Penguin Notes: Paul Coffey, Christian Ehrhoff, Evgeni Malkin

IMG_9899Marc-Andre Fleury with career win 300

Whenever the Penguins go into a regular-season slump, it’s good to keep in mind that their worst season winning percentage since 2006-07 was the year they also won the Stanley Cup.

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I’m convinced the guy who put the Pens over the top and really turned them into a perennial Stanley Cup contender is Paul Coffey. Coffey was the first winner acquired by Pittsburgh during the Mario Lemieux era and gave the team some legitimacy. It’s hard for fans to understand now, but when the Pens traded for Coffey the organization had missed the playoffs five straight seasons – and this was in a league where 16 of 21 teams make the postseason!

In 1983-84, the Penguins won 16 games total over six months. Less than 10 years later they’d win 17 games straight!

The defenseman with three rings from his days with Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers did not disappoint. He brought a winning attitude with him and he took pressure off Lemieux.

Coffey’s first game for the Pens was 27 years ago today, on Nov. 25, 1987 against the Quebec Nordiques. He’d go on to tally three assists in a 6-4 win. Click here for the box score.

As newly-minted college graduates, my old roommate and I tried getting tickets for the game but the scalping business was brisk and we decided to watch the game at a bar by Duquesne University. A guy at the bar said he could get us into the arena for free, so after the first period we walked up to the Civic Arena with him. He led us into a side door. As soon as we got in, he went one way and a security guard starting yelling at my roommate and me. We probably could’ve started running and gotten away from the guard, but I decided not to be a criminal outlaw and just went back out the side door.

We watched the rest of Paul Coffey’s first game as a Penguin from the same bar.

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Listened to Phil Bourque talk about Christian Ehrhoff on Monday during the Mark Madden show (which was hosted by Dejan Kovacevic). The two-time Stanley Cup winner spoke of Ehrhoff’s plus-13 rating being head and shoulders better than Craig Adams’ plus-7, which was second best on the team. Bourque defended Ehrhoff while Kovacevic said he’s gone back and forth on the offseason pickup.

Bourque noted that the defenseman probably isn’t worth $4 million per year, but said that is what the market paid him.

Ehrhoff and Paul Martin are similar players. Ehrhoff has a better shot while Martin seems better with the stick in his own end. It will be interesting to see what happens with Ehrhoff working on a one-year deal, Martin in the final season of a $25 million contract and prospect Derrick Pouliot oozing with offensive potential but honing his defensive game at Wilkes-Barre.

PS — Bourque and Kevin Stevens, both Boston area natives, took money grabs with the Bruins following their successes with the Pens (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

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Jokingly, Evgeni Malkin says he scores on “every shootout” against Marc-Andre Fleury. Click here.

This sequence says differently, haha.

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Links ‘n at

Should the Penguins be looking at a star winger?, Hockey Buzz’s Ryan Wilson reports.

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30 thoughts: Financial woes not unique to Johnson, by Elliotte Friedman.

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Fleury collects career win No. 300 in crucial game against Bruins, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

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Statistically speaking: Mason standing tall for Flyers, Scott Cullen of TSN reports.

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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Penguin Notes: Pascal Dupuis, potential trade targets

“The way I felt, probably to try to deny it, did not want to feel that way. Yeh, it did feel the same way, the exact same way it felt before, just did not want to believe it.”

Pascal Dupuis, on if he felt the same way he did last winter when he had his first blood clot.

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When I heard that Pascal Dupuis didn’t travel to Montreal for Tuesday’s game, I went back and isolated on his play against the Rangers on Saturday. His skating looked good, he didn’t miss a shift; about the only thing he could’ve done better is shoot the puck more! (Something said about every Penguins player not named Patric Hornqvist).

What stood out about Mr. Dupuis was his graciousness during an in-game interview with Root Sports analyst, Bob Errey. Errey was stationed between the benches for Saturday’s tilt and asked Dupuis about his speed and forecheck.

Bob Errey: “Well Pascal, that first penalty kill has been absolutely fantastic again.”

Pascal Dupuis: “Yeh, again, blocking shots, giving 200 feet, that’s what you’ve got to do, pay the price and obviously the goaltender has to be back there and be huge for us.”

Typical Dupuis response, totally unselfish, but it gets even better.

Errey: “Who’s leading the speed on the forecheck, you or Crosby? You guys are flying.”

Dupuis, with a smile: “Yeh, we’re feeling good right now so we just gotta keep going here.”

Unwilling to brag about his speed or take any credit, Dupuis smoothly deflects the question personal credit and puts the team first.

This is a guy who can play on any line, never complains about his situation. Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back, LeGarrette Blount, could learn a lot from Dupuis.

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Through the season’s first 16 games, Dupuis scored six goals and 11 points. Last Friday in Toronto, he was credited with both Pittsburgh goals on eight shots in a 2-1 victory against the Maple Leafs. He’ll have that as a nice memory over the next six-plus months of his recovery.

Dupuis averaged 16:38 TOI per game, 11th most on the team. His power-play time went up from 17 seconds/game in 2013-14 to 1:46/game. Dupuis’s three power-play points in October were already one more than he had in 39 games last year. But perhaps his biggest contribution comes on the penalty kill. Every year since the winger was traded to Pittsburgh in 2007-08 he’s finished among the team’s top-four forwards in minutes on the PK. His on-ice contributions will be hard to replace.

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Ex-teammate Ben Lovejoy, now of the Anaheim Ducks, had this to say of Dupuis.

“He pushed the five or six guys who were on the ice every day at Southpointe [during the 2012-13 NHL lockout],” Lovejoy told the Pittsburgh Post-gazette. “But for me, he did more than that. He went above and beyond to be complimentary of my game, which gave me a ton of confidence, and saw in me what kind of player I hoped I could become. I’m not sure if he does that with everyone, but the whole room has incredible respect for Pascal.”

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In case you’re unfamiliar with what a pulmonary embolism can do, click here.

PE is a serious condition that can:

– Damage part of your lung because of a lack of blood flow to your lung tissue. This damage may lead to pulmonary hypertension (increased pressure in the pulmonary arteries).

– Cause low oxygen levels in your blood.

– Damage other organs in your body because of a lack of oxygen.

If a blood clot is large, or if there are many clots, PE can cause death.

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Trade Talk

Former GM Ray Shero left the cup boards barren in terms of offensive prospects near the NHL level. Kasperi Kapanen has five goals and nine points in nine games for KalPa Kuopio while Oskar Sundqvist has three goals and six points in 12 tilts for Skelleftea AIK. It might be unfair to throw either of these players into the Penguins mix in the middle of the season.

With Pittsburgh placing Dupuis on Long-Term Injured Reserve, Cap Geek projects the Penguins with $4,185,831 room currently under the salary cap and $5,297,198 at the trade deadline. The Pens will get immediate relief on the pro-rated portion of Dupuis’ $3.75 mill contract.

Here are some trade targets.

Brandon Saad ($764,167, will be restricted FA after 2013-14), Chicago Blackhawks: Ah, the one that got away. The Blackhawks have less cap space available ($413,775) than Pittsburgh. Anything going Chicago’s way would have to come from the AHL or juniors or international play. The ‘Hawks have prospects already on offense like Teuvo Teravainen and Ryan Hartman. Defensively, the team has Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson both signed long-term, but Brent Seabrook could be gone after next year. Recently injured Trevor Van Riemsdyk is in the mix, but if the Pens are going to match up with Chicago, it’ll likely be with some combination of defensive products.

If there’s a team in the league who could miss a forward like Saad, it’s the Blackhawks. They’re pretty well stacked up front. Saad has had an inconsistent start, which could also help sway thinking.

TJ Oshie ($4.175 mill, contract thru 2016-17), David Backes ($4.5 mill, thru 15-16), St. Louis Blues: How much do the Blues believe in the first six weeks of Vladimir Tarasenko, Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz? That trio has been the hottest in the NHL recently. Backes and Oshie have both missed time with concussions. I’m not sure what St. Louis might be looking for. They’re set on the blue line with Shattenkirk, Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester.

The Blues are $2.4 mill under the cap right now. They have one of the better goalie prospects in Jake Allen. The Pens should at least put their feelers out to see where they stand in terms of established vets versus youth. I’m unconvinced center Patrik Berglund could help the Pens enough to include him as a target.

