in the last half of the first period, I thought L.A. really took over at that time, right to the midpoint of the game. Then we started to push back. It was a little bit too late.
“They’re the type of team you’ve got to come after early. There’s going to be a real good battle early in the game. You can’t stand and watch because not only are their top two lines (strong), but they’ve got depth throughout the lineup.”
Here’s tonight’s lineup for the Penguins.

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December 10, 2015
by Bill West


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Pens vs. Avalanche, revisited: Dumoulin’s pass

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Beau Bennett scored twice last night in the Penguins’ 4-2 win over Colorado. Let’s revisit the moments that led up to his second goal.
A discussion of the Penguins’ best puck-moving defensemen tends to start with Kris Letang and quickly tail off from there. With Olli Maatta in and out of the lineup with health trouble over the past season-plus, the team’s choices of blue liners with offensive skills became alarmingly slim at times.
No fans will list Brian Dumoulin as a Letang in the making, and likely few even consider him an asset offensively.
The pass he made to Beau Bennett for the Penguins’ fourth goal Wednesday night against Colorado served as inspiration for me to at least peruse his numbers. And what I saw surprised me a bit.

His six assists tied him for fifth on the team and ranks second among the defensemen, behind Letang’s 13. Apparently decision-making that improved in the AHL the past two seasons, when Dumoulin’s assist total improved from 16 in 53 games to 29 in 62, didn’t completely fade as the 24 year old adjusted to a full-time spot in the NHL.
Granted, his individual possession metrics are less remarkable. Dumoulin and Ben Lovejoy have spent much of their time lately dealing with the opposition’s top forwards, though, so their 50.7 CF% and 66.7 GF% when together deserve some respect.
Dumoulin looked the part of a smart passer when he assisted Bennett’s goal Wednesday. He turned up ice quickly after gathering a loose puck behind the Penguins’ net, kept his head up, noticed the Avalanche’s forwards had failed to deny a long outlet, and put the puck right on Bennett’s stick, allowing the winger to maintain his speed and exploit a two-on-one.
Colorado’s mistake made Dumoulin’s decision fairly easy. But it’s an encouraging sign that he recognized the vulnerability in the first place. To work the puck up the boards or simply carry it until a forechecker arrived might’ve sufficed as a way to clear the Penguins’ zone, but it almost certainly wouldn’t have translated to such a clean scoring chance.
Thrilling transition play might suffer in today’s NHL, but every once in a while, glimpses of hope re-emerge.
I’ll be covering the Penguins on Friday, when the Los Angeles Kings visit Consol Energy Center. Make no mistake: The Penguins will need all the savvy passing from defensemen they can get, because last week’s run-in with the Kings showed how difficult life becomes when Los Angeles uses its big bodies to clog up passing lanes. All but four of the Kings’ skaters had CF% of 60.0 or higher in their 5-3 win, and none were below 50 percent.

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December 10, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Colorado postgame

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Take all the extenuating circumstances out of this game, and there wasn’t a whole lot remarkable about it.

The Penguins are a better team than Colorado. The Avs finished better in the first period and took a 2-1 lead. The Penguins had a big advantage in shots and scoring chances throughout the second, but could not score. The dam broke in the third, as you might have predicted it might after the way the second went, and the Penguins rallied for a 4-2 victory.

But let’s face it. The extenuating circumstances were the story here tonight.

If the Penguins play well and lose 2-1 tonight, do you think coach Mike Johnston keeps his job? After the comments Jim Rutherford made earlier this week? I’m not sure.

Ben Lovejoy said the Penguins were playing for their coaching staff in the third period. Johnston said he thinks players always play for each other. Either way, it was an inspired effort.

Then there’s the Pascal Dupuis factor. You had to notice that Beau Bennett, the star of the third-period comeback with a pair of goals, was playing in Dupuis’ old spot on the right wing with Chris Kunitz.

Ultimately, the Penguins have to string together a bunch of performances like this to think they’re on the way to something special, but they showed moxie, they moved back into a playoff spot and they changed the tone of the commentary around the team, at least for a little while.

Some other notes from tonight:

— Olli Maatta looks to really be rounding into form. He played 20 minutes, including almost four minutes on the power play and had two assists. A healthy, productive Maatta makes this defense corps look so much better.

