"It's a team sport, not individuals. Some people will be hot at one time and some people will be hot at another time. I'm sure there will be many times for the lines to change during the season."
-- Ruslan Fedotenko
Make no mistake, Thursday night's game against Jokerit meant something to the Pittsburgh Penguins
For players fighting for playing time or an even more pressing concern, a spot on the roster, Thursday night's game wasn't just an exhibition game or an opportunity to spread the NHL gospel to Finnish fans. Instead it was about realizing dreams.
Two of those "bubble" players, Ruslan Fedotenko
and Janne Pesonen
, certainly made strong statements by the time the Pens skated off the Hartwell Arena ice with a 4-1 win.
Fedotenko, a free-agent acquisition from the New York Islanders
this summer, is a lock to make the team, but his position is still up for debate. Pesonen, who signed a one-year deal to leave Finland, meanwhile, is fighting for an NHL job.
Fedotenko scored a pretty goal in the first period and almost had another late in the game while playing on the first line with Sidney Crosby
and Miroslav Satan
. He certainly did nothing to hurt his chances of opening the season on Crosby's flank.
"Playing in this game with Sid was a great experience," said Fedotenko, who was still raving about the feed Crosby provided on his goal. "I was just trying to do my best out there."
He said he wasn't too concerned about where he ends up playing when the regular season starts Saturday with the first of two weekend games against Ottawa in the Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008 series. He'll be happy to play wherever coach Michel Therrien
"It's a team sport, not individuals" Fedotenko told NHL.com. "Some people will be hot at one time and some people will be hot at another time. I'm sure there will be many times for the lines to change during the season."
Pesonen also had a strong performance, which included an assist on Tyler Kennedy
's goal that made it 3-1 late in the third period that, for all intents, iced the contest.
The fact that he did in front of a huge crowd that was pulling hard for him as the only Finn on the Penguins roster showed he has the ability to handle the big games.
"It was fun playing here, but tonight was an important night for me to get on the team," Pesonen told NHL.com. "I had to work hard and show my best."
With that mindset, he must have been happy to get rewarded for his hard work with the primary assist on Kennedy's goal.
"If you can score points, usually you help your team in games, so I was happy," he said.
Perhaps, he also helped himself survive the final cut, which the Penguins will have to make by 3 p.m. Friday to get down the 20-man limit for the weekend games against Ottawa.
-- The Penguins were allowed to dress 21 players for today's exhibition against Jokerit, to lessen the advantage for Jokerit, which usually dresses 22 players for Finnish league play.
Coach Michel Therrien
decided to dress a seventh defenseman for the game instead of an extra forward. He said he wants to see more players have the opportunity in game situations to assume the role as top offensive defenseman, a spot that opened when Sergei Gonchar
underwent shoulder surgery Wednesday. He will be out until at least February.
He also wanted to avoid the temptation to pile too many minutes on any of the regular defensemen in what is the team's final exhibition before Saturday's regular-season opener.
"We're going to be trying to share the ice time as much as possible," Therrien said. "We have to play three times in four nights, so players need to manage their ice time tonight as best we can."
He also will try to keep his team's emotions in check and their minds focused on the task at hand despite all the distractions floating around Hartwall Arena.
"This is the big night for (Jokerit) tonight," Therrien said. "For us, it will be a great experience to participate in tonight. Our business here is so important -- the way we play, the way we focus, the way we get ready to play -- those are the most important things for us."
GOOD TO GO
-- Dan Craig, the NHL's lead ice technician, has been in Stockholm for the last two days getting the ice at the Globe Arena ready for this weekend's Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008 games.
Thursday morning, he pronounced his job done and he was planning to make his way to Prague, site of the other Premiere games.
He says the ice was in much better shape after Thursday's morning practice than it was after Wednesday's on-ice session, which was the first extensive work the new ice surface had seen this week.
"There's a couple of things to clean up this afternoon, but not too much," Craig told NHL.com. "From yesterday to today, things are a lot better. The temperature is right where we want it. We have three or four more skates on it and it'll be right where we want it."
Craig also said putting down the ice surface at the Globe presented challenges, but was not among the most difficult tasks he has been assigned. Think Winter Classic if you are wondering what would rank there. It helps that the arena has ice down on a regular basis.
CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
-- Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
was interested to learn Wednesday that Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo
was named captain of the Canucks, the first goalie to named a team captain in more than 50 years.
While it can only be a ceremonial position -- NHL rules prohibit goalies from conducting the on-ice business handled by captains, especially talking to the officials -- Fleury joked that it was good for the goaltending fraternity.
"It's good publicity for us," he said.
He said the captaincy is not what he desires in the future.
"I don't think it would suit me very much," he said with a chuckle.
So Sidney Crosby
doesn't have to worry about a coup?
"I'm going to take him down," Fleury joked, before adding, "I really have no interest. Sid's a great captain and he does a great job. He'll be here for a long time."
-- In the pregame press conference, Jokerit coach Glen Hanlon
expressed admiration for Pens coach Michel Therrien
and the Pittsburgh Penguins
Therrien and Hanlon both coached in the American Hockey League before graduating to NHL jobs. Hanlon was let go by Washington last in November and hooked up with Jokerit this fall.
"I admire the job that Michel has done," Hanlon said. “He came in in the middle of a season and made some difficult decisions and did things his way."
He also expressed admiration for the Penguins as a whole.
"I know the Pittsburgh team and they will play hard,” Hanlon said. “It is not about individuals, but about how they play. That is something that we are trying to develop here.
"They have great players that get a lot of respect, but I'm sure Michel will agree that I don't think enough is said about their warriors and troopers that get the job done."
He also said in a private conversation with NHL.com later that his team was excited about the opportunity to play such a talented team, but he feared that some of his younger players might be a little awe-struck by the Penguins' biggest stars.
"I'm going to tell the ref that if we take their sticks, it's not because we are making a penalty, but because we want their sticks," he said.