Teddy Purcell ($4.5 mill thru 15-16), David Perron ($3.185 mill thru 15-16), Edmonton Oilers: If Rutherford wants to go big, then he might look at say, Jordan Eberle. He’s due $6 mill thru 18-19 and that’s the shortest contract length of Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Hall. Purcell is an offensive enigma who had some success in Tampa Bay. His contract is over after next year. Surely whatever Pittsburgh is interested with the Oilers, they have to consider it. Yakopov ($925,000) will be due a big raise after this season and I’m not sure that’s a gamble worth taking right now.

Patrick Marleau ($6.66 mill thru 16-17), Joe Pavelski ($6 mill thru 18-19) SJ Sharks: Marleau is Dupuis’ age and he has two more years left on his deal. He’d make for a nice deadline pickup but the two additional years are killers. Pavelski has more NHL time left, but the four and a half years left on his deal is a big commitment. Too bad Pavelski didn’t have Marleau’s terms. My favorite on the Sharks is Tommy Wingels, but San Jose wrapped him up since last year would be unlikely to include him in a deal as a secondary part.

Matt Cooke ($2.5 mill thru 15-16), Minnesota Wild: The Wild don’t need him and with Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, the Pens probably don’t either. However, his contract is reasonable and he would bring something into the dressing room. Whether the positives outweigh the negatives is the eternal question with Cooke.

Evander Kane ($5.25 mill thru 17-18), Andrew Ladd ($4.40 mill thru 15-16), Winnipeg Jets: Kane is higher on the list of many Pens fans than most others. He has skill and toughness. I think he gets hurt too much and plays when he wants too, but a change of scenery could boost his level. Ladd is a player that means a lot to the Jets. I would be surprised if he gets dealt, but that contract is very attractive.

Other names I’ve heard are Mikkel Boedker — $2.55 mill thru 14-15 (Arizona), Sam Gagner $3.2 mill thru 15-16 (Arizona), Mason Raymond $3.15 mill thru 16-17 (Calgary).

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General manager Jim Rutherford won’t be afraid to make a deal. In fact, I think he’s more likely to pull the trigger than former GM Ray Shero. Does he feel Pittsburgh needs to boost the top-six or does he move Beau Bennett there and give him some sort of “try out?”

As horrible as it is to lose Dupuis, that he went diagnosed in November rather than February or March gives the Pens time to figure out what they want to do.

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Pascal Dupuis press conference, courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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Penguin Notes: Wrapping Up Tuesday’s Loss

By John Toperzer

So what riled the New York Rangers up so much for a November game against the Penguins?

NYR assistant coach, Ulf Samuelsson, was interviewed during his team’s loss to Edmonton last weekend.

If you want the tenor of the coaching staff of this team, listen to what Ulf Samuelsson told me a couple of minutes ago in the dressing room. I asked him flat out if the lack of offence through the first two periods had anything to do with defending their own zone. Here are his exact words: “Collectively, that could be the worst two periods I’ve seen since I got here, and that’s a lot of games. Hopefully that was a low point for us.” He went on to say: “We are leaving it to the leadership of this team to rally the troops. It is not about X’s and O’s right now. We are not competing at a level we need to. We are getting crushed by Edmonton in our building and that is embarrassing.” For the record, Ulf Samuelsson has watched 120 Rangers games since he got here as the assistant coach.

The significance of Tuesday’s loss is debatable, but then again so is any regular season game. After all, everything’s geared toward prepping for the playoffs. There’s still much work to be done. Most likely, Pittsburgh won’t roster all of the same players in April it does right now.

Nevertheless, the Pens’ script has played out (at least on paper) similarly to a Dan Bylsma-led squad. The team has trounced much of its competition – going on a seven-game winning streak, killing 39 straight penalties, leading the league with a 35.6 PP percent.

But it has also come up short against two of its greatest rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers. Had Pittsburgh lost to Winnipeg or Minnesota, it’d be easy to diagnose the X’s and O’s of the loss in a systemic, non-threatening way. But the Flyers and Rangers (to a lesser extent) bring out emotion other teams do not.

In a near perfect five weeks, the Pens’ only two Eastern Conference regulation losses have come at the hands of Philly and the Rangers. Head coach Mike Johnston has repeatedly said that every day of the regular season is designed to get his team ready for the playoffs. Time will tell whether he’s met his goal.

Fortunately for the Pens, there’s nothing pre-ordained about the season.

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Coach Johnston never said what happened to Kris Letang on Tuesday, except that the defender consulted with the training staff before going back into the game. Letang missed the last eight-plus minutes of the first period and the beginning of the second period with an undisclosed injury.

Watching the tape, initially it looked as though the Rangers Kevin Hayes slashed Letang on the wrist. At the end of the play, however, Letang took one stride and was seen limping toward the bench. In either case, the blueliner returned to the game and didn’t miss another shift. Letang has a multitude of injuries to his credit, including a balky knee, so the situation bears watching.

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The defensive pairing of Christian Ehrhoff and Robert Bortuzzo did not look good Tuesday. Maybe Ehrhoff shouldn’t get a free pass, but as a long-time NHL veteran he’s earned that right more so than Bortuzzo. Bortuzzo hasn’t been back long from his injury, but he looked slow Tuesday, sprawling out on the ice, screening Fleury, failing to clear the puck. He represents Pittsburgh’s biggest physical threat on defense (though Simon Despres has come on surprisingly well), but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bortuzzo sit for Scott Harrington at some point – if and when the Penguins actually put him in their starting lineup.

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I read on Dobber Hockey that Blake Comeau was on the ice for 18 shots taken and only three against Tuesday. That sounds really good, but what some fans will likely remember is the 2-on-1 in which he carried the puck down the right wing, whiffed on the shot and then got knocked off his skates.

Other fans might remember the blind, un-penalized Chris Kreider hit on Comeau outside the New York blue line. I’m not sure how Kreider’s hit wasn’t a penalty, unless the officials thought Comeau embellished the play by laying momentarily on the ice. I don’t get it, though, that should have been an interference call.

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Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist appears to have gotten into Pittsburgh’s collective mind. When former Penguin Tanner Glass swatted a Nick Spaling shot off of the goal line, it helped to set the tone for the night. It’s difficult enough to beat Lundqvist, let alone beating him without being rewarded with a goal. Evgeni Malkin appeared particularly frustrated by the King on Tuesday.

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Early in the game, Malkin missed a couple intended passes because he didn’t turn around to look for the puck. That’s a disturbing trend, dating back to the overtime game in which he skated out of the offensive zone with his head down rather than looking for a puck that was at his feet.

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Sidney Crosby was really no better Tuesday night, either. He lost an early battle with Derek Stepan along the end boards and was called for interference immediately thereafter on Mats Zuccarello. What’s with Crosby getting into it physically with the diminutive Zuccarello every game? It almost makes me wonder what Crosby’s game would look like if he was 6-foot-2, 225 pounds instead of 5-foot-11, 205 pounds. Would he mix things up more often?

Anyway, Crosby lost the puck twice on back-to-back possessions in his own end – the second time by Rick Nash – before Zuccarello scored off a faceoff win.*

*Obvious disclaimer that Sidney Crosby remains the best player in the world.

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Olli Maatta skated Tuesday in an on-ice workout less than a week after thyroid tumor surgery. Great news! The feeling is that Maatta might not miss the four weeks he was expected to miss.

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Beau Bennett skated primarily on a fourth line with Marcel Goc and Craig Adams in his season debut. The line looked pretty good, applied pressure. Bennett skated 9:35 TOI. There’s a scenario for Bennett skating on actually any one of Pittsburgh’s four lines. It will be interesting to see where the first-round pick finally fits in after the last couple years of unfortunate injuries.

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Root Sports showed a graphic on Paul Martin’s ice time. In 2013, he spent 12.2 percent of his play on the power play, a number which is down to 5.3 percent. Last season saw him skate 11.4 percent of his time on the penalty kill, 15.8 percent in 2014-15.