— The Kunitz-Crosby-Bennett line had an outstanding night. They combined for 11 shots.

— A long penalty kill that included 36 seconds of 5-on-3 time early in the third period was key. It kept the Penguins within a goal. With Dupuis out, Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr did yeoman’s work on the PK.

— I thought Brian Dumoulin quietly had a really nice game. He was jumping up into the play a good bit.

— A 2-2 record on a four-game, 11-day road trip really isn’t bad. I guess it depends on how you build on it.

— Thanks for following along with me on this trip. The response to the Dupuis blog post from yesterday has been very positive. I appreciate it. If you haven’t seen it, scroll down a bit. Not sure when the next blog post will be, as I have travel and a couple days off ahead of me. Make sure to follow along with Bill West (on Twitter at @BWest_Trib). He’ll be jumping on in to join me on the beat full bore in the next couple of days.

Bye for now,

jb

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December 9, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Colorado pregame

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On Monday, general manager Jim Rutherford said he thought the Penguins had underachieved and he was taking a harder look at all aspects of the operation, including coach Mike Johnston.

Today, before the Penguins face Colorado tonight, Johnston talked about whether he’s feeling the heat.

“I don’t know if there’s any more pressure on one night than another night because I look at the last two games going into LA, you want to win those games. You’re trying to win every single night,” Johnston said. “They’re close scores. They’re one-goal games, as it was in LA, as it was in Anaheim. So you’re seeing that every night. They’re really tight. They’re really close.”

And about the notion that the team is underachieving?

“As far as scoring goes, we should be scoring at a higher rate, getting a few more goals,” Johnston said. “As far as our defensive play and how we’ve kept our goals against down, we’re probably one of the better teams in that area. Definitely, creating chances, getting second-chance opportunities, we’ve got to get those.”

More pregame notes:

— Kris Letang took part in morning skate and said he told trainers afterwards that he was good to go. Johnston said Letang looked good, but he had to huddle with trainers before writing Letang’s name in the lineup in pen.

— Judging by defense pairs in practice yesterday and who stayed on the ice longer at the end of morning skate today, I’d guess Letang is in and Rob Scuderi and Adam Clendening are out. D pairs yesterday were:

Maatta-Letang
Dumoulin-Lovejoy
Cole-Warsofsky
Scuderi-Clendening

— Johnston on what he expects from Daniel Sprong tonight: “As best as you can as a coaching staff, you keep him sharp in practice. You do extra drills with him.  You work him. But still, game action is game action. It’s a little bit different. I thought, when Plots was out for a while and Spronger was in, I thought Sergei came in and played really well right away. So I’m expecting Pronger, with the extra work we’ve done with him, should be fairly sharp tonight. As far as game readiness, it does take a little while to get back into the game flow.”

I think Johnston just accidentally dropped an S when he called the kid Pronger, but who knows? Maybe he has a new nickname.

Bye for now,

jb

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December 9, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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The Dupuis scene

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I wanted to use the blog to paint a picture of a strange and emotional day.

The Penguins were scheduled to practice at a rink called the Big Bear Ice Arena on the outskirts of Denver at 1 p.m. today. It’s an old barn of a rink, a little rundown, in a largely industrial area off the highway. The day was warm but very windy.

A little less than an hour before practice was to begin, the rink was a ghost town. Two cars parked in a large parking lot. There was a big outline scratched into the building over the front entrance, remnants of where a big logo used to be.

Less than 15 minutes before the start of practice, a muscle car painted in primer, driven by a 20-something guy in a knit cap slowly rolled around the parking lot. A small dog, a chihuahua type, ran down the sidewalk in front of the main entrance. (At this point, I’m thinking, ‘I should really go try to help that dog, but I have to work in a few minutes.’ Thankfully, the dog’s owner walked by shortly thereafter and claimed him.)

Right around 1, the TV broadcast team arrived, the print media assembled and a Penguins PR staffer opened the locked front door. In the lobby, Jim Rutherford and Pascal Dupuis were standing a few yards ahead, having what was obviously a serious conversation. Maybe Rutherford was telling Dupuis he wouldn’t be in the lineup tomorrow night?

That wasn’t it. A Penguins employee told the media the team had just issued a release. Dupuis wouldn’t be playing anymore.

Wait. What? You mean he retired, effective immediately?

