Penguins defenseman Hal Gill is scheduled to return to the Pittsburgh lineup Tuesday night in the team's showdown with the Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins at Mellon Arena at 7:30 p.m.
"He'll be back (Tuesday)," head coach Michel Therrien said. "That's good news for our club."
Gill, who missed the Penguins' previous 10 games, was placed on injured reserve after suffering a shoulder injury in the third period at Ottawa Dec. 6. He returned to practice last week and has been cleared to play.
"He's a presence out there and played well on the penalty killing," Therrien said. "We're glad he's going to be back in the lineup. We certainly missed him while he was out. He's a veteran player that will certainly help that group."
With seven healthy defensemen, someone will end up a healthy scratch for the game. Therrien said that the team doesn't know who Gill will replace in the lineup.>
Over the past few years the Penguins had a reputation for being a tough opponent to defeat on Mellon Arena ice. Pittsburgh had a 26-10-5 home record in each of the past two seasons.
On the current campaign, Pittsburgh’s record at home is 8-6-2 (8-7-2 counting the “home” game in Sweden).
It’s something that you really have to focus on at home, being tough to play against. We want to make sure that we work on that. - Sidney Crosby
“It’s something that you really have to focus on at home, being tough to play against,” Sidney Crosby
said. “I think we really try to establish that but we haven’t gotten some breaks here. We want to make sure that we work on that.”
“It’s not something we’re happy with,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “Sometimes when you’re home you try to do too much, you try to put on too much of a show. Sometimes we just don’t play our game. Sometimes we’re a little more comfortable on the road. That happened to us last year for a stretch. Hopefully, we can work ourselves out of it (Tuesday).”
Pittsburgh struggled at home at the beginning of last season with a 4-6-2 record in its first 12 games. After that point however, the Penguins were unbeatable on home ice. Pittsburgh went 22-4-3 the rest of the season and 9-2 in the postseason.
“We have a better record now than we did at this time last year,” defenseman Brooks Orpik
said. “It doesn’t feel like it with the way things are going. This is right where we turned the corner last year and kind of took off from here.”
Pittsburgh is getting healthier with the return of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
(13 games missed) and defenseman Ryan Whitney (33 games). Gill is set to play on Tuesday after missing the previous 10 contests. That said, Sergei Gonchar (IR - shoulder), Tyler Kennedy
(IR - knee), Mike Zigomanis (undisclosed) and Kris Letang
(undisclosed) are still sidelined.
Like last season, the Penguins suffered through injuries to key players during the early stretch and overcame the adversity. History may repeat itself, but Orpik warns that much work is needed.
“It’s not automatically going to happen like it did last year,” Orpik said. “There’s a lot of hard work and contributions from guys coming up with injuries like we’re doing right now. It seems like a similar situation.”
“We’ve been very good at home the past few years,” Fleury said. “We want other teams to come in thinking it’s tough to play in Pittsburgh. We’ll try to build that reputation again.”>
Two Penguins will hit milestones on Tuesday against Boston. Sidney Crosby
, who played his first career game at Mellon Arena against the Bruins, will play his 250th career game.
Also, Jordan Staal will set an NHL record
, becoming the youngest player in history to play in his 200th career game. Staal will be 20-years and 111-days old when he faces the Bruins. That beats San Jose's Patrick Marleau (20 years, 115 days) by four days when he achieved the feat in 2000.>
The Penguins practiced in front of 2,180 youth hockey players from accross Pennsylvania on Monday afternoon. The youths all wore their amateur jersey and cheered on the team.
"That’s great to see," Crosby said. "For us, we’re lucky enough to have this great opportunity. Kids look up to us and go from there. It’s nice to see that."
It was the second open practice the Penguins have held this month. Over 9,000 k-8 students attended Pittsburgh's practice Dec. 9.
"We’ve had a few practices like that this month," Crosby said. "It’s a little extra motivation and hopefully fun for the kids to get a chance to come watch."Youth hockey registration
in the Pittsburgh area is soaring, especially among kids 10-and-under, according to figures compiled by the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League (PAHL).
"When I was growing up on my own, hockey wasn’t all that big until the Islanders started to do well," Rob Scuderi said. "You start to see 20, 25 years later the area starts to produce some talent. With the great teams in the early 90s (in Pittsburgh), you’ll see the same type of things here. You can already tell that youth hockey has grown leaps and bounds in the past 15 years."ArchiveYouth Hockey Registration Soaring Among Kids 10-and-UnderJordan Staal to Become Youngest Player in NHL History to Play 200 Games