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Lastly, a 5-0 blowout loss seemed to be the perfect opportunity to send a message to Marc Staal that last year’s playoff abuse of Crosby wasn’t appreciated, but nothing happened. Almost reminds me of the Pittsburgh Pirates failing to retaliate against the Cincinnati Reds after Aroldis Chapman plunked Andrew McCutchen on the helmet with a 99-mph fastball a couple seasons ago.

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Links ‘n At

– Fun with Fenwick: Johnston vs. Bylsma, Hockey Buzz’s Ryan Wilson reports.

– Penguins coach Johnston stresses shoot-first mentality, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

Already, the Penguins have cut nearly a foot off their average shot attempt – 33.57 feet in 2013-14 to 32.79 this season, according to sportingcharts.com.

– Penguins stray from successful formula on the road, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

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Tuesday’s Penguin Post-Game Audio

Mike Johnston:

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Sidney Crosby:

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Marc-Andre Fleury:

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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Penguin Notes: Keeping Crosby and Malkin fresh, Claude Giroux’s numbers


Scenes from Monday’s Penguins practice

IMG_9914Will Geno and Duper get a new partner when Beau Bennett returns?

IMG_9846Rob Scuderi is part of a penalty killing group which has killed 37 straight penalties

IMG_9906Someone clipped Steve Downie while he was standing around Monday and he looked back at him like he wanted to kill the guy. Let’s hope he was joking

IMG_0027Joined at the hip on the power play

IMG_9899Rangers players might consider wearing shades if the Flower dons that blocker/glove inside Madison Square Garden

IMG_0318“Cmon’ Geno, I know u got it in ya”

IMG_0060IMG_0061Letang beats Fleury

IMG_0203IMG_0206Fleury returns the favor

IMG_3760Hornqvist can do it with his eyes closed

IMG_3704Three centers and a Tocchet

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Fun with numbers: Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux ranks seventh in the NHL scoring race with four goals and 18 points in 14 games, but his 6.2 shooting percentage is the worst among the league’s top 60 point-getters and 266th among forwards.

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Forty-eight forwards are averaging more ice time than Sidney Crosby, who leads the Pens with 18:44 TOI per game. Last season, Crosby skated 21:58 TOI, most in the NHL. Can it be that easy? Can the reduced ice time in October and November come back to help keep the stars hopping in April and May?

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The following players are seeing less ice in 2014-15 than 2013-14. Evgeni Malkin (20:03 in 13-14, 18:20 in 14-15), Chris Kunitz (19:09, 17:58), Pascal Dupuis (17:41, 16:26), Paul Martin (24:34, 21:53), Simon Despres (16:44, 13:47).

Keeping the 35-year-old legs of Kunitz and Dupuis fresh makes a whole lot of sense. Kunitz set a career high with 68 points in 2013-14, but scored only 13 points in his final 24 games. Dupuis is coming back from major knee surgery, something that needs little explanation.

Malkin’s numbers, along with Crosby’s, will likely increase as the season progresses. They bear watching, at a minimum. Martin has been playing more with Olli Maatta sidelined. Prior to then, coach Mike Johnston seemed intent on slowly phasing out the impending free agent. Despres’s sample sizes are small for both seasons. There’s little doubt he’s been more effective this year than last.

The top-six forward ice time formerly known as James Neal has seen a drop from 18:26 to the current Patric Hornqvist’s 17:48 – not that the two player’s ice times are directly relatable. Incidentally, Hornqvist’s time is actually up over last year, when he averaged 16:51 with the Nashville Predators. That might be something to track, too.

Brandon Sutter (15:46, 17:49), Kris Letang (24:14, 24:43) , and Olli Maatta (18:29, 19:59) have all seen increased minutes.

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Perhaps the Penguins should keep Beau Bennett in bubble wrap and quarantine him until say, the trade deadline. That way the team knows it has a healthy player coming its way near the postseason. Kidding aside, Bennett piled up five assists and a plus-4 rating in just two AHL Wilkes-Barre games over the weekend. The soon-to-be 23-year-old winger just needs to stay healthy, as one can gleam from his career statistics.

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Links ‘n At

Penguins defensemen playing at high level early in season, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

Players pointed to Johnston’s system. Defensemen often struggled with the complexities of former coach Dan Bylsma’s system. Earlier this season, Scuderi pointed out that Johnston’s system offers defensemen “two choices,” whereas Bylsma’s system often resulted in “four choices.”

“I think the biggest thing with this system is that we have the ability to … make decisions,” defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said. “If something’s not there, we don’t have to force it. We can turn back and give it to our partner.”

I think Despres and Bortuzzo are just happy to be in the lineup after bouncing around last year — apologies to Scott Harrington. Simple is better, especially on defense, and the d-corps can read and react rather than thinking before reacting.

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Winger Bennett playing above AHL competition while awaiting call-up from Penguins, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

Conventional wisdom says Bennett will slot into the Penguins’ top six when he makes his return, perhaps taking over for Blake Comeau on Evgeni Malkin’s wing. Bennett, however, isn’t necessarily lobbying for that spot.

“I really enjoy playing with (Brandon) Sutter,” Bennett said. “We have really good chemistry. Positive guy. I’ve really enjoyed playing with him preseason and a little bit last year. He’s one of those guys that’s always in the right position, and I know where he’s going to be. If that’s the slot I can eventually work into, I’ll be really happy.”

It’s not that Bennett desires a lesser role. It’s that the third line is being featured more prominently under coach Mike Johnston.

“This year, Sid and Geno have been around the 16- to 18-minute mark. Last year, they were getting 21 to 22 every game,” Bennett said. “The minutes are more evenly spread throughout.”

The minutes reduction for Crosby and Malkin might really come in handy for the playoffs.

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Center of Penguins’ third line doesn’t mind giving more, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

“To me, having watched him play over the last couple years, he’s a very good defensive center, but, at the same time, I think he can produce more offensively,” said coach Mike Johnston. “A part of the challenge for him this year is to pick up his numbers offensively. You start to see that lately.

“You don’t want to give up his defensive side of his game, because I can play him against anybody. I know every night he’s good in his own zone, end. He’s one of our top penalty-killers. [But] think you’ll start to see his numbers go up.”

I voiced my opinion on Sutter and the third line in the following tweet.

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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Penguin Notes: Thoughts on Fleury’s contract extension

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by John Toperzer

The much-discussed contract extension of Marc-Andre Fleury on Wednesday comes down to whether you believe in him, whether you think you can win a Stanley Cup with him in goal.

Yes, he won a Stanley Cup in 2008-09. Since then, his playoff numbers have been terrible, up until last season. If you’re going to say the Flower won a Cup, you can’t discount his body of work since then. By the same measure, if you’re going to say he’s been an abject failure in the postseason, you also have to acknowledge his above average showing last year.

Fleury isn’t the type of goalie who will stand on his head and win games on his own like a Jaroslav Halak circa 2009-10. He’s not going to be the difference winning games but a good team can win with him in goal.

One aspect of Fleury and his debatable peripheral numbers is the fact that Pittsburgh’s philosophy has never centered around caring about defense and/or its goalie. Former coach Dan Bylsma’s best defense was to keep the puck in the offensive end of the rink, but at some point the opponent spent time inside Pittsburgh’s blue line. Bylsma’s system never successfully accounted for that aspect of the game.

Fleury has made more than his share of embarrassing gaffes, going back to his World Junior days. Click here (note Braydon Coburn wore No. 29. Foreshadowing?).

Do I think the Penguins should’ve extended Fleury. No I don’t. But I think that new head coach Mike Johnston’s system pays better attention to defense and insulates the Pittsburgh goalie better than before. I think that the team can win without Fleury needing to stand on his head.

He is entering the prime goaltending years from his late 20s to early 30s. The team is also talking about his positive veteran presence in the dressing room, which is nice but never stopped Tom Barrasso from having a heck of a career.

I don’t buy that the team should have re-signed him because it couldn’t do any better. How many times does a goalie come out of nowhere and have success? Happens all the time. I would’ve at least waited longer before re-signing Fleury. San Jose has both Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock. Chicago has Corey Crawford, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling. There are backups on other teams, some of whom simply need a break. But rather than getting bogged down in specific situations which will continue to play out over the coming months, it’s sufficient to say that there will continue to be alternative goaltending options available. That’s what scouts are for.

