VERIZON GAME DAY REPORT
Katie O'Malley has the latest going into tonight's game.
LOCKER ROOM INTERVIEWS
PENS ADJUST WITHOUT THREE OF TOP-FOUR D
With Brooks Orpik (concussion) joining Paul Martin (fractured tibia) and Rob Scuderi (broken ankle) on injured reserve after what happened in Saturday’s game, the Pens are now without three of their top-four defensemen for the forseeable future.
But they aren’t going to ask their remaining blueliners to try and replace those guys. They want whoever is in the lineup to play their game. The only difference is that now, they’re going to get a chance to showcase what they bring more often and in different situations than perhaps they’re used to – whether it be on the power play, penalty kill or matching up against the other team’s best players.
“We’re not going to try to replace (them). It’s not something where you say hey, you’ve got to be Brooks Orpik or you’ve got to be Paul Martin. That’s something you can’t do,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “It means a little more minutes. It means different situations for some players.”
While Kris Letang conceded that obviously the D will have a different look with those guys out, he said the Pens have learned from experience each individual can't try to play outside of the way that's made them successful NHLers.
"I think that’s the mistake a lot of people do or want to do. Try to change," he said. "But we lived it in 2010 when 'Geno' (Evgeni Malkin) and 'Sid' (Sidney Crosby) went out with injuries. There’s no point for doing more or changing the way you are. Just have to play the same way and things will take care of itself."
For the more experienced guys like Letang, Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland, taking more of a leadership role for their younger teammates like Olli Maatta, Simon Despres and Brian Dumoulin in addition to shouldering more responsibility on the ice will be important.
“I’m not going to change a whole lot just because of who’s missing or anything,” Niskanen said. “I’m not going to try to be anything I’m not, but there is, I think, a necessity for a little bit more of a leadership role out of some of the experienced guys.
“I think just tackling the challenge of having more minutes, playing against better players, you’ve got to make those adjustments. But as far as my approach, I’m not going to change a whole lot. Just be prepared to have more important minutes and more of them.”
There’s virtually no question that Letang, a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman last season, will see the most of those important minutes. He skated over 30 in the last game, a season-high for him, while playing on the top power-play unit and being one of the first penalty killers over the boards.
The key to handling all of that ice time, he says, is to be cognizant of your workload.
“It’s just a question of managing your minutes, making sure you don’t join every rush and try to get back in the play and lose a lot of energy in that regard,” he said.
Judging from the pairings in this morning’s skate, it looks like Engelland, who had been paired with Orpik, will now play with Niskanen while Maatta will remain with Letang. Bylsma said that Robert Bortuzzo will be in the lineup tonight for just the second time in the last 13 games, so he will play with either Despres or Dumoulin – recalled this morning from WBS and looking to make his NHL debut.
For the group as a whole, Niskanen agreed that keeping it simple may need to be more of a focus with guys adjusting to different roles and minutes.
“We’re going to have to have a little more of a blue-collar, hard-working effort, I think,” he said. “I think keeping it simple makes it easier for everyone to just go out and play. You don’t have to think too much, playing a north-south game. I think the good thing is, guys that are coming up from Wilkes, they’ve played the same style that we do. It’s nothing new, just up with the big club now. Insert guys and go play. It’s a hockey game. We’ve got a lot of depth, so go work hard and make the best of it.”
That’s what they’ve been doing all year through the injuries.
“Losing those three guys, it’s tough to replace those guys,” Engelland said. “But the guys that have come up and play have done a great job and guys that are getting more minutes and different opportunities are stepping up to that. So I don’t think anything’s going to change and it’s a good opportunity for everyone else.”
--Dave Uhrmacher & Sam Kasan
PENS-BRUINS FALLOUT NOTES
The Penguins-Bruins Saturday contest got pretty ugly on the ice to say the least. And the fallout is still being felt by both teams.
NEAL SUSPENDED FOR 5 GAMES
The NHL handed down its ruling on Neal for kneeing the head of Brad Marchand. Neal has been suspended for five games without pay.
More details here.
UPDATE ON ORPIK
The scariest moment of the game was no doubt Orpik losing consciousness and being taken off the ice by a stretcher after an altercation with Shawn Thornton.
But coach Bylsma had some positive things to say about Orpik's current condition.
“I’ve seen Brooks (Sunday) and (Monday). He’s doing quite well,” Bylsma said. “We saw him leave the ice. It was pretty scary in a lot of regards. He’s up and moving around just fine. When a guy is unconscious for maybe 30 seconds or longer you have a concussion. I don’t have any other kind of symptoms that he’s having at this time.”
THE HIT THAT STARTED IT ALL
The tone was set for the game in the opening 15 seconds when Orpik leveled Boston’s Loui Eriksson above the circles in the Bruins zone. The puck was coming around the boards and Eriksson tried to play it. Orpik committed to the hit and followed through.
