The Pens will be wearing this sticker on their helmets tonight...
VERIZON GAME DAY REPORT
A day after manning the net in the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey championship game Saturday at CONSOL Energy Center, Quinnipiac University goaltender Eric Hartzell signed a one-year entry-level contract with the NHL team that calls the arena home. The deal runs through this season and has an average annual value of $925,000.
Hartzell is eligible to play in regular-season games, but will not be able to play during the playoffs since he was signed after the trade deadline. Hartzell got a taste of life in the NHL on Wednesday when he suited up for a session against injured Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, forward James Neal and defenseman Paul Martin before Pittsburgh’s morning skate.
Full story here.
SOUNDS HEARD AROUND THE ROOM
AE STUDENT RUSH
Tonight's game is a special American Eagle Student Rush night, where A DJ, prizes, giveaways and a “special surprise” will be available to students in line – which, to no one's surprise, is already stretched long and far and has been all day (our fans are dedicated). Also, the stakes are even higher for this Rush as Marc-Andre Fleury is looking for the BEST costume in the line. And if it's you that's wearing it, you're getting Flower's front row seats. (Somebody on Twitter said they'd like to see someone dress up as an actual flower wearing a Penguins jersey. I like that idea). Stay tuned...
CANADIENS SKATE PHOTOS
Pics from Montreal's morning practice...
Circling up to stretch
Peter Budaj is starting in goal for Montreal
Carey Price is backing up tonight
--Michelle Crechiolo and Drew Hancherick
THEY SAID IT
Quotes out of the Penguins locker room as they get ready for tonight's game...
--Michelle Crechiolo and Wes Crosby
PENS SKATE PICS
Tonight's starting goalie
Murray with assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald
TK shoots on TV
--Michelle Crechiolo and Wes Crosby
Pens head coach Dan Bylsma said Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal. The rest of the lineup will be a game-time decision. He added that Sidney Crosby will not skate Thursday because he's going home to attend a funeral in the family.
WBS ADDS 2 PENS PROSPECTS
(From Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins media release)
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins announced today that they have signed forwards Mattia Marcantuoni and Anton Zlobin to amateur tryout agreements (ATO).
Marcantuoni, 19, recently completed his third season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers, recording seven goals, 18 assists and 34 penalty minutes in 64 games. He also notched a goal and an assist in 10 postseason contests.
The Toronto, Ontario-native was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the fourth round (92nd overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. In his three seasons with Kitchener, Marcantuoni has totaled 66 points (27G-39A) and 70 PIM over 130 games.
Zlobin was also a selection of Pittsburgh in last summer’s draft, picked in the sixth round (173rd overall). The 2012-13 saw the 20 year-old post 29 goals, 61 assists and 43 PIM in 61 games for Val d’Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Zlobin not only led his team in assists (62) and points (91), but also ranked ninth overall in the QMJHL in points and was tied for fourth in assists. The left winger compiled 10 points (2G-8A) in the 10 playoffs games for the Foreurs. Originally from Moscow, Russia, Zlobin spent his previous two seasons with the Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL), registering 121 points (63G-58A) and 78 PIM over 125 matches.
MORNING SKATE DEETS
Pens hold an optional morning skate at CONSOL Energy Center. A few guys take the morning off. Those participating are Kunitz, Sutter, Kennedy, Morrow, Dupuis, Bennett, Glass, Vitale, Adams, Malkin, Jeffrey, Engelland, Bortuzzo, Despres, Eaton, Murray, Niskanen, Letang, Fleury and Vokoun.
THIRD TIME'S A CHARM
The Pens three injured players - Sidney Crosby (jaw), James Neal (concussion), Paul Martin (hand) - are on the ice skating prior to team practice for the third day in a row with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar. Martin is skating in full gear for the first time (he had previously skated in warmups).
The trio - or as I call them, "the three best friends that anybody could have" - were joined by a fourth member of the wolfpack. Newly signed goalie Eric Hartzell was in net taking shots (pucks that is).
