VERIZON GAME DAY REPORT
Get all of today's news in video form...
The Oilers, who have sat Russia stud Nail Yakupov for the past two games, have announced that he will be back in the lineup tonight. A nice homecoming for him. It was at the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh where the Oilers selected Yakupov No. 1 overall.
Edmonton played last night in Washington, a 4-2 loss, and held an optional morning skate.
Goalie Devan Dubnyk
Sam Gagner continues to recover from a broken jaw
--Sam Kasan & Dave Uhrmacher
KOBASEW GETS THE CALL
Chuck Kobasew and head coach Dan Bylsma were adamant about one thing this morning: the Penguins winger cannot change the way he plays to try and adjust to Evgeni Malkin, who he’ll be skating alongside tonight.
“I think it’s important for Chuck, when he plays with Malkin, not to change. Not to try to play that game or go out of his skill set, his box, to try to adjust to Evgeni Malkin,” Bylsma said. “It would be a huge mistake to try to figure out where to go, what drop pass to make, or how to complement.”
Kobasew, who will be slotting for an injured Beau Bennett (who was slotting in for an injured James Neal) on the right wing of Malkin’s line with Jussi Jokinen tonight against the Oilers, had said the same thing just a few minutes earlier.
“I can’t change anything,” he said of his approach. “Just go out there, do what I do and try and get those guys the puck. Those guys are very skilled, creative players. Get in there, track down pucks and get those pucks to them.
“I try to go to the net as much as I can, so hopefully I can get to the net and maybe back those D off, give them a little space and if there’s any pucks in and around the net, capitalize on those.”
Kobasew has showed his ability to finish around the net, as he has two goals (both game winners) through his first five games from that area. And Bylsma mentioned that this morning, saying, “he has decent ability with the puck. He’s not just a no-nonsense guy. He can score goals and he can make a play.”
But the main reason Kobasew was chosen to fill in on Malkin’s line is because of what has made him successful as a Penguin thus far: his speed and tenacity. He plays a similar game to Chris Kunitz, who has thrived alongside both Malkin and Sidney Crosby when slotted in alongside either of them. And that style of play is what the head coach wants to see from Kobasew.
“It’s really that speed and tenacity on pucks that created room for his line when he played with Brandon Sutter and why he got the second half of the game with Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen in Tampa Bay, because of that speed and what he brings,” Bylsma said. “There is not so much skill and playmaking ability as it is backing people off with that speed and grit.. First on the forechecks, first in on pucks, going to the net, creating room, driving people off with his speed with and without the puck.
“I think with the speed, with getting on pucks, with that type of play, it’s like a Chris Kunitz-type of player that creates a lot of space and room for the other guys he’s playing with and in this case, it’s Malkin and Jussi Jokinen.”
LETANG "FEELS GOOD"
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang skated for the fourth straight time with his teammates Tuesday morning as he continues to progress from a lower-body injury suffered Sept. 27.
“I feel good. My legs feel good,” Letang said. “I’ve been working hard with (strength and conditioning coach) Mike Kadar and had a chance to skate with my teammates lately. We’re making progress.”
There is no date for a return to game action.
Letang, 26, skated earlier in the morning with Kadar before joining his teammates for their 30-minute morning skate. Letang has been skating with the team in 30-minute sessions since last Friday, including a 30-minute workload on Monday even though his teammates were on the ice for 60 minutes.
Letang’s double session of skating Tuesday is setting him up for his next step, which would be participating in a full team practice.
“We stopped (Letang’s) practice (Monday) because that was the plan,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “It was 30 minutes of practice for him. As he progresses to the next stage, you’re dealing with confidence and progression of the injury.
“I think you’ll see him practice (Wednesday). A full practice would be the next progression for where’s going.”
Even though Letang is just returning to the ice with his teammates, he has been working hard off the ice to recover from the injury.
“We trained a lot to make sure I keep my conditioning high,” he said. “You can’t always do much in the gym. It’s different on the ice. Right now I feel pretty good out there.”
Letang’s status is listed as day-to-day. And that’s exactly how he has been dealing with his recovering.
“We go a day at a time,” Letang said. “We see how I feel in the morning when I come to the rink. Right now it’s just trying to feel comfortable out there.”
HARRY Z'S CHANCE
One of the Penguins’ most impressive forwards during training camp in September was Harry Zolnierczyk.
The Pens brass was impressed with his combination of speed, grit, physicality and willingness to crash the net.
“We saw in training camp a little bit of what he brings, the speed with which he plays, getting to the net, forechecking,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He did that in training camp almost every game he played.”
With the depth the Pens have at the forward position, they were forced to send Zolnierczyk, 26, down to their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. And through the first three games of the season, he’s been one of the team’s best players.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound winger has a team-high (tied) three goals to help WBS open the season with a 3-0 record. And his hard work has earned himself a recall to Pittsburgh and a spot in the lineup tonight when the Pens battle the Edmonton Oilers.
“I just want to basically play the same way I was playing down there,” Zolnierczyk said. “It’s ultimately what gave me the opportunity up here. I know what I have to do in terms of brining energy. I’ll go out and play the same way.”
“He scored three goals, but three of them have been going to the net, creating that room and space and banging home goals there,” Bylsma said. “He’s been an effective player for them. He’s played on a top-two line with that speed and ability being a factor and getting to the offensive zone.”
Zolnierczyk will skate on the Pens’ third line, alongside Brandon Sutter and Dustin Jeffrey.
“He’ll add speed to that forward line and a physical presence,” Bylsma said. “Also a guy that can bring it to the net and score a goal or get his linemates opportunities. That’s what we expect him to bring and why he’s playing on that line.”
Zolnierczyk will get an opportunity to show what he can do for the Pens. This is his encore performance from training camp.
“My focus (in camp) was to make the team. I fell a little short,” Zolnierczyk said. “I thought I had a good camp, a good showing and I just wanted to go down, keep working hard and put myself in this position to get that call up.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed that Bennett will not play in tonight's game and Harry Zolnierczyk will skate on the third line with Sutter and Jeffrey. Marc-Andre Fleury gets the start in goal.
Harry Z was officially recalled this morning.
Letang skates for the fourth straight time with the team.
Fleury said the Oilers remind him of the Pens from their early days.
Jokinen with the half grin.
The fourth line has been the team's "most effective" according to coach Bylsma. Two members (Glass and Adams) stretch before the morning skate.
Tony G shares a laugh with the NHL's No. 3 Star of the Week (Crosby)
--Sam Kasan & Dave Uhrmacher
MORNING SKATE INFO
Defenseman Kris Letang was on the ice again with his teammates. Bennett and the other Pens IR players were missing from the morning skate (Neal, D'Agostini, Vokoun).
The Pens made a few roster moves this morning with the uncertainty of Beau Bennett's availability tonight and his lower-body injury. The team placed James Neal on IR, which can be done retroactively.
With the added roster spot, the team recalled forward Harry Zolnierczyk.
Full details here.
FOURTH LINE "MOST EFFECTIVE"
The production both on the scoresheet and off continued for that line on the Penguins’ two-game road trip to Florida over the weekend – starting with Adams, 36, tallying for the third time this season with a cracked lower lip sustained from a high stick earlier in Friday’s 6-3 loss to the Panthers. Glass and Vitale earned the assists on the goal.
“They have been probably the most effective line and probably the biggest surprise line together as a group through the first five games,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “In Florida, when our game wasn’t going particularly well, they were the line that got us going and got back in that game with a goal by Craig Adams on the shift with Tanner Glass and Joe Vitale. They have done some good things but they actually have played two-to-three more minutes a game because of how they are playing and how they have been used.”
Full story here.
A PEEK INSIDE THE ROOM
PLAYS OF THE WEEK
CROSBY NAMED NHL THIRD STAR
Captain Sidney Crosby, who notched his eighth career hat trick while leading the Penguins to a 5-4 come-from-behind win at Tampa Bay on Saturday night, was named NHL ‘Third Star’ of the week.
The 26-year-old Crosby helped the Penguins maintain their first-place standing in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division by leading all NHL players with seven points (3G-4A) in three games last week.
Full details here.
Here's a preview of what to expect tonight from the Pens-Oilers matchup. For those attending tonight's game, here is a guide.
START ME UP
Good morning hockey fans. Tonight the Pens host the Edmonton Oilers in a star studded affair (hopefully Nail Yakupov isn't a healthy scratch again). The Oilers, much like the Pens did in the early- to mid-2000s, have stockpiled a number of high-end draft picks. Here's what you need to know about tonight's game...
- The Penguins return home from a two-game Florida road swing to host the Edmonton Oilers (7 p.m.; TV: ROOT SPORTS; Radio: 105.9 the X) at CONSOL Energy Center.
- With a win tonight the Penguins will be 4-0 at home for the first time since beginning the 1994-95 season 7-0 at the Civic Arena.
- Tonight’s game marks the first time that the Penguins and Oilers have met since Oct. 9, 2011 –a span of more than two years. That night the Oilers defeated the Penguins, 2-1 in a shootout, at Rexall Place.
- This is Edmonton’s first visit to Pittsburgh since a 5-1 Penguins victory on March 13, 2011. That afternoon the Penguins received 28 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury and two goals from Chris Kunitz.
- Pittsburgh enters tonight’s game with a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1) against the Oilers that dates back to a 4-2 victory on Dec. 5, 2007.
- The Penguins are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games against the Oilers dating back to March 4, 2000.
- Edmonton’s last regulation victory against the Penguins was a 3-1 win on Jan. 10, 2006 at Mellon Arena.
- Tonight’s game marks the third time this season that the Penguins will be facing an opponent who played the night before. Pittsburgh defeated Carolina 5-2 on Oct. 8 and fell 6-3 to Florida on Oct. 11 in similar instances.
(Stick tap: Pens PR)