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March 16, 2016
by Bill West


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Islanders postgame

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Fans who fear the teams below the Penguins in the standings, namely Philadelphia, probably view Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout win over the New York Islanders as a critical two-point bump in the standings. And they’re not wrong to think that way.

Fans who want the Penguins to catch the teams above them in the standings, namely the Islanders, probably came away a little disappointed that a victory in regulation slipped away. And they’re not wrong, either.

The Penguins are on a win streak of three-plus games for the first time since claiming four in a row from Jan. 21 to Feb. 2. Their possession metrics remain favorable, and neither their shooting nor save percentage appears unsustainably high. They are playing the kind of hockey that should secure them a playoff berth, even without the services of Evgeni Malkin.Pens Isles shot chart final

Until the Islanders’ Kyle Okposo buried the game-tying goal late in the third period, even the Penguins’ performance in front of their own net looked much improved from what transpired when the teams met in Brooklyn on March 8. Anders Lee still managed to influence the game’s outcome simply by causing mayhem around the crease, but he found fewer opportunities overall. Just look at the hockeystats.ca charts to the right. The Islanders clustered considerably more shot attempts from close range during the last meeting.

Pens Isles March 8

“They got some puck luck,” Kris Letang said of Okposo’s goal. “The rebound came out right on the back door. It was one of those goals that’s going to happen.

“They didn’t get as much zone time as they had in Brooklyn, so I didn’t have to deal with (Lee) as much.”

There’s no need to remind the Penguins that every point counts at this juncture in the season.  They recall the narrow margin between those teams that qualified for the playoffs and those that fell short a season ago.

“Last year, we were the same way, a little bit,” Marc-Andre Fleury said. “We kind of had a tough ending and battled to make it. … I don’t think it’s a (bad) thing, though. We get used to playing these close games. Tough battles. It’s just good preparation for the playoffs.”

With wins over both New York teams in the span of three days, the Penguins are proving what the advanced stats have suggested for months: They’re good enough to take down anyone in the Metropolitan Division. But if they allow the Rangers and Islanders to come away with points in these next few meetings, the Penguins will likely find themselves paired up with Washington, a team with considerably less vulnerability than the New York teams.

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March 15, 2016
by Bill West


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Islanders pregame

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Kuhn combs

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan wants to see whether the physicality and shot-suppressing abilities of wingers Tom Kuhnhackl and Bryan Rust remains effective when he puts them on separate lines. He liked what he witnessed in New York on Sunday during the 5-3 win over the Rangers, and he stuck with that plan at Tuesday’s morning skate.

It’ll be interesting to see how Kuhnhackl performs when he’s no longer on a line designed specifically for checking purposes. On a line with Eric Fehr and Conor Sheary, Kuhnhackl is the grinder of the wingers. Rust will serve the same role on a line with Matt Cullen and Dominik Simon. Will the attempt to balance size, speed and scoring abilities on the bottom two lines improve productivity from both lines or simple water down what worked?

Look at Kuhnhackl’s With-Or-Without-You chart from stats.hockeyanalysis.com: In his limited 5-on-5 time away from Rust, he hasn’t fared well on the possession front. (Rust, meanwhile, sees no dropoff in possession effectiveness away from Kuhnhackl, a testament to how well his speed works when Sullivan moves him up to the second line).Pens Isles matchups

In the last meeting between the Penguins and New York Islanders, Sullivan certainly struggled to find a line that matched up well against the bruising fourth line of Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas. Just look at those big red boxes on the War-on-Ice chart, which indicate the Isles’ fourth line dominated possession in ample minutes against Conor Sheary, Tom Sestito and Matt Cullen.

Most of the Islanders-related questions from this morning actually focused on the Penguins’ penalty kill and power play breakdowns when the teams met March 8, a 2-1 win for New York.

“Our special teams have to be better on both sides,” Sullivan said. “I would expect a similar type of game. They like to play a speed game. So do we. So I’m sure the game will involve pace. But we expect a hard-fought battle.”

Islanders net-front nightmare Anders Lee came up a few times within the special teams discussion.

“Once a player gets there, it’s hard to move him, especially a big man,” Sullivan said in reference to the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Lee. “I think what you have to do is try to get body position on him so you can battle on a rebound and you’ve got to try to tie up his stick so you don’t give him an opportunity to get a deflection. … If he’s already there, it’s very difficult to move him. In some instances, you make it more difficult on your goaltender. … Sometimes if he’s tight to our crease, we’ve got to play in front of him and maybe we can deny the puck from getting there.”

