Good afternoon hockey fans. Tonight the Penguins host a familiar foe in the Boston Bruins on the back end of a home-and-home series.
In their last meeting on Wednesday night in Boston, it was the Bruins who walked away with a 3-0 victory. Despite the loss, the Penguins moved the puck up ice and totaled 34 shots thanks to some cleaner breakouts. If they can keep up the fast style of play, the puck will find its way in the back of the net.
Sheary’s Success Conor Sheary skated on the top line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz during the morning skate. The 23-year-old certainly earned the promotion after being bumped up on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel against the Bruins on Wednesday. No doubt his high-caliber play over his 16:41 of ice time earned him another promotion this morning.
“I just have to play my game,” Sheary said. “Because (head coach Mike Sullivan) was my coach down in (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton), he has a little bit of trust in me. I think he knows how I can play and I think he thinks that I can play at that level. I’m just going to bring my own game and hope it works out.”
Sullivan certainly knows Sheary’s game and broke down what he brings to the lineup.
“Conor has a really high hockey IQ,” Sullivan said. “He’s a good playmaker. He sees the ice well. He’s very good in tight spaces. He can play that give-and-go game with whomever he plays with.
“He brings a lot of energy. I think he knocks a lot of pucks down. He creates a lot of turnovers with his pursuit because he’s quick in the tight space. I think the use of his stick is one of his strengths. He has an element of deception to his game defensively with how he utilizes his stick. I think regardless of whom he plays with, he’s going to bring those skillsets to that line.”
Even though they’ve only shared the ice for one game, Crosby knows what Sheary brings as well.
“A lot of speed,” Crosby said of the Massachusetts native. “He’s able to get to loose pucks and create a lot with his speed. He’s a smart player. I think the big thing that sticks out right away was just getting up and down the ice and creating a lot that way.”
Finding yourself on a line with Sidney Crosby in your second NHL game certainly comes with a little bit of pressure, but the captain offered some tips for the lightning-fast rookie.
“Just tell him to relax and have fun,” Crosby said. “I think that the biggest thing is for him to feel comfortable with his game and trust it and don’t try and look for other guys. Just play his game and let the plays come to him.”
Forward lines and defensive pairs: Kunitz-Crosby-Sheary Perron-Malkin-Kessel Plotnikov-Bonino-Hornqvist Sprong/Porter-Cullen-Fehr
Maatta-Daley Cole-Warsofsky Dumoulin-Lovejoy Clendening rotated on a pairing with Sprong.
Jeff Zatkoff will be in goal.
Power-Play Shuffle Sullivan shuffled the power-play units again after going 0-for-3 on the man-advantage in Boston on Wednesday:
1) Warsofky at the center point, Malkin and Crosby on the walls with Hornqvist and Kunitz at the net. 2) Daley at the center point, Kessel and Maatta on the walls with Bonino and Perron at the net.
Sullivan noted the power play hit a few posts and had some breakaways on Wednesday night, but stressed working in the offensive zone as well.
“We have to have some patience and give ourselves a chance to have success on the power play, which starts with our shot selection and the decisions we make with the puck,” Sullivan said. “But we also have to recognize the opportunities when it is the right time to get the puck to the net and give ourselves a chance to bang in a rebound or a deflection or simply a goal off of a one-timer.”
The captain had a similar remedy for their recent power-play woes.
“When we get an opportunity, instead of trying to go through sticks, just taking shot,” Crosby said. “Take what’s given to us, not really forcing things. It’s easier said than done sometimes. Just making sure we’re patient with the puck, moving it to where we see an opening to shoot and making sure that we’re taking the shots when they’re there.”
Solving Rask Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped all 34 shots the Penguins put on net Wednesday night. A few of the Penguins net-front guys know what it will take to convert on their chances against the 2013-14 Vezina Trophy winner.
“He’s one of the top goalies in the league,” Patric Hornqvist said. “If you spend time (in front of him), you’re going to get puck luck once in awhile. Hopefully we can find those rebounds and when we get those chances, make sure we get them right under the bar and really shoot hard at him.”
“We want to get better at going to the net,” Nick Bonino said. “It’s been kind of a key the last few games. Just try to get to the net and make it hard on Rask.”
Letang Update Sullivan didn’t have a definite timeline for defenseman Kris Letang other than “it will be one of those day-today situations,” but noted that the defenseman skated on his own without the team before the morning skate.
Game Info Where: CONSOL Energy Center When: 7 p.m. TV: ROOT Sports Radio: 105.9 the X, the Penguins Radio Network Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoop