VERIZON GAME DAY REPORT
Katie O'Malley has the latest from CONSOL Energy Center, including interviews with newly-recalled Brian Gibbons and former Pen Ben Lovejoy.
Forward Brian Gibbons was watching football when he received the call Sunday night from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach John Hynes that he had been called up to join the Penguins.
"It is definitely a special feeling," Gibbons said. "It has been a long road, playing in Wilkes-Barre for two years, and it was definitely exciting when I got the call."
Gibbons has been WBS' best forward statistically, leading the team with 22 points (7G-15A) and has been one of the best players in the entire American Hockey League. His 22 points in 15 games rank third among all players in the league.
"Brian Gibbons has flat out been the best player for Wilkes-Barre through the first 15 games they have played," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "Early on in the season, through 10 games, he may have been the best player in the American Hockey League. With his speed, and the tenacity he is playing with right now that makes his speed a factor. It's been a factor on the penalty kill, it has been a factor five-on-five. He has been saying for the first month of the season that he needs to get a chance in the NHL and that is why he has been called up."
Gibbons skated in a third-line role with Brandon Sutter and Jussi Jokinen at morning skate Monday.
REVEREND LOVEJOY RETURNS
Ben Lovejoy was a member of the Penguins organization for five-plus seasons before being traded to Anaheim in February of last season.
Tonight, Lovejoy returns to Pittsburgh for the first time.
“Things have been amazing. I love everything about the move,” Lovejoy said. “Pittsburgh was a great place for me, a great starting point. I was able to get a fresh start in Anaheim. I’ve been lucky to come in and play a lot of minutes and become a contributing member to this team. I love California, I love the Ducks.
“This place will also have a soft spot in my heart. I feel like I grew up here as both a person and a hockey player.”
It was an odd feeling for Lovejoy entering CONSOL Energy Center and dressing in the visiting locker room.
“I’m happy I’m not in the division and don’t have to do this two or three times a year,” he said. “I’ve kept in very good touch with a lot of people, both on the team and in the organization and in the city. It’s a cool place for me to come back to. I’m excited for tonight.”
PENS TALK LINE ADJUSTMENTS
We analyzed the line changes at today's morning skate in the entry below; then talked to the guys about them after practice.
With the Pens losing four of their last five games (and scoring just one goal in each of those setbacks), the guys weren’t surprised that the coaches switched up their lines during this morning’s skate. If anything, they were expecting it. And they’re okay with it.
“I think that’s probably the first thing (to change) to let guys know we need to start doing something different, start playing better, start possessing the puck,” forward Chris Kunitz said. “Why and how the coaches pick (who to move) or whatever, I’m not sure. But hopefully it’ll spark us to be able to get more 5-on-5 zone time and chances and hopefully goals in the end.”
More from Kunitz, Crosby, Bennett and Dupuis here.
LINE SWITCH ANALYSIS
The Pens have lost four of their last five games and are looking for some answers to their lack of scoring. If Monday’s morning skate lines hold for the game tonight, there will be a lot of changes.
Beau Bennett has been moved up to the “top line” with Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby. Pascal Dupuis has shifted to the “second line” with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. Jussi Jokinen skated with Brandon Sutter and Brian Gibbons.
Here’s a quick look at how the changes will impact the team…
- Bennett will add a dynamic stick-handling skill to his unit. And with his high hockey IQ, there’s a chance he and Crosby could really hit it off as they both think the game on another level.
- Dupuis gives his unit an extra burst of speed. His quick legs should create some breakout opportunities and stretch the ice. He’s also a player that can get in hard on the forecheck and create some open ice for the talents of Malkin and Neal.
- Jokinen and Sutter played together in the past while in Carolina. They both have a familiarity with each other and good chemistry. Jokinen will add a dangerous scoring threat to the third line with his skill level.
Gibbons hopes to make his NHL debut tonight
Better 'stache? Bortuzzo?
Better clean shave? Dupuis? Or D'Agostini?
Crosby and Tony Granato are BFFs
Team all together
Fleury stretches it out
--Dave Uhrmacher & Sam Kasan
MORNING SKATE INFO
The Pens switched up their lines for today's morning skate. They may have a new look to the top-2 units when they hit the ice against Anaheim. Also Brian Gibbons, recalled this morning, looks like he may play tonight. Here was the workflow...
The team did full length rushes so all the defense worked through.
PP1: Letang & Malkin up top. Crosby, Kunitz & Neal below.
PP 2: Niskanen & Martin up top. Sutter, Bennett & Jokinen down low. Dupuis subbed with Sutter.
For a preview of tonight's action click here. If you're attending the game here is our fan guide. For a scouting report on the Ducks watch Michelle's video below.
START THE DAY
Good morning hockey fans! Tonight the Pens take on the Pacific Division leading Anaheim Ducks at CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens will have a tough test as Anaheim currently has the best record and most wins in the NHL. Here's a quick takeaway for tonight's game...
- The Penguins host the Anaheim Ducks (TV: ROOT SPORTS, NBC Sports Network; Radio: 105.9 the X) at CONSOL Energy Center.
- This is the first meeting between the Penguins and Ducks since Anaheim earned a 2-1 victory here in Pittsburgh on Feb. 15, 2012.
- Prior to that win by Anaheim, the Penguins had won four straight games against the Ducks in Pittsburgh.
- The Penguins are 4-2-1 in their last seven meetings against Anaheim.
- Pittsburgh is 1-2 during its stretch of 11 games in 18 days that began with a 2-1 loss to Philadelphia on Nov. 13 and runs through Nov. 30.
- The Penguins enter tonight’s game having allowed a total of just 61 shots over their previous three games (20.3 avg.).
- Jussi Jokinen enters tonight’s game with a five-game home point streak (2G-3A-5PTS).
Stick tap (Pens PR)
We'll start the day with an Anaheim-based band. Before Gwen Stefani went L.A.M.B. and was hanging out with the harajuku girls, she cut her musical teeth in the pop punk/ska group No Doubt. They broke on the scene with their first major single "Just a Girl" in 1995. That was also the same time that I fell in love with Gwen Stefani. Amazingly, No Doubt is still recording to this day. Less amazingly, I'm still in love with Stefani.