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,