GAME DAY REPORT
A PEEK INSIDE
STAAL IS BACK IN TAHN
Hurricanes center Jordan Staal is making his re-return to Pittsburgh tonight at CONSOL Energy Center. His last visit came on April 27 of last season – the final contest of the regular season.
At that game a tribute video was played for the former Penguin. And the fans gave Staal, an integral part of the team’s 2009 Stanley Cup championships, a standing ovation in appreciation.
But Staal jokingly said he doesn’t expect the same reaction this evening.
“I don’t know if they got it out of their system or not,” he said. “I’m assuming they have. It’s always nice to be back here, a lot of great memories; I had a lot of fun here.”
Last year was a whirlwind season for Staal. The Penguins lost a disappointing playoff series to the Philadelphia Flyers. Two months later Staal married his longtime girlfriend. Later that evening, on his wedding night with his teammates present, he received the news that he had been traded to Carolina.
With the lockout, Staal didn’t even have a training camp to help acclimate himself to his new teammates and surroundings. But now Staal, who is an alternate captain for the ‘Canes, feels much better entering this year.
“All those things were pretty mixed up. It made for a pretty tough season for myself,” he said. “The blame is still on me, but there were a lot of factors going into it. It’s good to be back, more comfortable, being back with all the guys, I’m more familiar with everyone. It’s a fun start.”
And Staal also had a better year of conditioning over the summer, shedding some weight. The key to his fitness regiment?
“I didn’t eat as much chocolate,” he said.
Brandon Sutter's cousin Brent
--Drew Hancherick & Sam Kasan
SUTTER HAS MOVED ON
Carolina had become home to Brandon Sutter and the Hurricanes had become his family.
The organization drafted him in the first round (11th overall) of the 2007 NHL Draft, and after one more season in junior hockey he turned professional.
The young center impressed the Hurricanes so much his rookie season that he was named an alternate captain at just 21 years old. Sutter went on to spend a total of four seasons there and developed into a big part of the team. But hockey is ultimately a business, and the Hurricanes ended up trading their homegrown talent to Pittsburgh at the 2012 NHL Draft last June.
It turned out to be a tough first season in Pittsburgh for Sutter. After dealing with the initial shock and surprise of his first trade, Sutter then had to wait months before he could join his new team. Once he did so in January, Sutter had to adjust at breakneck speed due to the lockout. He had just a week of training camp to get used to everything before a sprint of a season that felt like it happened in the blink of an eye.
There were a lot of difficult parts for the now 24-year-old Sutter, but he admitted one of the hardest was playing his former team. Looking back, Sutter said his first game against Carolina on Feb. 28 wasn’t easy – and it didn’t necessarily get better in the following meetings. But now, after a normal, full training camp following a normal offseason, Sutter has moved on from those emotions and truly feels like a Pittsburgher.
“It was nice to get (those) games over with last year,” he said. “Those were pretty tough. Those first few games playing against your old team isn’t the best feeling; it’s kind of tough. But I think I’m past that now and I can just worry about playing.”
Sutter told us during training camp his second season with the Penguins feels like “night and day” compared to his first.
“Now it feels a little bit more natural and it definitely feels like home here now,” he said.
A comfortable and happy Sutter even took out his two-years-older cousin Brett, a center for the Hurricanes, out to dinner in his adopted city with a few other former teammates.
“My cousin’s with the team right now, so I met up with him and Eric Staal and Cam Ward and Jay Harrison and went to dinner with those four guys,” Brandon said. “So nice to see some old faces and it’s always a good time getting together with them and kind of catching up a bit.”
PENS SKATE PICS
I had an admittedly rough day with the camera, but I managed to get a few decent photos of the guys at morning skate...
Brandon Sutter is in his second season with the Pens after being acquired from Carolina in 2012. He's playing his old team tonight
Olli Maatta and assistant coach Jacques Martin have a conversation
Paul Martin readies his twig with a rub stick to get a grip
Sidney Crosby gets ready for his pregame passing ritual with assistant coach Tony Granato
Rob Scuderi talks with coach Dan Bylsma -- I got every coach in today's photo except for Todd Reirden! So close.
Chuck Kobasew is on an 82-goal pace this season after scoring in each of the first two games
Maatta with perfect form as he breaks out of his zone
Beau surrounded by activity
Oh hey Geno
Scuderi turns up the ice with the puck
MORNING SKATE INFO
All the healthy Pens were on the ice for the morning skate. James Neal (upper-body) and the IR players were missing.
Here's how the lineup shook out...
PP 1: Malkin and Martin on points. Jokinen, Crosby and Kunitz low.
PP 2: Maatta and Niskanen on points. Bennett, Jeffrey and Sutter low.
When Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta found out he would be playing in the team’s regular-season opener on Oct. 3, like any 19-year old rookie making his NHL debut, nerves began to set in.
Luckily for Finland native Maatta, teammate and fellow countryman Jussi Jokinen was there to calm his nerves.
“Before (Thursday) night’s game, he told me to enjoy it because you don’t have another first game,” Maatta said.
The words of wisdom from Jokinen, 30, are just a small glimpse into the mentoring the Finnish winger has done for Maatta to help him acclimate to life as a professional in both the NHL and in Pittsburgh.
Full story here.
DICK'S PLAYS OF THE WEEK
FLEURY THIRD STAR
Fleury denied all 27 shots he faced to collect his 24th career shutout in Pittsburgh’s 3-0 season-opening victory against New Jersey on Oct. 3. In the process, Fleury became just the 47th goaltender in NHL history to reach 250 career victories.
Two days later, Fleury turned aside 20 of the 21 shots he saw against the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 5, helping the Penguins post a 4-1 victory at CONSOL Energy Center. In that game, Fleury came within 5:06 minutes of notching back-to-back shutouts.
Full details here.
Click here for a preview of tonight's Pens-Canes matchup
Click here for a fan guide for tonight's game
For an in-depth look at the 'Canes, watch Michelle's scouting report below...
START ME UP
Good morning hockey fans. Here's the rundown on tonight's battle with Jordan Staal and Metro Division rival Carolina...
- The Penguins conclude their three-game homestand against the Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m.; TV: ROOT SPORTS; Radio: 105.9 the X) at CONSOL Energy Center.
- A win tonight would allow the Penguins to start the season 3-0 for the first time since going 7-0 in 1994-95.
- The Penguins are also looking to win their first three home games to begin a season for the first time since ’94-95, when they started 7-0 between Jan. 27-Feb. 16, 1995 at the Civic Arena.
- The Penguins are a perfect 5-0 against the Carolina Hurricanes at CONSOL Energy Center. During that streak the Penguins have outscored the Hurricanes by a 20-12 margin. Carolina’s last win in Pittsburgh was an overtime win (3-2) on March 20, 2010 at Mellon Arena.
(H/T: Pens PR)