No one from the Penguins used the word “retired.” They can’t, for salary cap reasons. But yes, effective immediately.

Dupuis stood in front of reporters and answered questions for about 5 minutes. He was solemn, emotional but controlled. He wanted to make a comeback from blood clots so badly, but the medical reality of the situation just got in the way. For the sake of his family, he’d have to retire.

A quote from Dupuis: “We knew there were going to be a couple adjustments, a couple little bumps in the road. Obviously it wasn’t a perfect protocol for me, so that’s why I made the decision.”

Dupuis shook hands with reporters when he was done.

Rutherford spoke next. Now’s not the time to talk about things like the salary cap. Now’s the time to talk about the person.

A quote from Rutherford: “In my mind, I could see it coming. It’s always been his decision, which it should have been, but personally, in the offseason, I felt he was taking a big risk by trying to play. But like I said, he’s very determined. He wanted to help the team. He wanted to try it. He gave it his best shot but, just medically, he can’t do it anymore.”

Call the office. Text Rob Rossi back. Text Joe Starkey back. No wireless in this place. Activate the hot spot on the cell phone. Write a breaking news story for the web. Quick, quick, quick.

Dan Potash walks in. He had been in Colorado Springs to do a story on USA Hockey headquarters when the news broke. Can’t imagine a reporter more linked to a player than Potash is to Dupuis. (Thanks, Daaaaaaaaan.) I ask him for his thoughts, and he’s eloquent.

Here’s what he said: “Honestly, it breaks my heart. He’s obviously more than a player that I covered. He’s become a good friend. The relationship that he and I had on camera is very much the same relationship we had off of it, which is great because that’s what people want to see. They want to see players as they really are off the ice. Players like, over the years, Talbot, Fleury, Cooke, Malone, Duper, Crosby have been at the top of that list of players who have allowed themselves to be themselves in front of the camera. Duper’s been something extra special. Love his passion for the game, passion for his family, his willingness to always beat the odds stacked against him. Wasn’t drafted. Broke his leg. Won a Stanley Cup. It’s unfortunate that he can’t choose when he wants to walk away. His body’s making him choose. That probably hurts the most.”

Dupuis makes his way into a long room adjacent to the ice surface. It has a turf floor with hash marks on it. Maybe it’s used for athlete training, like running the 40. Dupuis hops on a stationary bike and pedals away. Needs to work off some excess energy? Relieve stress?

Now, go watch practice for a few minutes. Daniel Sprong’s on the fourth line with Matt Cullen and Sergei Plotnikov. Eric Fehr bumped up with Nick Bonino and Patric Hornqvist.

Oh, look at that, Kris Letang is practicing. Paired with Olli Maatta. Dumoulin-Lovejoy still together. Bottom four D same as the other day, before the Letang injury hit: Scuderi-Clendening, Cole-Warsofsky.

Which two get scratched tomorrow? Tough decision for Mike Johnston. Speaking of that, this is the first practice since Rutherford said his team was underachieving and he was taking a close look at everything, including his coach’s performance. That’s on the back burner for a day.

Practice ends. A youth hockey team made up of Russian players has gathered. Evgeni Malkin stops by their locker room to meet them.

Penguins players, it turns out, didn’t dress at this out-of-the-way rink. They dressed at the Pepsi Center and bused in. They were split into four small locker rooms to take off their skates before getting back on the bus.

(I hope Bob Errey doesn’t mind me sharing this story. We were just BS’ing, not doing an interview, but it’s pretty funny.)

Bob Errey said players walking out in their full gear reminded him of when he and his teammates used to dress at the Civic Arena and practice on the South Side. One time, he and Mario Lemieux went to the Wendy’s drive-thru and ordered a Frosty in full gear, including helmets. Funny.

Players who have known Dupuis for a long time — Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Kunitz — stop to talk to reporters on their way out to the bus. So does Johnston.

Crosby’s conversation was particularly striking. He’s standing in front of a bright red cinderblock wall, sweating from having just stepped off the ice, holding his helmet in his hand. After he answers a few questions, I ask if he can put into words what Dupuis has meant to him as a teammate and a friend.

He says he doesn’t think he can get through the answer without breaking up. He musters a few sentences, obviously choking back tears.