Martin consults with head coach Dan Bylsma
Bylsma talks to the peanut gallery (Matt Cooke and hooded Beau Bennett)
Kadar sets up the pucks
Goaltender development coach Mike Bales working with the newest Pen Eric Hartzell
Hartzell gets his first taste as a Penguin (facing Sidney Crosby and James Neal, welcome to the team)
--Sam Kasan & Michelle Crechiolo
RECCHI AND DR. BURKE HONORED
Mark Recchi and Dr. Charles “Chip” Burke will be named to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ All-Time Team in a ceremony before Wednesday’s 7 p.m. game against the Montreal Canadiens at CONSOL Energy Center.
The Penguins’ fourth-round draft pick out of Kamloops in 1988, Recchi scored 154 goals and 385 points in 389 games over three different stints in Pittsburgh. He led the team in scoring in the 1990-91 regular season, recording 40 goals and 113 points in 78 games – then added 10 goals and 34 points in 24 playoff games on Lemieux’s right wing as the Penguins captured their first Stanley Cup. He ranks 11th all-time in goals, 13th in points, and ninth in game-winning goals (22) in Penguins’ history.
More details here.
IGINLA'S PENS DEBUT, THAT NEARLY DIDN'T HAPPEN
On Saturday afternoon, March 30, Jarome Iginla walked down the runway and stepped onto the ice at CONSOL Energy Center wearing a Penguins jersey. It was the first time in his 16-year NHL career that Iginla took the ice without a Calgary Flames sweater.
Three days earlier the Penguins and Flames pulled the trigger on a blockbuster trade that landed Iginla in Pittsburgh. The record crowd of 18,673 cheered rambunctiously as the Canadian icon skated his first warmup lap with his new team.
But what those cacophonous fans didn’t know at time was that Iginla came dangerously close to not making his debut on that afternoon.
On Friday, the day before his debut, Iginla and his hockey equipment were in Calgary. In order for him to play with the Penguins on Saturday, both Iginla and his gear needed to make it to Pittsburgh in time for the 1 p.m. afternoon tilt against the NY Islanders. While both eventually made it in Pittsburgh in time, it came down to the zero hour.
Full story here.
The Canadiens have been struggling ever since they clinched a playoff spot last week and come to Pittsburgh having lost back-to-back games. Their defense – which is missing key players Raphael Diaz (concussion) and Alexei Emelin (knee) –is showing signs of wear and tear and goalie Carey Price’s play has dropped off considerably these last few days after being consistently strong all season. As a result, they’ve allowed 12 goals in losses to Toronto and Philadelphia. "Since we clinched the playoffs, our level of intensity, our level of concentration, our level of attention, the level of our work ethic have all fallen a great deal," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien told reporters after Monday’s 7-3 loss to the Flyers, "and we've seen the results of that."
Full preview here.
START ME UP
The Pens are fighting for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. One of the team chasing them is the Montreal Canadiens. Pittsburgh has a seven-point cushion on the Habs (64-57). But a victory tonight by the Pens and the No. 1 seed would be basically locked up, minus the paperwork. If the Pens manage to defeat the Canadiens in regulation, they would need only one point in the rest of the season (either gained or lost by Montreal) to officially fend off the Habs.
Boston is the only other team that could catch the Penguins (Toronto has a mathematic chance, but even Nate Silver wouldn't consider them realistic). The Penguins own the tiebreaker over Boston (both could concievably end up with the same number of regulation wins, but Pittsburgh won the head-to-head series). If the Bruins sweep the rest of the season, they would end up with 70 points in the standings. The Pens enter tonight with 64. So Pittsburgh's magic number is currently six points. The Bruins host the Sabres tonight, so if Boston fails to collect any points in the standings then the Pens' magic number would also shrink.
A win tonight by Pittsburgh would shrink its magic number for clinching to four points (and maybe less depending on the Bruins' outcome). Meaning Friday's matchup between the Pens and Bruins in Boston (the proverbial four-point game) could end their quest for the top seed.
Long story short, if the Pens defeat Montreal and Boston - they clinch the top seed in the East.
Short story shorter, the Pens need to defeat Montreal tonight. Worry about the rest later.
To open the day, we'll go with Phoenix's "Lisztomania." This song should get you bobbing your head and tapping your foot in mindful enjoyment.