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Morning skate: Penguins-Jets

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media columnist

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Here’s coverage of both teams’ morning skates, with news and updates as they come from inside the MTS Centre, plus a video from each locker room.

Here is the Trib’s Penguins page, which has Rob Rossi’s good look at Dan Bylsma’s tenure, news from yesterday by Josh Yohe and my column led by Beau Bennett stuff.

Oh, and for those curious, it’s about minus-6 out there. Which actually isn’t so bad.

Here’s my Twitter account, where you can follow along live.

UPDATE 11:18 a.m.: Eric Tangradi, set to make his debut with the Jets, will skate on a line with Olli Jokinen and Kyle Wellwood. And he sounds plenty excited about it …

You’ll also detect in there that he definitely didn’t feel the Penguins gave him a real chance.

Funny, by the way, to see 23 media members surrounding him. Only here.

11:23: The Penguins’ skate is now optional. That might mean we won’t know about Bennett, line combos or anything until game time. I’ll let you know.

12:32: Bennett will make his NHL debut, Dan Bylsma confirmed, and will skate on a line with Brandon Sutter and Tyler Kennedy. The reason cited by Bylsma is that he wants to keep Matt Cooke on Evgeni Malkin’s line after how well Cooke fared there the other night.

Also, Marc-Andre Fleury will start tonight. Tomas Vokoun missed most of the morning skate because of an equipment issue.

Bylsma, asked about Tangradi’s “short leash” comment: “I don’t feel that way, no.”

Here’s some of my talk this morning with Bennett …

12:38: Some of you might find this interesting: Ottawa’s owner ripped Matt Cooke.

I’ll have some of the Penguins’ reaction to that a bit later.

12:50: OK, here goes …

Bylsma reiterated that he empathized with the Senators’ frustration but said of Eugene Melnyk’s remarks, “Some people are making comments without having seen the changes Matt’s made to his game over the past two seasons. He’s a different player.”

Cooke answered more questions from reporters on the topic.

“I’m sorry Mr. Melnyk feels that way,” he said. “I understand the position he’s in, and it’s not easy.”

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

23 Comments

  1. Pingback: Winnipeg Jets Morning Papers | Illegal Curve Hockey

  2. When is the league going to try and do a realignment? I’m sure the great people of Winnipeg are happy to just have NHL hockey still, but I’d think eventually the team is going to get tired of being in the Southeast Division.

    They should only be in the Southeast Division of the Iditarod.

  3. I agree about the lack of a chance. Fans and some writers point to the idea that he started the season with Malkin and Neal as his ‘chance’. But I don’t recall him even spending a full game on that line. Maybe not even two full periods. I think we could see a much different player, and I hope so for his sake. Wish him nothing but the best.

    • Couldn’t agree with you more Dave. Playing in scattered games over 4 years is not a real “chance”.
      Case in point…Boychuck hasn’t “earned” ice time; but he’s being given ice time and consecutive game time to develop into the winger they hope for so I see Eric’s point about not getting that chance. And I agree with it.
      I also wish him the best.

      • But what we don’t know is what was happening in practice. It’s possible that his performance there also contributed to a short leash. And other people over the past couple years on this blog have commented how he seemed slow and didn’t really want to put his size to the physical use.

        Guess we’ll find out by his performance with the Jets.

        • That’s a fair point, and one that I’ve thought of…but if that were the case, I don’t think Bylsma would refute the short leash comment. But that can do a wonder to a players psyche. It’s something that is often hard and even impossible to see, but I think the term of “gripping to stick too tight” is the best way to describe it. Worrying that, if you don’t score or set up a goal, your time is likely through. All of the fans though that with Tangradi. The coaching staff and management staff seemed to feel that way. That’s a hell of a way to have to play, with that on your shoulders. Especially for a young guy. Glad every one is able to be so patient with Bennett, but it’s pretty hypocritical.

  4. Bennett seems comfortable with the media. Nice to see. Looking forward to seeing the kid on the ice tonight. He always looked classy in his AHL games this year. Best of luck to him.

  5. I know Bylsma will mix up the lines throughout the game, but why call up Bennett to put him on the third line?

  6. I haven’t posted on this blog before. But, since I had a moment, I wanted to address two things…

    1. The article about Ottawa’s owner that’s linked above is ridiculous. If a player is falling and his skate comes up and clips someone else, is that a penalty? If it is, I’ve never seen it called. This was just a freak accident, no more. The NHL brass will be watching their next meeting very closely.

    2. Tangradi definitely did get a chance. He was put in a scoring role in the AHL. He wasn’t lighting up the score board as some expected him to. He was put in several roles with the NHL club. He did even worse. From what I saw throughout his Penguins career, he just didn’t have the skating ability for this team. He may thrive on another team playing a different system. If so, good for him. Whenever you’ve reached his age (I believe he’s 25), you’re past the prospect stage. He hasn’t shown any reason why he should be given more opportunites in this shortened season. Boychuk was given a long look on Malkin’s line because he’s a waiver pickup. If he goes down, he gets sent back to the Canes. Why not exhaust that option while it’s still early in the shortened season.

    DK: Welcome, Jason!

    • I certainly agree with Jason that Eric had plenty of chances – to play. He never seemed to develop any chances to score, and that was the role he was considered for. I hope he does well with the Jets, but don’t see him ever playing up to the level of top six forward.

      Boychuk on the other hand, has played well, even though he hasn’t been able to finish the chances he developed with Geno and James. The jury is still out on whether he has any long-lasting value (Boychuk), but he was certainly worth the minor chance the Penguins took in acquiring him.

      Hope Bennett gets a chance to skate with Sid eventually. Doesn’t hurt to have him start on the third line, an maybe he can get TK started.

      Stuart

  7. Well, I went to the link about the Senators’ owner on Cooke and voted “no” in the poll about whether Cooke should have been suspended. I was one of the 31% to do so.

  8. I was a Tangradi fan, and there’s no way he was given a fair shot. Once you’re in Bylsma’s dog house (for whatever reason), there’s no getting out. Just ask Lovejoy and Talbot, and now Tangradi. But Engelland and Kennedy can make the same mistakes over and over, and there’s no consequences for them.
    It amazes me how anyone can think Cooke’s act was intentional. That’s stupidity at its zenith. As DK pointed out that I haven’t seen any other national news outlet address, his head was turned in the other direction.

    • Just another instance of “prospect love” run amok.

      • ‘Amok’ is a word that should be used more.
        I’d rather have big body Tangradi on the 3rd line than Useless Kennedy. OK, so maybe he’s not and never will be a top 6 forward, Fine, he’s a big boy, use his frame on the 3rd line.

  9. I don’t believe many of us wanted Hedman suspended when he hit Sid. We did hate Graves for swiping at Mario’s wrist of course Graves used his stick like a baseball bat and he wasn’t falling down like Cooke was skate up. Andy Sutton (Sens) crushed Leopold and Cooke was a little more skilled then Sutton. Bottom line the owner is text book scapegoating.

    Tangradi was given a chance in my book, 40 some games with Malkin, plus practice, and games at the AHL. The man did not exhude pens caliber hockey. If he did I’m sure Shero could have gotten more then a 7th for him. Shows you market was down on Big Dog, Shero doesn’t make many mistakes.

    Excited about Bennett. They should move kunitz to malkin’s and Neal’s line. Put Bennett with Sid and maybe cooke or Dupuis.

    • Shero doesn’t make many mistakes, sure. But he’s not above mistakes.

      This year he’s let Strait, Lovejoy and Tangradi go for a 6th and 7th round draft pick and picked up Boychuk. That’s a mismanagement of assets.

      His draft record is abysmal. There are ZERO players left with the organization from his first draft.

      He has done far more good than bad, don’t get me wrong. I just think he should have done better with the assets he has moved this year.

      • What I don’t seem to understand is that now the talk is to get someone to shore up the blue line. Hello?? Yes sir it sure made sense to let Strait and Lovejoy go.

  10. Cooke answered more questions from reporters on the topic.

    “I’m sorry Mr. Melnyk feels that way,” he said. “I understand the position he’s in, and it’s not easy.”
    ———————————
    I love how Cooke has turned into the cliche machine. I’m saying this as being very complementary. He’s “keeping his head down” and “eyes on the prize.”

    I’m hopeful at some point he goes to the Mike Tomlin School of Wordsmithing, at which point he’ll learn to say mostly nothing still, but will at least have a fantastic way of saying said nothing.

  11. Thoughts

    - I agree with Tangardi’s thoughts on not getting a legitimate chance. He got what 2 games with the top line then dumped to 4th line then benched. And with soft-goal Fluery starting, he’s got a good chance of getting one in tonight.

    - Beau, congratulations on making it to the NHL.

    - Have to give credit to Cooke and the comments he’s been making about the incident. Very professional.

    - Kennedy’s been a disappointment so far. I think he’s one player who’s missing having Staal as his C.

  12. One does sort of get the feeling that they are rotating players in and out of the Malkin iine almost as 5 game tryouts and if they don’t make a big impact they go on to the next player. To me, Malkin looks tired. Maybe they need to give him a game or two off.

  13. Mr Melnyk is upset with Cooke but he doesn’t seem to have a problem employing on Chris Neil whose sole purpose is to bring pain to someone during the course of a game. Whether it be going after Matt Cooke or dropping the gloves with someone else. You can say that what Neil does is party of the game Mr. Melnyk but so is a freak accident like the one that happened involving Matt Cooke.

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