“Unfortunately for Eriksson, being a right-handed shot, tries to play the puck and does touch the puck in an awkward position,” Bylsma said of the play. “Brooks comes down and hits him shoulder to his front. It’s not anywhere close to being behind. It’s an unfortunate position for Eriksson to be in because of the bad bounce that the puck does take off the wall and him trying subsequently to play the puck and touching it. It’s a hard hit. I don’t think Brooks’ intention is to do anything, but come down and forecheck. He’s coming down the wall to have body contact on a puck coming up there.”
A few minutes later Thornton challenged Orpik to a fight, but the Penguins defenseman declined – which, as Kris Letang pointed out, is his right.
“If there was something wrong with that play, Brooksy would have had a penalty,” Letang said. “It was pretty clear Broosky wasn’t going to fight. That’s his game. He doesn’t have to fight. We don’t have to argue if he does or doesn’t fight. It’s his choice. Brooksy made the right choice. He’s not going to be involved in that type of game.”
And Bylsma agreed that every big hit doesn’t need to result in fisticuffs.
“It’s a hard hit. I’m not a fan of having every hit in the game being something you need to answer to,” Bylsma said. “There are a lot of hard hits in the game. Every play shouldn’t be one you have to answer to. They took exception to it. They tried to do something about it on subsequent plays. They finally did something about it with Thornton going across the ice on that whistle.”
The Bruins also lost Chris Kelly with a fractured fibula for the next 4-6 weeks as a result of Pascal Dupuis’ follow-through on a dump-in attempt.
Dupuis had the puck at the Bruins blue line and tried to dump it. The puck took a weird bounce and ended up in the skates of Kelly. Dupuis swiped his stick at the puck on the backhand. Unfortunately, Dupuis’ stick missed the puck and unintentionally caught Kelly.
“I tried to whack at the puck to get it deep,” Dupuis said. “I turned the puck over trying to put it deep. I guess I got him on the back of the leg. It’s unfortunate. You don’t want to injure players. Hopefully, he gets back on the ice quick.
“At first I didn’t know I got him bad. I guess he’s injured right now and I obviously feel bad about it.”
Marc-Andre Fleury is starting in goal for the Pens. The rest of the lineup will be game-time decision.
Great seeing Malkin back at practice
Despres and the rest of the Pens D will need to step up
Conner and Crosby: C&C Music Factory
Neal and Dupuis
All smiles for the captain
--Dave Uhrmacher & Sam Kasan
MORNING SKATE INFO
The injuries are piling up for the Pens, but they did have some good news on the injury front. Center Evgeni Malkin was on the ice for the team's morning skate AND participated in line rushes. James Neal did work on an extra unit line.
Here was the Pens workflow...
PP1: Malkin, Letang up top. Jokinen, Crosby & Kunitz down low.
PP2: Maatta, Niskanen up top. Sutter, Kobasew & Dupuis down low.
Orpik has been placed on IR. No surprise there. He's going to need time to get back to health. In the meantime, the Pens are now down three of their top-4 defensemen (Orpik; Rob Scuderi, ankle; Paul Martin, tibia). Due to the rash of injuries on D the team has recalled Brian Dumoulin from WBS.
Dumoulin, 22, has notched six points (1G-5A) in 22 regular-season games with WBS this year. He appeared in one preseason game for Pittsburgh, collecting one assist and finishing plus-1.
Full story here.
For a preview of tonight's action click here. If you're coming to the game tonight here is the fan guide. For a scouting report on the Jackets, watch the video below from yours truly.
START THE DAY
Good morning hockey fans! Tonight the Pens will host the Columbus Blue Jackets for a divisional showdown at CONSOL Energy Center. Let's get started with some game notes!
- The Penguins begin a brief two-game homestand against the Columbus Blue Jackets (TV: ROOT SPORTS; Radio: 105.9 the X) at CONSOL Energy Center.
- Following tonight’s game the Penguins will have three straight days without a game for the first time in a month before hosting New Jersey on Friday night. Pittsburgh last had three straight days off on Nov. 10-12.
- Including tonight’s game, the Penguins have played 15 games in 27 days dating back to Nov. 13. Thus far, the Penguins are 9-4-1 during this stretch.
- The Penguins enter tonight riding a five-game home winning streak –tied for their longest such streak of the season. Pittsburgh won its first five home games between Oct. 3-19 before dropping a 1-0 setback to the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 21.
- Pittsburgh has won three straight games against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A win tonight would give the Penguins their longest alltime win streak against the Blue Jackets.
- The Penguins are 7-1-1 in their last nine overall meetings with Columbus.
Stick tap: Pens PR
Today's song is Pearl Jam's "Lightning Bolt" courtesday of @gregroe72. We're playing this for Brooks Orpik. Pearl Jam is his favorite band and we hope he makes a speedy and healthy recovery.