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Posted On Thursday, 12.04.2014 / 12:44 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Canucks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will adjust their defensive pairings against the Vancouver Canucks (7 p.m. ET, SN360) on Thursday at Consol Energy Center with suspended defenseman Robert Bortuzzo out of the lineup.

Bortuzzo received a two-game suspension Wednesday from the NHL Department of Player Safety for a late hit on New Jersey Devils forward Jaromir Jagr on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh held an optional skate Thursday morning, but it is expected defenseman Brian Dumoulin will enter the lineup and potentially play alongside Christian Ehrhoff. Paul Martin with Olli Maatta and Simon Despres with Rob Scuderi are the other probable defensive pairings.

"Obviously there's a little bit of nerves, especially playing in the National Hockey League," Dumoulin said. "But having those games last year definitely helps me know. Knowing some of the guys around the room has made me more comfortable. ... You can't think too much out there. It's really just about keeping my game simple."

Posted On Tuesday, 12.02.2014 / 7:17 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Devils at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby is in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, but forward Chris Kunitz is not.

Crosby, along with defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, did not participate in Pittsburgh’s morning skate at Consol Energy Center because of undisclosed illnesses. Each player took the ice for the Penguins’ warm-ups on Tuesday.

Kunitz, who has scored nine goals and 20 points in 23 games, filled in for Crosby as the top-line center as well as the second-line left wing during the skate but did not take part in warm-ups. He has an unspecified injury.

Forward Jayson Megna will play in Kunitz’s position, next to center Evgeni Malkin and right wing Blake Comeau on the second line. Crosby will skate between left wing Nick Spaling and right wing Patric Hornqvist. Bortuzzo will be paired with defenseman Paul Martin.

The Penguins are without defenseman Kris Letang, who will miss a second consecutive game after sustaining a lower-body injury late against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. Letang did not play against Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., the next night and Johnston labeled him as day-to-day.

Posted On Friday, 11.28.2014 / 12:47 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Hurricanes at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will enter a home-and-home series against a Metropolitan Division rival for the second consecutive weekend on Friday.

The Penguins will face the Carolina Hurricanes at Consol Energy Center before travelling to Raleigh for a second matchup a day later. Pittsburgh played consecutive games against the New York Islanders a week ago, when they went 0-1-1.

The Hurricanes are one point out of the division’s basement and don't seem to pose as much of a threat as New York, which is tied with the Penguins atop the division, but Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston said Carolina should not be taken lightly.

"They're a quick team, for sure," Johnston said. "And it's a combination of preparing, as we have done with other teams, preparing for Carolina, but also, as we did this morning, reviewing our game. And we have to get our game moved up in a couple areas. So, each week basically, we're taking two or three areas and saying this is what we have to focus on as a team and this is what our opponent does.

"And they are a quick team. They're a quick team down low below the dots. They bring pucks to the net. They spin off checks really well down low there."

Posted On Wednesday, 11.26.2014 / 12:20 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will tweak their lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday because of an injury to forward Beau Bennett.

Penguins coach Mike Johnston announced Bennett will miss a couple of weeks with a lower-body injury sustained Monday against the Boston Bruins. Bennett, who has played 54 NHL games in three seasons, will miss his 14th game of this season. He made his season debut against the New York Rangers on Nov. 11 after injuring his knee during training camp.

Forward Jayson Megna, who played on the fourth line against Boston, is expected to fill the void, but his specific role is not known because Pittsburgh did not hold line rushes during its optional morning skate. Megna could replace Bennett as the third-line right wing.

Megna said he wants to help the Penguins third line, which includes center Brandon Sutter and left wing Steve Downie, continue its recent surge in production.

"They've obviously proven that they're a line that can put up points and produce," Megna said. "And they're also responsible in the defensive zone. So I think the key for me is just to play my game and kind of help those guys do what they do and bring what I bring, and hopefully that brings some more productivity to the line."

Posted On Friday, 11.21.2014 / 12:26 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Islanders at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a new-look top line against the New York Islanders, their first game since it was announced forward Pascal Dupuis will miss at least six months with a potentially career-ending blood clot in his lung.

