Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 3-2 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
CROSBY, RUST UPDATES
The Penguins had some unfortunate luck with injuries in this game. Sidney Crosby left in the first period and did not return, while Bryan Rust left in the third period and did not return. Both players were hit by pucks.
"They're being evaluated right now," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. "We'll probably have more definitive answers in the morning."
To me, the Penguins' best player in these last two preseason games was Justin Schultz, who collected four assists over that span.
"I think he's having a hell of a camp," Sullivan said.
They weren't just arbitrary assists, either - Schultz was the primary driver of the play on three of those by putting the puck on net. His shot is one of his strongest assets, but at times he hasn't used it enough. That hasn't been the case this preseason, which is a great sign. Whenever he sees an opening, he's been shooting and his teammates have been able to deflect those pucks in.
"I'm trying to shoot more and the forwards did a good job of getting to the net, so I'm trying to reward them," Schultz said before adding with a laugh, "And save some for the regular season."
Overall, Schultz is coming off a tough season injury-wise. He missed 53 games after fracturing his left leg in the fourth game of the year. Then, as if working back into game shape wasn't hard enough, he returned to the lineup in February - right as the Penguins were making a push for the playoffs. It's great to see him healthy and getting back at the top of his game.
"To have the ability to come into training camp, he's had a summer of training under his belt, I think he feels more comfortable with where he's at physically," Sullivan said. "It's just easier for him to be the player that he is."
MURRAY LOOKING SHARP
While the Penguins as a team weren't sharp to start this game, their goaltender certainly was.
The Sabres carried the play in the first period and spent a lot of time in the offensive zone, but Matt Murray came up with some big stops on their quality chances. He continued that throughout the day, with his best sequence of saves coming late in the second period on a penalty kill.
"I thought Matt was real solid tonight," Sullivan said. "He looks calm in goal. He's tracking the puck well. He made some big saves for us tonight. I thought he got better with each game that he's played. I thought tonight was his best. He was real solid. We're pleased with where he's at right now."
And while the Penguins weren't happy with the outcome of the game, Murray said that experiencing overtime and a shootout was good practice for him heading into the season.
"Just to see it since you haven't seen it in a long time (is good)," Murray said. "But we would have liked to have gotten it done."
AREAS TO IMPROVE
Now that the Penguins' preseason slate is finished - they went 2-1-3 in their six games - the players are looking forward to spending the days leading into the season opener on Thursday fine-tuning their team game.
"We have to get better and play harder," Patric Hornqvist said. "I just think puck management and puck battles (are the areas we need to improve). Those two are going to be key for us and has been for my six years here. It's always the same talk and finally on Thursday we get going."