Reporters act like human beings — we don’t always — and don’t ask any more questions. Crosby walks away a few steps and stops just around the corner. He waits until Fleury’s interview is done and calls me over. He has composed himself and wants to give an answer. It’s important to him.

Here’s what he said: “The main thing that comes to mind is just a character guy. No matter the situation, when things were good or bad, you knew he was going to show up every night. You knew he was going to have great energy. Nothing that he got was ewasy. He earned everything he got right from junior hockey on. He always had that mentality. That’s what made his so successful over his career. His ability to get the most out of himself and his ability to be a good teammate were probably his greatest traits, I think.”

Bye for now,

jb

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December 7, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Anaheim postgame

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It’s really easy to do this in hindsight, but the Chris Stewart goal that gave Anaheim a 2-1 lead late in the second period tonight — that ended up being the final score — was the play of the game.

The Ducks were counter-attacking. Rob Scuderi stepped up on the puck-carrier at the blue line, but could not stop the rush. Mike Santorelli skated up the right wing and left a pass for Nate Thompson who centered to Stewart for the redirection goal.

Here’s what coach Mike Johnston said about it.

“I didn’t like the coverage on that one. I thought we could have played it better. (Scuderi) stepped up in the neutral zone and I thought, coming into our zone, we had to sort it out better than we did.”

The goal proved to be really critical because it allowed Anaheim to play with a defensive posture in the third period, which made things really difficult for the Penguins.

They had some chances to tie on a pair of power plays, one early in the period and one late, but nothing got past John Gibson.

“Games are going to be tight sometimes,” Sidney Crosby said.

Crosby’s right. Games are going to be tight sometimes. Especially against a team like Anaheim that’s trying to rebound from a poor start to the season by recommitting to defense.

In games like that, one play late in the second period can make all the difference, like it did tonight.

Some other notes:

— Evgeni Malkin’s been hot lately, as you know, with eight goals in eight games coming into tonight. Crosby’s been heating up too, under the radar, with eight points in his last seven games coming in. Stopping them, in a game this tight, was obviously exactly what the Ducks needed to do.

“Our guys did a great job containing their two big men over there,” Corey Perry said. “When you can do that, you’re going to be successful a lot of nights.”

“Limiting their time and space. Stay on them. Try to frustrate them. We didn’t give them anything tonight,” Ryan Kesler said.

— I was surprised Johnston used the same lineup tonight as last night. Games on consecutive days on the road looks to me to be a perfect time to get young legs, like those belonging to Adam Clendening and Daniel Sprong, into a game.

— An interesting coach’s challenge tonight in the first period. A Rickard Rackell goal was waved off because Sami Vatanen didn’t keep a puck in the zone 22 seconds earlier. I’m not sure this is the type of play the rule was written to correct, but it’s in place, so good on the Penguins coaches for spotting it and challenging.

— Olli Maatta scored again. There’s no defenseman on this team with better instincts for jumping into the play and making himself available for a pass.

— Kris Letang missed a second straight game with an undisclosed injury. He did skate today, so it’s not likely to be a long-term absence. He’s had his problems this season, but his absence makes you realize he’s an important part of the puzzle for this team. The breakout did not look good the last two games.

Tomorrow is a travel day to Denver. Expect the next blog update after an afternoon practice on Tuesday.

Bye for now,

jb

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December 6, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Los Angeles postgame

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Putting aside the late-game comeback that made this one look a little closer than it was, the Penguins had two problems in a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings today.

In the first period, they got L.A. Kinged. Los Angeles dominated possession, using their big-body forwards to build up time in the offensive zone.

That’s the trademark style of play the Kings have used to win two of the last four Stanley Cups.

Ben Lovejoy sums it up well. “They did exactly what the LA Kings do,” he said. “They came in and played a very structured game and outworked us and won a majority of the puck battles.”

But here’s the thing. The Penguins survived that period with a scoreless tie. They really got torched on the counter-attack in the second period.

Christian Ehrhoff scored after the Malkin line got caught down low in the offensive zone. Milan Lucic scored after a blocked Matt Cullen shot. Those goals turned a 1-0 game into a 3-0 game.

To me, it wasn’t the old LA Kings formula that really did the Penguins in. It was poor transition defense. Coach Mike Johnston explains.

