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Posted On Friday, 11.22.2013 / 1:21 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Vanek to return to Islanders lineup

PITTSBURGH -- Thomas Vanek will return to the New York Islanders lineup Friday after missing five games with an upper-body injury.

The Islanders entered November in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 11 points. But they now sit last in the division as they open their game Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. With 19 points following losses in six of their past eight games, Vanek could provide a spark.

"I'm really anxious," Vanek said. "I didn't get to play many games with my new team here so it's tough to watch. But at the same time it's a long season. It's important to be healthy and be 100 percent out there."

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Posted On Monday, 11.18.2013 / 12:51 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins juggle lines looking for some extra punch

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will rearrange their top three lines when they face the Anaheim Ducks on Monday at Consol Energy Center in an attempt to spark their struggling offense.

After losing four of their past five games, and scoring one goal in each of those losses, Pittsburgh replaced Pascal Dupuis with Beau Bennett on its top line alongside Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. Dupuis will move to the second line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, while Jussi Jokinen will play on the third line.

"There will be a little mix and matching. Try to get a little spark somewhere," said Dupuis, who has scored three points in his past 12 games. "They [Crosby and Malkin] are both so talented and you have to read off them a little bit. At the same time, I've been playing with Sid for a little while, so I need to make a little bit of an adjustment with Geno [Malkin]."

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Posted On Friday, 11.15.2013 / 1:08 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Letang, Martin expected to play for Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators enter Friday with three-game losing streaks. One of the teams will snap its skid when they meet at Consol Energy Center.

After averaging 3.13 non-shootout goals per game through its first 15 games, Pittsburgh's offense has slowed considerably, scoring one goal in each of its past three games. The Penguins haven't scored an even-strength goal in their past three games and will attempt to avoid extending that drought against the NHL's 25th-ranked defense.

"We have to stay to our game plan and stay to our systems and stick to the little things and keep working," Penguins forward James Neal said. "That's the only way to get through it."


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Posted On Wednesday, 11.13.2013 / 12:54 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins hope return home is enough to end slide

PITTSBURGH -- Coming off consecutive road losses, the Pittsburgh Penguins will attempt to regain their consistency when they face the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS).

Pittsburgh will play its first home game since its 4-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 1. The Penguins won in Columbus the following night before losing 5-1 at the New York Rangers and 2-1 at the St. Louis Blues.

After 11 days away from Pittsburgh, the Penguins expect to feed off of their home crowd.

"It's always nice playing in front of our fans," forward Pascal Dupuis said. "It's something we value. We play our best on this ice and we expect the best out of each other, especially playing an opponent like Philly.

"The fans are going to be fired up."


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Posted On Friday, 11.01.2013 / 1:46 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blue Jackets, Penguins open home-and-home set

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets will meet for the first of two games in two nights between the new division rivals on Friday at Consol Energy Center.

The Blue Jackets are fourth in the Metropolitan Division with 10 points, eight behind the first-place Penguins. Columbus will have a chance to cut into that lead during the home-and-home set.

Forward Brandon Dubinsky said the Blue Jackets will need to come out strong Friday to set themselves up for the rematch Saturday in Columbus.

"You have to make it a hard game," Dubinsky said. "You have to come out, be ready to compete right from the get-go. We know these guys come hard at home. They play with speed. They generate a lot of speed through the neutral zone and they got some top-end guys.

"We have to find a way to stay disciplined, stay out of the box and be ready to play a physical and hard game."

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Posted On Wednesday, 10.30.2013 / 1:02 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins-Bruins growing into intense rivalry

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will face the Boston Bruins on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, RDS2) at Consol Energy Center for the first time since being swept by Boston in last season's Eastern Conference Final.

Pittsburgh remembers how last season ended and considers this matchup a true rivalry. While it might not be the most natural rivalry for the Penguins, captain Sidney Crosby sees the games growing in intensity.

"It might now [be a rivalry]," Crosby said. "Just because the games the last couple of years have been pretty close, pretty exciting games. Other than that, you know what to expect when you're playing them.

"It's probably not the first that comes to mind, like Philadelphia or Washington. But I think it's developed into that.”


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Posted On Friday, 10.25.2013 / 12:32 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Penguins' Letang to make season debut

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins enter the weekend owners of the NHL's sixth-best defense, allowing 2.22 goals per game. Pittsburgh will look to improve its defense further by adding All-Star defenseman Kris Letang to its lineup Friday.

Letang will make his season debut Friday against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center after missing the Penguins' first nine games with a lower-body injury. He will skate on Pittsburgh's top defensive pairing with Rob Scuderi and its top power-play unit.

"Rob is a stay-at-home defenseman. He has a good first pass," Letang said. "He reads the play really well, defends against the best player every year and has done a pretty good job at it, so it's going to be fun for me to play with him."

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Posted On Monday, 10.21.2013 / 1:20 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Avalanche using Penguins as a measuring stick

PITTSBURGH -- Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia natives Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon will face each other for the first time at Consol Energy Center on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS2).

More importantly, two of the NHL's top teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche, will meet for the first time this season in a measuring-stick game for both teams.

Each team enters with a 7-1-0 record. The Avalanche are one point behind the San Jose Sharks at the top of the Western Conference standings, while the Penguins stand alone atop the Eastern Conference.

Forward Matt Duchene, who leads Colorado with nine points (three goals, six assists), said the game will be about more than Crosby vs. MacKinnon.

"This [Pittsburgh] has been one of the premier teams in the NHL," Duchene said. "They get a lot of media attention and a lot of attention from fans. We're a team that hasn't been good for the past few years and has previously been forgotten about until recently. We're starting to hopefully bring the glory days back to the Avalanche and we want to be one of those teams.

"I think if we can come out and have a win, everyone's going to sit back and say, 'Whoa, the Avs are for real.'"

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Posted On Saturday, 10.19.2013 / 12:33 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Bylsma only sees talent, not opponents' records

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are not treating their matchup with the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) differently than any previous game.

The Penguins have built a 6-1-0 record while facing five sub-.500 teams -- four who have won one game or fewer -- but Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said teams' records this early in the season are not indicative of their skill level.

"Early in the season I don't give a lot of credit to the record and where they're at in the standings," Bylsma said after Pittsburgh's Friday practice. "The Flyers were a win away from being six points behind us in the standings, which isn't that far and a lot can be said for their start or lack of their start. But that game [Thursday] would've put them within four or six points.

"It's tough to give those records credence. We're playing a Vancouver team that is good in a lot of areas, good with their top skill and are a good team and that's what we're looking at, at a John Tortorella team."

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Posted On Tuesday, 10.15.2013 / 1:11 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Kobasew moves up to Penguins' second line

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins' line combinations again will go through another set of changes due to an injury to a top-six forward.

Beau Bennett (lower-body injury) will sit out Pittsburgh's game Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers at Consol Energy Center. With James Neal on injured reserve, Chuck Kobasew will be the latest Penguins forward to get an opportunity to play alongside Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen.

Kobasew was effective on Pittsburgh's third line and Jokinen said he expects Kobasew to fit in well next to him and Malkin.

"I think it's still pretty normal," Jokinen said. "How it is in the NHL, there are so many injuries and the coaches like to mix up the lines, so I think everybody's used to it, that there are going to be different line combinations.

"Especially now with Chuck Kobasew playing with us, he's a really good two-way player who is a hard-nosed player that goes to the net and does all of those little things and can score goals and can make plays too."

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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres