Thoughts, musings and observations following the Pens' morning skate as they get ready to face the McDavid Oilers.
CROSBY V. MCDAVID XI
Any time the Penguins and Oilers are matched up, the game is billed as Sidney Crosby vs. Connor McDavid - one generational talent against the next generational talent.
Although that may be discounting a lot of talented players on both sides, it's still something that Crosby understands.
"I think guys are aware when you're playing someone of his caliber," Crosby said. "There's heightened awareness when he's on the ice. I think you try to prepare for that, especially this time of year. We're focused on getting wins and part of that is prepare for who you're playing against."
When it comes to points in the games, McDavid has the clear edge with 9 (3G-6A) to Crosby's 3 (2G-1A). Although, in the most important category - wins - Crosby's Penguins are a perfect 5-0 against McDavid.
One of those wins occurred in Edmonton this season on Oct. 23. In that contest Crosby scored 2 goals, including a highlight-reel overtime winner for a 6-5 victory for the Pens.
The Pens will be without center Evgeni Malkin, who is serving a one-game suspension for high-sticking Philadelphia's Michael Raffl on Monday.
"I didn't have a reaction," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "The league makes the decisions. It doesn't matter what I think or you think or the rest of us think. The league makes their decisions and we're going to live by it."
Malkin missed 5 games with an injury before returning to the lineup for the Pens against Philadelphia.
"It's unfortunate, it was a big boost for us to get 'Geno' back in the lineup in Philly," Crosby said. "It's tough to see that he's going to be out tonight, but in general I'm glad he's feeling good, and we'll try to get a big win for him tonight."
MAATTA OUT INDEFINITELY
The Pens lost defenseman Olli Maatta against Philadelphia after he suffered an upper-body injury. He was placed on Injured Reserve, but the team isn't sure what the length of the injury will ultimately be.
"I don't have the specific answer for you," Sullivan said on timetable. "Right now he's out indefinitely. As he gets evaluated we'll probably have more details."
The Pens will feature many lineup changes, judging by the team's morning skate configurations. Here was the workflow…
Aston-Reese - Cullen - Wilson
With Maatta out and Justin Schultz (left leg fracture) still not quite ready to return, it looks like Chad Ruhwedel will be back on the ice. It would be Ruhwedel's first game action in nearly three months - Nov. 19 against Buffalo.
"If I'm in it will be good to be back in the lineup and get some ice time," Ruhwedel said. "Hopefully it takes just a couple shifts or one shift (to get back into rhythm after the lengthy absence). The sooner the better to get back into the swing of things."
It also appears that forward Zach Aston-Reese will return tonight. He missed the past 13 games with an upper-body injury.
"It's just past the five week mark. I feel good," Aston-Reese said. "I'm excited. I'm back with (Matt Cullen) and (Garrett Wilson). I feel like we had a lot of chemistry early on in the year, and we know how to play that grind game."
Dominik Simon may be the team's healthy scratch for tonight.
Though defenseman Justin Schultz continues to practice with contact, he still isn't ready to return from his left leg fracture.
"Just trying to progress every day and it's tough," Schultz said. "You want to be in there, but you've got to make the smart decision. When I feel right and ready to go, I'll be in.
"I know my body. I know when I feel comfortable out there and confident in the leg and I'll be able to play at this level. It's just day-by-day. Each day it's feeling better, so it's soon."