“They countered quick,” Johnston said. “Sometimes when you’re reloading on the forecheck, you’ve got to get above your guy. I thought we let guys slightly in behind us. The other part is I don’t think our defense had a great gap. Once they got the puck in the neutral zone, we gave them too much skating room.”

Johnston also said poor execution on the breakout by the Penguins gave the Kings momentum early, and that’s undoubtedly true too.

More notes from tonight’s game:

— Kris Letang didn’t play due to an undisclosed injury. He hasn’t been ruled out for tomorrow against Anaheim.

— Olli Maatta did play and scored a second-period goal. He was making his return after a six-game absence with an upper-body injury.

— Johnston shook up his lines in the second period. Beau Bennett replaced Pascal Dupuis on the top line with Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby. It paid dividends as Crosby had a goal and an assist, Kunitz had a goal and two assists and Bennett was a plus-2.

— It’s obviously going to be tougher to create offense against an opponent that doesn’t have a comfortable three-goal lead like the Kings did, but I think it’s safe to say that Kunitz-Crosby-Bennett has some potential.

— David Warsofsky quarterbacked the power play in Letang’s absence without much success. The Penguins went 0 for 2, managing a total of two shots and snapping a streak of seven straight games with a power-play goal.

Bye for now,

jb

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December 5, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Defensive changes

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It’s funny. I walked into practice yesterday thinking about how the Penguins were going to deal with the abundance of defensemen they suddenly had. Olli Maatta was getting healthy. David Warsofsky was looking good. Who was going to sit?

Then Kris Letang did not practice today due to an undisclosed injury. Mike Johnston said it’s something that’s been nagging for a little while. Letang is questionable tomorrow against the Kings.

Now, if Letang doesn’t play, instead of worrying about whether he’s going to get a jersey, someone like Ian Cole is going to be worrying about how he’s going to help fill a 26-minute void in ice time.

“It’s crazy how it works out,” Cole said. “There are so many injuries. Guys go down for short periods and long periods. The team here has seen it happen so often. You had Ehrhoff last year, Letang last year, Olli last year. Just decimated. Those were a lot of minutes. Obviously we had guys like Paul Martin, who was so established and so good at playing those minutes very smartly, but everyone else had to step up and play better and make sure we got to the playoffs. That was something we took upon ourselves. I don’t think it’ll be any different with Tanger gone.”

Some other notes from today’s practice:

— Coach Mike Johnston on Letang’s status: “It’s a possibility. We’ll see what the trainers have to say today as we move along. Obviously with an afternoon game tomorrow, we’ll check him in the morning and if things are moving like they think he might be, there’s a shot. If not, definitely we’ll keep him out.”

— Johnston on Olli Maatta: “It’s looking positive now. He’s had two good days of practice. But I’m always cautious because trainers have the final say and they haven’t cleared him to play yet. We’ll know, probably later today as they examine him after practice.”

— Johnston on David Warsofsky, who could play on the top power-play unit if Letang is out: “He can really snap it through from the point.”

— Johnston on the contingency plan at even strength: “If Kris doesn’t play tomorrow, we’ll just balance our defense minutes fairly even. You’ll see that. We’ll try to get certain matchups that we like against certain lines, but it’s always going to be hard on the road.”

— Speaking of matchups, I’m looking forward to seeing how Evgeni Malkin fares against, say, minutes eating D Drew Doughty or a Selke candidate at center like Anze Kopitar.

— Johnston on facing the Kings: “They’ve stuck to a staple of how they’re going to play through the Stanley Cup runs. They’re playing the exact same style once again this year. I don’t think they’re going to deter from that because they’ve had success doing it. They have a big team. Again, I compare them to a team like St. Louis. Maybe a little bit like a team like Anaheim, although Anaheim has a little bit more speed and skill now. St. Louis and LA in the West, the big, heavier teams, when you’re playing them, you’ve got to move the puck quick and be very competitive in those loose puck battles.”

— The game is at 1 p.m. local time tomorrow, 4 p.m. back home, so I don’t expect there will be a pregame blog update. Stay tuned to Twitter (@BombulieTrib) for lineup notes before the game.

— Finally, I’d like to welcome Bill West to the Penguins beat. He’s been covering the Pirates for the Tribune-Review and now he shifts over to hockey. He’s a really good young reporter. I think you’ll enjoy his coverage. Follow him on Twitter at @BWest_Trib.

