NEW YEAR, FRESH START FOR PYATT
Taylor Pyatt woke up on Jan. 1 to learn the New York Rangers had placed him on waivers, which wasn’t exactly how he’d planned to start the New Year.
“Woke up on New Year’s Day and got the call at 12:30 I’d been put on waivers. Definitely a lot going through my mind,” said Pyatt, who was in his second season with the Blueshirts. “I wasn’t really sure about getting picked up. There was a chance I could go in the minors.”
But with the Penguins claiming him the following day, he’s getting a new start with a new team in this new year – and he’s excited for the opportunity.
Full story here.
MAATTA LEARNS FROM SITTING
When the puck dropped between the Penguins and New Jersey Devils on New Year’s Eve, Olli Maatta found himself looking on from a different vantage point.
Instead of watching at ice level, Maatta was sitting in the press box.
Maatta, 19, has been one of the Penguins’ best and most consistent defensemen on the season. During a rash of injuries, Maatta was thrust into the team’s top pairing with Matt Niskanen and was logging over 22 minutes per game.
But the rookie blueliner has struggled in recent games. That’s to be expected from a young novice. In fact, Maatta’s play as a whole has been incredible for his age and experience.
Since Maatta is so young and has logged a lot of hard minutes, the coaching staff thought it would be best for him to sit a game out and just observe, take a breather and refresh himself.
So on New Year’s Eve Maatta became a healthy scratch for the first time in his career.
“It was disappointing, but I wasn’t happy with the way I played the last few games,” Maatta said. “I think it was good to take a break and watch the game up top and think about your own game. Then get back to work.”
Maatta has shown the level of play of which he is capable. Now it’s just a matter of him cleaning up some of his mistakes and reaching that level on a consistent basis.
“I have to focus on getting better,” Maatta said. “It’s not like I’ve been terrible. Those little plays. Like I said, it was good to take a game off and look at it from up top, how it looks like up there. See your game and figure out something new. Just get back to work.”
--Sam Kasan (stick tap: Michelle Crechiolo)
--Sam Kasan & Addison Smith
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
Some big news on the injury front...captain Ryan Callahan will return to the lineup after missing the last 9 games with a sprained knee.
Letang will not return tonight, though he continues to progress
New Pen Taylor Pyatt is expected to make his debut tonight against his former team #drama
Bortuzzo eyes up the puck. He's from the same hometown - Thunder Bay, Ontario - as new teammate Pyatt and, of course, the Staal brothers (we'll see Marc tonight)
Despres gets everything on that shot. His mustache is impressed
--Sam Kasan & Addison Smith
Defenseman Kris Letang ruled himself out tonight following the morning skate. Head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed with other notes...
- Letang out
- Malkin out; skated at length this morning
- Lineup game-time decisions
- Fleury starting in goal
MORNING SKATE DEETS
Looks like Malkin will not return tonight against the Rangers. He skated earlier in the day, but did not join the team for their morning skate. Letang did suit up for the session. He worked in a trio with Maatta and Niskanen.
The team used the following workflow...
PP1: Jokinen, Niskanen on point. Crosby, Kunitz and Neal down low.
PP2: Despres, Maatta on point. Sutter, Gibbons and Vitale down low.
Joe Vitale was with his wife Brianna at the hospital on Feb. 9, 2011 to get an ultrasound of their first child when he received the phone call he waited 20 years to answer.
Placing the call was Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes. And he had some good news.
“I got a call from ‘Hynesie’ that I got the call up (to the National Hockey League),” Vitale said. “We were both very excited. We got a great report from the doctor. Then I went straight to the rink to get my gear. It was a special day.”
Vitale, then 25 years old, traveled with his seven-months-pregnant wife to Pittsburgh. The following day he pulled on a Penguins jersey and made his NHL debut against the Los Angeles Kings, skating 11:39 minutes of ice time and leveling four hits.
Two days later, Vitale became part of the infamous Penguins-Islanders brawl game. Both teams combined for 346 penalty minutes. Vitale had his share when he fought New York’s Andy MacDonald.
The next day, Vitale dressed in his hockey gear, except for skates, and then boarded the team bus. The Penguins were scheduled to practice in Central Park. However, along the way the bus was in an accident and the team was forced to jump into cabs. Eventually the whole team made it and was able to practice on the outdoor ice.
Welcome to the NHL, Joe Vitale.
“I went to New York for my second game and there was a brawl that night. That was crazy. Then we had practice in Central Park,” Vitale recalled. “That whole weekend was really special.
“(Brianna) followed me to Pittsburgh and then New York. That whole weekend she was with me. It was a special time for both of us. She was biting her nails and on edge the whole time she was there, from what I found out later. Great experience. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Click here to follow Joe Vitale's road to the NHL.
For a preview on tonight's Pens-Rangers game click here. If you're coming to the game click here for the fan guide. For a scouting report watch Michelle Crechiolo's segment below...
START THE DAY
Good morning hockey fans! Tonight the Pens will host division rival NY Rangers. The biggest news to possibly come out of the game day skate will be the status of center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang. Head coach Dan Bylsma said yesterday both could play tonight. Also, new addition Taylor Pyatt could make his Pens debut against the team that waived him on New Year's Day. Here are some game notes to get you ready for the action...
- The Penguins play their first game in 2014 against the New York Rangers (TV: ROOT SPORTS; Radio: 105.9 the X) at CONSOL Energy Center.
- Pittsburgh enters tonight’s game having won nine of its past 11 games and 14 of its past 17 contests.
- The Penguins have won 18 of their last 24 games dating back to Nov. 15. During that stretch, only four teams have defeated Pittsburgh (Boston, 2; New Jersey, 2; Ottawa; Montreal).
- The Penguins enter tonight’s game having won 10 straight home games dating back to Nov. 15. With a win tonight, they will equal the second-longest home win streak in franchise history.
- The Philadelphia Flyers are the last team to defeat the Penguins on home ice, having done so on Nov. 13 (2-1).
- Pittsburgh is 9-2 in its last 11 games against the NY Rangers.
- The Penguins have won four straight games against the Rangers here at CONSOL Energy Center, outscoring them 12-3.
- Pittsburgh is 14-2-4 in its last 20 home games against the NY Rangers.
Stick tap: Pens PR
Today's song of the day comes from @rjdelzangle9. Here is a remix of Kanye West's "Mercy" by Grime Salva. Enjoy.