All indications are that Ian Cole and Justin Schultz will continue to serve as the Penguins’ third defensive pairing, leaving Derrick Pouliot out of the mix as a healthy scratch. But Sullivan said Ben Lovejoy basically is ready to play, with just a couple practices standing between the defenseman and a return to game action.D pairs 2

We’ll save the “Which defensive pair should play?” debate for another day, but for now, here’s some small-sample-size info to the right, courtesy of www.corsica.hockey, to consider regarding the production of Cole and Schultz versus Pouliot and Lovejoy. You can ignore the Dumoulin-Lovejoy pairing up top, as I doubt that pairing will return this season. (I just couldn’t get the Corsica search to limit the pairing results any further).

 

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March 13, 2016
by Bill West


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Rangers postgame

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I must make this quick, for my plane will gladly take off without me. (Let’s hope the Penguins chill on mid-flight news this time).

Maybe a playoff series against the New York Rangers isn’t a worst-case scenario for the Penguins.

Let’s leave the previous seasons’ postseason outcomes in the past and just look at how each of the three games between the Rangers and Penguins played out.

As hockeystats.ca’s score-adjusted Corsi charts from each of the three games shows, puck possession and scoring have rarely been on the same page. Henrik Lundqvist looked like the King against the Penguins in February. He hasn’t in March. A little luck around the crease goes a long way, too.

Pens vs Rangers Feb 10Pens vs Rangers March 3Pens vs Rangers March 13

Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin missed two of these three. The Penguins are a better possession team with Malkin, but they’re by no means poor at controlling the puck without him.

Should the Penguins expect to get two goals from  Conor Sheary with any regularity down the stretch? No. To ask any of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton wingers to start producing like a top-six forward is foolish. But if the young forwards provide the team some offensive balance, there’s no reason to rule out the possibility of the Penguins catching the New York Islanders in the standings and likely setting up another series with King Henrik and the boys in blue.

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March 13, 2016
by Bill West


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Rangers pregame

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After the New York Rangers beat the Penguins, 3-0, at Consol Energy Center in the teams’ first meeting of the season on Feb. 10, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault shared with satisfaction just how much he tried to match center Derick Brassard’s line against Sidney Crosby’s.

After the Penguins topped the Rangers, 4-1, on March 3, coach Mike Sullivan stoked the matchup narrative by suggesting he welcomed the Brassard line’s presence on the ice against Crosby and company.

This afternoon at Madison  Square Garden should help indicate which coach actually has the edge in the Brassard-on-Crosby debate. Brassard, who missed Saturday’s Rangers game with the flu, returns to the lineup.

Crosby v Brassard Though I question whether some of the totals in the Puckalytics chart to the right are correct, they at least reflect where things stood between Brassard and Crosby during at least some point this season. (If anyone knows of a WOWY Against program other than Puckalytics, @ me on Twitter, please). Sure, Crosby scored — that’s what produced Sullivan’s smirk and comment about liking the matchup after the 4-1 win earlier this month. But possession heavily favored the Rangers when Brassard and Crosby roamed the ice at the same time.

Round 3 between the Rangers and Penguins also means a new chapter in the Henrik Lundqvist saga. Making his second start in as many days, will he shine as he did when he turned away 34 shots in the February shutout win? Or will he flip (see what I did there) and prove porous as he did in the last meeting?

As everyone no doubt knows by now, the Penguins must find their way past the Rangers and the rest of their regular-season opponents without Evgeni Malkin, who will miss the next six to eight weeks with an upper-body injury. What the Penguins achieved during Malkin’s 10-game absence in February should provide fans some hope that a playoff berth remains attainable. But there’s no denying the team again looks hard-pressed to put together any sort of postseason run. As the tweeted chart below from @ManGamesLostNHL shows, this has become something of an unfortunate tradition.

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March 12, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Columbus postgame

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This game, a 3-2 Penguins win over Columbus, could be really bad news or really good news for the Penguins going forward.

The bad-news scenario is obvious. Evgeni Malkin left in the second period with an apparent injury to his left arm after an awkward collision with Dalton Prout behind the net. Coach Mike Sullivan said the team would know more about Malkin’s condition tomorrow.

The Penguins are already in a playoff race up to their necks. If Malkin is out for a significant period of time, they might have a hard time keeping their heads above water.

But if Malkin isn’t out for long, this game could end up being very beneficial in that it might have provided a blueprint for how they’re going to have to play down the stretch and into the playoffs.

They’re not a big, physical team, so they shouldn’t play like one. Use their speed. Convert on the power play if opponents are up to no good. Survive and advance.

They should probably look to avoid some of the bigger hits they took in this game, of course. Scott Wilson and Brian Dumoulin each left the ice for a time after taking brutal checks in the third period. But both returned before the end of the game and seem to be OK.

Bryan Rust, who tangled with Scott Hartnell in the third period, had a quotable comment about this topic after the game.

“Maybe in the past, this team hasn’t responded as well to things like that. But I think tonight, the team as a whole responded well and that’s how we got the win,” he said. “When the buzzer went off, it was like, ‘Yeah. We got ‘em, and we got ‘em good.’ That was one of those games where it feels a little bit better when you win it.’”

Some other notes from tonight:

— I don’t think it’s terribly significant that Malkin was injured in a collision with Prout. Yes, Prout is a big, nasty D man, but the collision really could have been with anyone. It was awkward more than it was violent.

Still, I think it’s fair to wonder if the game might have played out differently if Tom Sestito had dressed. Say Sestito fights Prout in the first period. Does that change anything the rest of the way?

I don’t know the answer, but I think it’s a reasonable question to ask.

— A cool moment in the second period. Cam Atkinson scored on a breakaway to make it 2-2. A few minutes later, after the Penguins went up 3-2 on a Carl Hagelin goal, Atkinson got another breakaway. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped it with a lunging poke-check. It was as if Fleury was saying, “Once is enough, pal.”

— Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to seven games when he assisted on a Chris Kunitz goal in the first minute of the second.

— Kris Letang scored on the power play in the first period. He’ll have to be the shooter on that first unit if Malkin is out for any length of time.

— Sergei Bobrovsky was playing his first game since the end of January due to a groin injury. I thought he was shaky at times.

— The Penguins protected the lead well in the third period by possessing the puck as much as possible. They did that against the Rangers the other day, too. Didn’t do it against the Capitals. It’s a good thing to be good at this late in the season.

Bill West has you covered from New York this weekend. In the meantime …

Bye for now,

jb

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March 11, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Columbus pregame

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If you’re willing to accept the premise that the Penguins have played a lot better in the second half of the season than the first — and I am — then it’s worth looking for a turning point, right?

The obvious choice would be the coaching change, but the Penguins did lose their first four games under Mike Sullivan. There’s also the comeback win over Detroit on New Year’s Eve, but they were 2-1-1 in their previous four games coming into that night.

The real answer might be the Columbus game on Dec. 21, the first win under Sullivan. Digging a little deeper, the Penguins were losing 1-0 in the first minute of the second period of that game when this happened:

After the fight, which was the first of Fehr’s NHL career, the Penguins scored four unanswered goals in the second period and won, 5-2. Now backing up to the big picture, the Penguins were 15-14-3, averaging 2.19 goals per game before the fight this season. They’re 19-10-5, averaging 3.18 goals per game, since. I’m not sure I believe this 100 percent, but you could easily make the case that the moment Fehr held Dubinsky accountable for his past transgressions, the Penguins became a more formidable team.

This is one of the topics we discussed on the Pens Roundtable podcast this week. Check it out.

Some other notes from Columbus:

— Sullivan wouldn’t say who would be in his lineup tonight after morning skate, but judging by who came off the ice when, I’d say you’re going to see the following lineup developments: Carl Hagelin and Fehr in for Conor Sheary and Tom Sestito. Beau Bennett and Ben Lovejoy are still working their way back from injuries. Derrick Pouliot will be scratched again. Marc-Andre Fleury starts in goal.

— If those guesses are correct, you won’t see Sestito against the Blue Jackets tonight. I think that’s risky, since an out-of-the-playoffs Columbus team could easily be rambunctious, not worrying about running afoul of the refs or the department of player safety.

I also see the other side of it, though, which is the Penguins are best served playing the game straight and staying away from extracurricular confrontations all together. Either way, it’s probably best to watch these old Dubinsky-Sestito scraps on You Tube to get it out of your system.  