Bye for now,

jb

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December 4, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Defense dilemma

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Olli Maatta went through a full contact practice with no problems today and could be back in the lineup as soon as Saturday in Los Angeles. That presents coach Mike Johnston with some interesting personnel decisions on defense.

Here were the D pairs at today’s practice:

Maatta-Letang
Dumoulin-Lovejoy
Scuderi-Warsofsky
Cole-Clendening

It’s hard to tell which of those bottom two pairs will be scratched against the Kings, isn’t it? Johnston didn’t provide any clues when I asked him about his impending decision after practice.

“They’ll be difficult, but that’s always a good thing for a coach. If you’ve got some depth, like we have with Warsofsky up now, with Clendening, with Cole, with Scuderi, we’ve got lots of options there, moving people around. But getting Olli back, I think, is important for our group because I thought Olli was starting to play really well as far as moving his feet, getting up ice, making good decisions with the puck like he always does.”

See how he mentioned all four of the defensemen in question? Crafty.

More notes from today:

— Pascal Dupuis was perfectly fine at practice today after leaving Tuesday’s game after two periods because he wasn’t feeling well. I think this is just the new normal given the caution the Penguins and Dupuis are taking anytime there’s anything even slightly amiss with him physically.

— Story in tomorrow’s paper about how Evgeni Malkin’s current hot streak changes everything for the Penguins. A team that scored 16 goals in its first nine games of the season now has 21 goals in its last seven games. That doesn’t sound like a juggernaut, but in today’s NHL, it sort of is. Know how many teams are averaging at least 3.0 goals per game for the whole season? Five.

— Also interesting along that front, Sidney Crosby said he’s noticed the last two games that his line isn’t getting the opponent’s top D pair. Malkin’s line is. That could pay dividends for Crosby’s line moving forward, though it didn’t Tuesday in San Jose.

Bye for now,

jb

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December 2, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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San Jose postgame

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It’s funny to write this after a 5-1 game, but this one really could have gone either way tonight.

Take two key points in the game for instance.

First, the first two and half minutes of the first period. The Sharks came out inspired, forechecking hard and pressuring the Penguins. At the 2:30 mark, Phil Kessel swooped around the net and banked a puck in off defenseman Paul Martin’s skate. The Sharks played a great couple of minutes and they were down 1-0. That’s a punch to the gut. Add in the fact that the Penguins are 10-0-1 when scoring first, and that’s a significant moment in the game.

Second, the last five minutes of the second period. The Penguins were up 3-0 when Patrick Marleau scored on the power play. On the next shift, Tomas Hertl knocked in a puck out of a net-front scrum. It looked like it was 3-2 and the Sharks were on a roll.

Instead, the goal was waved off due to incidental contact Tommy Wingels made with Marc-Andre Fleury. It should have been waved off for a Wingels hand pass, but that’s probably immaterial. What’s significant is that the long replay delay slowed San Jose’s momentum. They never really threatened after that.

From a statistical point of view, incidentally, the Sharks got the better of this one. According to war-on-ice.com, the Sharks held a 75-48 advantage in shot attempts, a 38-28 advantage in scoring chances and a 18-14 edge in high-danger scoring chances.

The difference was that the Sharks missed the net on 23 of their shot attempts and the Penguins blocked 18 others. That’s a lot of blocked shots.

Some other postgame notes:

— Coach Mike Johnston said Pascal Dupuis left the game after two periods because he wasn’t feeling well. He offered no other updates.

— In the first two periods, the reunited Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis line didn’t stand out, really, good or bad.

— Evgeni Malkin added another goal to his highlight reel, blowing past Martin up the left wing and scoring on a wraparound in the second period to make it 3-0. Not Edmonton spin-o-rama pretty, but really impressive nonetheless.

— David Warsofsky was very good in his Penguins debut. He quarterbacked the second power-play unit to a third-period goal scored by David Perron. He also had a plus-10 night as far as Corsi goes. That’s remarkable considering the San Jose edge in shot attempts.

— The fourth line of Sergei Plotnikov, Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr had another strong night of driving possession. If Dupuis misses any time, it’s safe to say Plotnikov will get a look closer to the top of the lineup.

Off to Los Angeles. Tomorrow’s an off day for the team, so expect the next blog update after Thursday’s 4 p.m. (Eastern time) practice.

Bye for now,

jb

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