Dupuis did not play against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday after skating at right wing alongside center Sidney Crosby and left wing Chris Kunitz in the previous two games. With him out of the lineup, forward Blake Comeau moved up from the fourth line to join Crosby and Kunitz.

Comeau said he will not attempt to replace Dupuis because that would be a difficult task.

"He was one of the guys who kind of took me under his wing," Comeau said. "He's such a big leader in the dressing room. He brings that work ethic, that grit, that hard style of play every game. So it's definitely tough shoes to fill."

Posted On Saturday, 11.15.2014 / 12:57 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Rangers at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers expect the Pittsburgh Penguins to increase their intensity Saturday after a lopsided Rangers win four days ago.

The Rangers, who held an optional morning skate Saturday, enter their game at Consol Energy Center off a 4-3 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. But New York might have had its best performance of the season in its prior game, a 5-0 win against Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden.

Saturday is expected to play out differently according to the Rangers locker room. Forward Mats Zuccarello, who scored one of the Rangers' three first-period goals Tuesday, thinks the Penguins will be better prepared and New York will have to fight to earn two points in Pittsburgh.

"It's their home rink here and they want to redeem themselves a little bit from the last game," Zuccarello said. "So, we have to be ready from the get go."

Posted On Saturday, 11.01.2014 / 1:51 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Sabres at Penguins

PITTSBURGH – The Buffalo Sabres are aware their special teams have to improve if they are to compete Saturday with the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center.

Buffalo scored its first power-play goal of the season Thursday in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins. The Penguins, who have also killed 22 consecutive penalties, scored one more power-play goal in a 3-0 win Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings than the Sabres have through their first 11 games this season.

Pittsburgh’s NHL-best power play dipped in percentage to a 39.5 percent success rate following Thursday. Buffalo’s rose to 2.9 percent.

Posted On Thursday, 10.30.2014 / 1:02 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Kings at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- Forward Anze Kopitar (upper body) participated in the Los Angeles Kings' morning skate at Conosl Energy Center, but most likely will not play Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, SN360,TVA SPORTS2).

Kopitar, who missed Los Angeles' 3-2 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, skated in Pittsburgh the past two days. He's had a slow start this season with two goals and three points in eight games.

He did not participate in line rushes.

The Kings recalled forward David Van Der Gulik from Manchester of the American Hockey League on Thursday. Van Der Gulik is expected to slot in as the fourth-line left wing alongside center Andy Andreoff and right wing Jordan Nolan.

Posted On Tuesday, 10.28.2014 / 12:36 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Devils at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta will play Tuesday, as expected, a day after it was announced he would undergo surgery to remove a tumor from his neck.

Maatta skated in his normal pairing with defenseman Kris Letang and will most likely remain there during the Penguins next three games, staring Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils. His surgery is scheduled for next week, when Pittsburgh begins a road trip, and is expected to keep him out of the lineup for four weeks.

The Penguins reacted to Maatta's condition for the first time Tuesday. Several players remarked on Maatta's maturity, including Letang, who faced a health scare when he had a stroke last January.

Letang said he spoke with Maatta to offer any advice he could.

Posted On Wednesday, 10.22.2014 / 12:16 PM

By Wes Crosby - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Flyers at Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will use virtually the same lineup for the fifth consecutive game to start the season when they face the Philadelphia Flyers at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVA SPORTS2).

The Penguins have made minor tweaks to their lineup through the early portion of the season, including moving defenseman Olli Maatta from a pairing with Paul Martin to playing alongside Kris Letang, and swapping their third- and fourth-line centers, with Nick Spaling replacing Marcel Goc on the third.

"Both players [Spaling and Goc], the first thing that both provide is they're key penalty killers for us," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "I just thought on those lines, just to flip them around and really, I'm not big on third, fourth, getting into those types of things. If you look at the minutes that both have played, they're probably within a minute or 30 seconds of each other by the end of the night.

"So I just see both of those lines, just trying to get the right combinations."

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