More after the game,

jb

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March 9, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Islanders postgame

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I think an inability to string a few wins together is perhaps the biggest issue facing the Penguins right now.

They can play high-end hockey. We’ve seen it in recent days. The second half of the Rangers game, most notably, but also in dominant performances against non-playoff teams in Winnipeg, Arizona and New Jersey.

But they’ve alternated wins and losses for their past six games. Before that, they had a string of nine games where they alternated wins and losses from Feb. 8 to 27.

They can make the playoffs by winning just a couple more than they lose. But to me, to really get anywhere, inconsistency is the hurdle they have to overcome.

Coach Mike Sullivan, however, seems to disagree. Maybe that’s just a byproduct of focusing on the process rather than the big picture. Whatever the reason, here’s what he said about it after tonight’s 2-1 loss to the Islanders.

“Would we like to string a few in a row? Sure we would. But we can’t get frustrated. We just gotta keep playing. That’s the race. It’s a tight race. Every team is battling here. There are a lot of good teams in the league. We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve had a few games here that could have gone our way and didn’t. Some of those will go our way down the stretch. We have to stay focused, we have to stay determined and we have to make sure we don’t let our frustration, if there is any, get in our way. There’s no time for that at this time of year. We’ve just got to play hard.”

Some other notes from tonight’s game:

— This one was won on special teams. The Islanders went 2 for 4 on the power play, and both times they scored, they did it in the first 30 seconds of the advantage. The Penguins went 0 for 3, including a big chance in the final five minutes of the game.

If the Islanders are going anywhere in the playoffs, it’ll probably be because of special teams. They’re first in the conference on the PK and fifth on the power play.

Here’s what Sullivan said about New York’s power-play goals, the first by John Tavares and the second by Anders Lee.

“The first one, they make a pretty good play. They beat our pressure and they made a pretty good play. You gotta give their power play credit. They make a pretty good play on the first one. On the second one, we could have done a better job. We weren’t in the shot lane. It’s a wrist shot from the blue line and it just has eyes. It finds its way in. That’s the one that beat us. That’s the one that’s discouraging.”

— I think the most frustrating part of this game for the Penguins had to be the last 4:22. That’s when Jaroslav Halak went down with an injury and Thomas Greiss came off the bench cold to replace him. They’ve got to get one there, right? How could they not? Well, Greiss made three saves and the Islanders blocked a few shots and that was that.

— Phil Kessel’s night was interesting too. He attempted 11 shots and got seven on net. He was robbed by Halak in the first minute of the game on a point-blank chance and had a shot at an essentially empty net in the final five seconds stopped by a Travis Hamonic block.

You can look at Kessel’s night in two ways. 1. If he keeps getting chances like that, he’ll score plenty of goals. 2. He’s paid to finish chances like that.

I guess the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Bye for now,

jb

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March 8, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Islanders pregame 3/8

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Greetings from the Barclays Center as the Penguins make their first trip to Brooklyn. I tried to find that “Welcome to Brooklyn, America’s fourth largest city” sign from Welcome Back Kotter, but I couldn’t.

Which reminds me. Did you know the park where all the gangs met and Cyrus yelled, “Can you dig it?” and then got assassinated at the beginning of The Warriors is actually not in the Bronx like they said it was in the movie but is in Manhattan? Might have to make a stop there and take some pictures before a Rangers game.

Anyway, first topic I wanted to touch on today is the decision coach Mike Sullivan is making on defense.

For the second straight game, Derrick Pouliot is scratched. If you’re going on the premise that the Penguins want to, at the very least, get a good look at the guy they just spent a third-round pick to acquire in Justin Schultz, then the question boils down to this on each game day: Who do you dress? Pouliot or Ian Cole?

Pouliot is playing well. Here’s a look at the Corsi For percentages of the team’s defensemen (i.e. what percentage of shots attempted while this guy is on the ice are by the Penguins) as some evidence for that claim.

POULIOT 59.2
DALEY 53.2
LETANG 52.8
DUMOULIN 52.3
LOVEJOY 51.7
MAATTA 51.4
COLE 49.7
SCHULTZ 48.4

But there’s a stat that very much speaks in favor of including Cole in the lineup, too. It’s goals against per 60 minutes of shorthanded ice time. Cole’s PK work has been outstanding this season. (Or spectacularly lucky or something, but c’mon. It’s March. This is enough of a sample size to extract something of value, right?)

