Good afternoon from CONSOL Energy Center, where the Pens are preparing to host the Toronto Maple Leafs. We talked to Phil Kessel yesterday about facing his former team for the first time since the big trade this summer, so Sam’s blog covered that.
When asked if there was any extra emotion from Kessel today, linemate Sidney Crosby said to be honest, he didn’t sense any.
“Since he got here he’s been pretty happy,” Crosby said. “I think he’s felt comfortable right away, which is good. You never know when guys are transitioning, especially after spending such a long time in Toronto. He seems comfortable. To be honest it doesn’t seem that much different the way he is today, but I’m sure come game time we all know the situation so we want to get a win for him.”
Just a few notes…
* Beau Bennett, who missed Thursday’s game against Ottawa with an injury, was the only player absent from morning skate. Head coach Mike Johnston had no update on his status.
“Beau hasn’t been able to skate with the group yet, so we’re still waiting for that opportunity,” Johnston said. “It’ll probably come in the next few days but we’ll see how he progresses. It’s in the trainer’s hands right now.”
* Johnston said that Rob Scuderi will slot back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Thursday, replacing Adam Clendening – who made his Pens debut in the contest.
“We know what we get with Rob,” Johnston said. “He’s a great penalty killer. He’s a real stable veteran influence on our group. I thought Adam Clendening had a good camp with us. As a result of that he’s earned a game because of the camp he had to play. We wanted to get him in. I didn’t want him sitting too long. So that was the decision we made that day and we’ll continue to make a daily decision on what we’re doing with our defense. But I like the progress.”
RIVALRY GAME As many of you may know, I played college hockey at Michigan State University and am a die-hard Spartan fan. And since we have a huge game today against our hated archrival the University of Michigan, I thought it’d be fun to talk about the matchup with Kevin Porter – who played four seasons with the Wolverines from 2004-08 and won the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top collegiate player his senior year.
He had what Bryan Rust called a bold prediction: 21-7 Michigan.
When I told Porter he wasn’t giving us a lot of credit in terms of scoring, he said, “I mean, three shutouts in a row? How many points do you think you’re going to score? You’re lucky to get seven.”
As we were talking, a lot of guys around the room chimed in on the big game as many of them are from the state of Michigan or played hockey there at some point. And they were all on the wrong side of the rivalry, believing that U of M was going to win – save for Adam Clendening. He lived in Ann Arbor for two years while with the USNTDP and his billet family were big MSU fans, so he’s supporting them tonight.
Clendening’s prediction: 21-17 Michigan State.
I also asked Ian Cole, who grew up in Ann Arbor and is a big Michigan fan, for his prediction yesterday. He tried to say he needed to get to a meeting so he could avoid giving me one, but I coaxed it out of him nonetheless. While Cole thinks the Spartans will score a couple touchdowns, like Porter, he thinks Michigan’s defense is too much for MSU to overcome.
Cole’s prediction: 24-16 Michigan.
Finally, Detroit native Jeff Zatkoff’s great-uncle Roger Zatkoff was a legendary linebacker for the Wolverines. So he’s a HUGE Michigan fan, even though his sister went to Michigan State.
Zatkoff’s prediction: 24-13 Michigan.
As I left the locker room, Zatkoff yelled, “Go Blue!”
Thankfully, I get the final word here.
GAME INFO Where: CONSOL Energy Center When: Saturday, 7 p.m. TV: ROOT Sports Radio: 105.9 the X, Penguins Radio Network Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoop