ANOTHER GAME FOR D'AGOSTINI
Matt D'Agostini was originally supposed to play in Pittsburgh's preseason home opener against Detroit on Sept. 16, but wasn't able to as his wife had gone into labor and gave birth to their first child – a son, Lucca Jacob. We'd say that's a legitimate excuse to miss a game.
I asked him if it's been overwhelming for him the last few days, becoming a father for the first time while trying to make a new team and get acclimated with everything the Penguins do as I can't even imagine how exhausted and stressed he must be. But D'Agostini says it's all been positive so far – and he's finding motivation in all of the chaos that's happening. "It’s been a little overwhelming, I guess you could say," he said. "Obviously the birth of my first child is very exciting but getting training camp going is good and I think it is kind of giving me new inspiration. It’s getting me going. So, the family is good, everyone is happy and it’s a fun time to get the season going."
D'Agostini was able to play in the next game (against Chicago) after the one he missed, and he'll be in today against Columbus. The preseason games are especially helpful for guys like him who are new to the Penguins, as he said "just trying to get a grasp on systems and stuff is the biggest thing for me right now. Trying to play disciplined position-wise and try to get that stuff under wraps. But it felt pretty good the first game out there and just hope I can improve upon that."
He played right wing next to center Brandon Sutter on Thursday against the Blackhawks, and skated alongside him in today's morning skate with Pascal Dupuis slotting in on left wing. They will likely play together today versus the Blue Jackets.
JOKINEN TO PLAY WITH MALKIN, NEAL
The day before training camp started, Dan Bylsma mentioned Jussi Jokinen as a possible candidate to fill the open spot in the top six on Evgeni Malkin and James Neal’s line – and said we would see him get an opportunity to play there. Now a couple of weeks later, that opportunity is going to come for the first time in today’s game versus Columbus.
“Today (Jokinen) is getting the opportunity to play with Malkin and Neal,” Bylsma said. “He’s a guy who’s played with very skilled players throughout his career and done very well. (He did it in) Dallas and Carolina. He’s done extremely well there. So you put people in situations where you might see them throughout the year and this is one where we’ve seen Beau Bennett with Malkin and Neal, and tonight in this game we’re going to see Jussi Jokinen.”
Jokinen, who had primarily been skating with Brandon Sutter and Matt D’Agostini on the third line during training camp practices and scrimmages, is excited about the chance to show what he can do with Malkin and Neal – especially since the Finland native said he felt like the two of them played a more European-style of hockey. The skilled Jokinen grew up playing that way and honed his game in the Finnish Elite League for many years before coming to North America, so it will be interesting to see how he meshes with the Russian-born Malkin and Neal.
“I think there was some chemistry right away and I think those guys play a little bit more of a European-style play, obviously with [Malkin], and [Neal] is a good all-around player with great instincts and a good shot, so it’ll be fun tonight,” he said. “Hopefully we can play a good two-way game and get a couple of goals too.”
MORNING SKATE PICS
See the clock behind Martin? Yes, they are skating at 8:30 a.m. Back to their hockey roots with early morning ice time.
Dupuis questions Adams' right to cross the blue line.
Fleury stealing Gatorade in his glove. Not very sneaky. #Busted
Meesh's favorite player name. Olli Maatta.
Neal gets confused as to which puck to shoot.
Zolnierczyk smiles at his reflection in the ice.
Happy Geno face.
Letang going for his O-Pee-Chee hockey card photo.
The Pens had a very, very early morning skate today at 8:30 a.m. Here are the lines/pairings they used...
(The D rotated with three)
PP 1: Martin, Letang, Malkin, Neal, Kobasew.
PP 2: Jeffrey, Maatta, Dupuis, D'Agostini, Jokinen
29 MARC-ANDRE FLEURY – G
37 JEFF ZATKOFF – G
3 OLLI MAATTA – D
4 ROB SCUDERI – D
7 PAUL MARTIN – D
9 PASCAL DUPUIS – F
12 CHUCK KOBASEW – F
15 TANNER GLASS – F
16 BRANDON SUTTER – F
17 DUSTIN JEFFREY – F
18 JAMES NEAL – F
22 MATT D’AGOSTINI – F
23 CHRIS CONNER – F
27 CRAIG ADAMS – F
36 JUSSI JOKINEN – F
38 ZACH SILL – F
39 HARRY ZOLNIERCZYK – F
41 ROBERT BORTUZZO – D
44 BROOKS ORPIK – D
58 KRIS LETANG – D
71 EVGENI MALKIN – F
The PensTV crew did an awesome job of putting together the preseason open. If you can't make a game, check out the video below set to a remix version of Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive." Enjoy.
HARTZELL TO WBS
The Pens had the day off Friday, but that doesn't mean management wasn't working. The team re-assigned goaltender Eric Hartzell to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. They now have three goalies in camp (Marc-Andre Fleury, Tomas Vokoun and Jeff Zatkoff) and 43 players overall.
Full details here.
START ME UP
Good morning hockey fans! This afternoon (4 p.m. to be exact) the Pens will host the Columbus Blue Jackets at CONSOL Energy Center in the third annual "Free Game for Kids."
So what is the Free Game for Kids? The Pens distributed every ticket (over 18,000) for the game to youth hockey organizations and youth groups so that they could pack the arena and cheer on the Pens.
I remember this event from previous years and it really is an amazing thing to witness. Over 18,000 kids cheering and screaming and having the best time. Of all the great things the Pens organization does for the community, this may be my favorite. And hopefully, the kids will leave with a lasting memory.
The most recent Free Game for Kids took place in 2011. Here is a look back at the madness from PensTV.
(The Pens did not hold a Free Game for Kids last season because the NHL labor dispute forced all teams to cancel their preseason contests. The game was in the works, but had to be eliminated. The Pens did hold an intra-squad scrimmage in which all seats were free to the public. Of course, the building filled to capacity. Pens fans are incredible).