COLE 3.53
DALEY 5.32
MAATTA 5.56
LOVEJOY 5.76
SCHULTZ 5.98
DUMOULIN 6.34
LETANG 7.28

Cole isn’t just the best on the team by a large margin. He’s one of the best in the league (minimum 100 minutes of shorthanded ice time).

J MANSON, ANA 3.12
A SUSTR, TB 3.28
B CAMPBELL, FLA 3.52
I COLE, PIT 3.53
H LINDHOLM, ANA 3.82
E GRYBA, EDM 3.96

To be completely honest, I don’t know which of the two I’d dress on a given night. I’m just pointing out that it’s not an open-and-shut case in Pouliot’s favor. If you’d like to read coach Mike Sullivan’s comments on scratching Pouliot, check out this story I wrote earlier today.

Some other pregame notes:

— Sullivan said Carl Hagelin hasn’t been diagnosed with a concussion, but he will not play against tonight for precautionary reasons. He said he does not expect Hagelin’s absence to be lengthy.

— Eric Fehr and Beau Bennett practiced. Sullivan said they’re getting very close to returning to the lineup, maybe as soon as Friday in Columbus.

— Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal. He has a chance to become the 20th goalie in NHL history to record 350 career wins.

— The Islanders have the best penalty kill in the conference (86.4 percent). Sidney Crosby on that: “They’re aggressive. You really have to move the puck quickly and support each other. Just making sure you outwork their penalty kill is always the biggest thing against anybody, but especially against a team that’s that aggressive, you have to make sure you have numbers around the puck.”

— Sullivan on the challenge of facing the Islanders: “They have a dynamic player in Tavares, who is one of the elite players in the league. They have good balance through their lineup. I think they have a good transition game. I think it’s one of their strengths. We have to make sure we manage the puck the right way. Our transition from offense to defense is going to be really important so we get on the right side of the puck and we get above people and make them come through us to be able to get to our scoring area. That’s something we’ve been trying to focus on as we grow and get better as a team. I think that’s one aspect that makes us more difficult to play against.”

More after the game,

jb

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March 7, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


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New Jersey postgame

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If you play those daily fantasy games, probably should have fit Evgeni Malkin under your salary cap today. This was precisely the kind of game where he scores a goal or two.

Here’s what I mean.

Three games into the season, the Penguins were coming off an 0-2 road trip and a loss in the home opener. Malkin’s next three games: A second-period goal to give the Penguins their first lead of the season in a 2-0 win over Ottawa, a goal to break a scoreless tie in a 2-1 victory over Toronto and an overtime goal in a 3-2 win over Florida.

Remember the brutal 4-0 loss in Newark on Nov. 14, the one where the Penguins were “mad at each other?” The next game, Malkin had two goals and two assists in a 4-3 win over Minnesota.

Remember when the Penguins were 0-4 in their first four games under Mike Sullivan? They snapped out of it with a 5-2 win over Columbus. Malkin scored twice.

So the Penguins came into this one off a terrible performance at home yesterday afternoon against Calgary. This building has been awful to the Penguins over the years, so there was no guarantee this wouldn’t be another disappointing showing.

Malkin scores on a power play in the first period to break a scoreless tie. He scores again to make it 4-1 when the Devils were threatening a comeback. It ends up a 6-1 rout.

Sullivan said before the game that he was confident his team had enough leaders in the locker room to ensure a bounce-back performance. Malkin leads by scoring goals.

Some other notes from today:

— A five-on-three penalty kill by the Penguins when it was 3-1 in the second period was also absolutely critical. Matt Murray made one spectacular lunging save on Adam Henrique from the right circle. Nick Bonino, Kris Letang and Olli Maatta killed the whole penalty, which lasted 1:22. Malkin called it the team’s best moment of the game.

— Justin Schultz made his debut and, I thought, played exactly as advertised. He joined the rush a few times early in the game. He assisted a Bryan Rust goal in the third period. He led the team’s defensemen in Corsi For (12) and Corsi Against (14).

Sullivan on Schultz after the game: “He played within himself. You could see his mobility, his passing ability, his offensive instincts. I thought he jumped into the rush a few times. When he was in our end zone, I thought he played fine. He was on the right side of people. He has a good stick. We’ll continue to work with him on that aspect of the game, but for his first game with us, we were real pleased.”

— Tom Sestito also made his Penguins debut and played a pretty traditional enforcer’s role. Got nine shifts for 4:52 of ice time. Got into a first-period altercation with Jordin Tootoo that led to a Penguins power play and Malkin’s first goal.

Sullivan on Sestito’s debut: “I thought Tommy did a real nice job. You can see the physical presence he brings to our team. He brings a dimension. He had an impact on the game.”

— Nick Bonino broke a 31-game goal drought. That doesn’t include the 19 games he missed with injury. So it was like a 50-game drought. The Penguins probably need Bonino more for his defensive work and PK ability than his scoring, but if he got closer to the 15 goals he had last year with Vancouver than the four goals he has now, it would obviously big a big boost for the Penguins down the stretch.

His line with Tom Kuhnhackl and Bryan Rust was especially effective today. Rust had a goal and two assists.

— I think I figured out who Justin Schultz looks like. It’s that guy from The State and Reno 911.

schultz   LOS ANGELES - JAN 5:  Joe Lo Truglio at the BCS National Champio

Anyone with me on this one?

Bye for now,

jb

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March 6, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


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New Jersey pregame

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Plenty of lineup notes here in a building that’s been inhospitable to the Penguins in recent years.

— Carl Hagelin won’t play. Mike Sullivan said he passed the concussion protocol yesterday but didn’t feel well when he woke up this morning. Not headaches, but not feeling right. The medical staff decided it was best to keep him out as a precaution.

Conor Sheary draws into the lineup in Hagelin’s place. Sheary hasn’t played since suffering an apparent shoulder injury Feb. 27, but he has been practicing in Wilkes-Barre.

— Justin Schultz will make his Penguins debut, taking Derrick Pouliot’s place in the lineup. Sullivan on that decision:

“We feel like we’ve spent enough time with him. I think he’s familiar with our systems. He’s had an opportunity to practice a few times with us. We’ve got seven healthy defensemen right now. When Ben Lovejoy comes back, we’ll have eight.  We believe we’re going to need every one of them to help us win and this is the decision that we’ve made for this game.”

— Tom Sestito will also make his Penguins debut, taking the place of Josh Archibald, who was sent down after playing his first NHL game yesterday. Sullivan on Sestito:

“Tommy’s a good player. He’s a big kid. He brings a physical dimension to his game. He’s hard to play against. He’s abrasive, but he’s also played a lot of games in the league. He understands what his role is. I think he plays within himself and I think he’s got a great opportunity to help us win today. He’s a guy I think we can lean on down the stretch once again to add another dimension to our team.”

— Matt Murray will start in goal.

— For the Devils, Bobby Farnham will be in the lineup, taking the place of the injured Jacob Josefson. Keith Kinkaid will be in goal for Cory Schneider, who is out with a lower-body injury. Coach John Hynes didn’t offer any timetable for Schneider’s return before the game.

— Sullivan on bouncing back from yesterday’s loss to Calgary:

“We have good people in there. We have good leadership. I think they’re disappointed that we didn’t get the result we were looking for yesterday. I trust we have the right leadership in the room that they’re going to take the ball today and do the right thing. I know we’re going to play hard today. We’re going to try to play the right way. We’ve got to play smart, make New Jersey work for their offense. I think when we do that, we’re hard to play against as well.”

— Sullivan on playing in Newark, where the Penguins are 1-7-0 in their last eight trips.

“For me, it’s an opportunity for us to continue to climb in the standings. That’s how we’re looking at it. That’s how we presented it to our players. Past history, for me, doesn’t matter. There’s been a lot of those circumstances raised with some of our opponents since I’ve been here and my response to it is I’m not aware of it because I think the past is the past. This is a new team. This is a new group, a new coach. The way I look at it, it’s a clean slate. We know it’s going to be a hard-fought game. This is a team that plays hard. They’re hard to play against. They’re going to make us work for our offense. We have to make sure we do the same to them.”

Some more on the Newark situation for the Penguins. The Prudential Center opened in 2007 and the Penguins were actually very good here at the beginning. They went 4-1-1 in their first six games in the building, outscoring the Devils 16-10.

Since then, they’re 3-14-1 here and have been outscored 51-26. In their last eight trips, they’ve scored a total of eight goals. Not a great spot for a bounceback game, but that’s what the Penguins need to come up with.

More after the game,

jb

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