After spending the first nine games of the season watching from the press box, Martin Skoula is getting a chance to join the Penguins’ lineup when they take on the Florida Panthers Friday night at Mellon Arena. He will step into the void created with alternate captain Sergei Gonchar missing the next four to six weeks with a broken left wrist
After losing two of their top six defensemen from last year’s Stanley Cup championship squad, the Penguins were looking to add experience and depth to their defensive stable late in training camp when they signed Skoula to a one-year deal.
Skoula, 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, is a veteran of 724 regular-season games over nine previous seasons spent with the Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild. For his career he has 41 goals and 144 assists to go with a plus-13 rating.
I think now after having practiced a while and having gotten some time watching video and watching our team play, he is going to have a better idea of what to do when he gets out there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a seamless transition from a veteran player. - Dan Bylsma
Skoula adds yet another player with Stanley Cup-winning experience to the lineup as he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche when they won the title in 2001. Skoula recorded one goal and five points with a plus-1 rating in 23 playoff contests that season.
Having such experience is one of the reasons Bylsma believes Skoula’s transition from three-plus weeks of non-game action will have a negligible effect on the blueliner’s play.
“I think there will be an adjustment in the game. Maybe it will last a period, maybe a full game. I think he has practiced hard and been diligent. The pace is maybe going to be a bit quick at the start but I don’t think that is going to be a concern. It’s one of the reasons a veteran (is preferred) over a young player in this particular spot.”
Bylsma spoke how spending time watching and adjusting to the Penguins’ up-tempo system will be better for Skoula when he joins the lineup, as Skoula’s system in Minnesota the past couple seasons was more read and react under former Wild coach Jacques Lemaire.
“I think practice has been a good thing for him. His first couple of practices, we did some team and system (work) he didn’t get in training camp. He needed some time in practice to figure out the things we were doing.
“I think now after having practiced a while and having gotten some time watching video and watching our team play, he is going to have a better idea of what to do when he gets out there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a seamless transition from a veteran player.”
The Penguins have been fortunate to overcome long-term injuries to key players several times the past few years, and they will need it again from Skoula as he steps in for a player in Gonchar who has recorded 219 points (45G-174A) in 269 games with Pittsburgh the past four-plus seasons.