In the final analysis, Fleury proved first-hand to GM Jim Rutherford after the first 11 games of 2014-15 that keeping the goalie for four more seasons was the right thing to do. Whether you or I agree with the move really doesn’t matter anymore. It’s done.

On the other hand, it would be interesting to know whether the new deal gives Fleury a limited non-movement clause …

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Kasperi Kapanen is injured (I think). He’s been stuck on three goals and six points in five games for at least one week. His KalPa Kuopio squad in Finland has played 18 games, going 12-4-2, yet Kapanen has suited up for only five.

Click here for a Finnish-to-English translated article from late October discussing the son of Sami Kapanen.

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On a note of which all Penguins fans can agree upon, Fleury needs seven minutes and 57 seconds of scoreless hockey in Winnipeg on Thursday to break Tomas Vokoun’s consecutive scoreless stretch among all Pittsburgh goaltenders. Fleury sits at 154:46 and Vokoun holds the all-time mark of 162:42.

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Is it just me or does Pittsburgh radio host, Mark Madden, ring hollow whenever he criticizes Evgeni Malkin for scoring just five assists at even strength in 11 games thus far? Malkin enters Thursday with an NHL-leading five power-play goals and 11 points on the man advantage.

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It was kind of surprising to hear Pens coach Mike Johnston discuss his team intimidating opponents into not taking penalties because of Pittsburgh’s powerful power play. He’s right, of course. That was never more evident than Tuesday in Minnesota, but for him to actually come out and say it matter-of-factly gives us insight into the 57-year-old rookie head coach. The book on Johnston is still being written.

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Links ‘n At

Pens’ Fleury signs 4-year, $23 million extension, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

“These are never easy because we’re talking about big numbers, and we’re talking about a player’s career,” Rutherford said. “I don’t want to suggest it’s easy. But Marc made it very clear that he wants to be a Penguin.

“He laid out his guidelines. I laid out ours. Once we did that, it moved forward fairly quickly.”

I have a hard time getting Rutherford’s midseason signing of Alexander Semin for five years, $35 million out of my head when he was with the Carolina Hurricanes. That deal has to be one of the poorer signings in recent years.

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Starkey: Fleury deal perfectly sensible, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

“Historically, there’s evidence they can get better into their 30s and play at a much higher level,” USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen said. “I know fans have a love-hate relationship with Fleury, but I really think he was their best option.”

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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Scuderi Scores! Bylsma Speaks, Brent Johnson Remembers, Scenes From Practice

– Fun discussion with former Penguins goalie, Brent Johnson, the Pittsburgh Trib’s Josh Yohe and Twitter friends Josh Bagiackas and Josh Feitknecht after the Pittsburgh Steelers kickers got into a skirmish with the Baltimore Ravens team Sunday night.

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– Some visual evidence from Monday’s Penguins practice…

IMG_3381Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff

Ehrhoff has assists in his last two games and looks more comfortable taking shots from the point. He’ll be needed more than ever with Olli Maatta out for much of November.

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IMG_9482Roberto Bortuzzo and Patric Hornqvist

Bortuzzo will likely make his season debut Tuesday. Hornqvist showed no problems mixing it up with the big, physical blueliner Monday at Southpointe.

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IMG_9674Evgeni Malkin

Malkin has picked up a point in each of Pittsburgh’s first 10 games. This streak has a chance to be even more amazing than when he scored a goal in each of his first six NHL games as a rookie.

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IMG_3436Close-Range Combat

After working 2-on-1’s, the Pens put together cages at the top and bottom of the right faceoff circle, playing 2-on-2 with goalies defending each net.

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IMG_9706Rob Scuderi

Scuderi scored a big goal for the black team. Don’t think guys like Geno and Sid were happy? You’d think Scuderi just won the Stanley Cup in quadruple overtime!

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IMG_9700Malkin and Paul Martin

IMG_9701Malkin and others

Is it great to see a smiling Geno or what? Looks to me like he’s “buying in.”

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IMG_9707Sidney Crosby

Sid happy too!

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IMG_9716IMG_9717IMG_9718Sprint City Baby!

All good times must come to an end and after the mini-hockey matchup coach Mike Johnston had his guys skate lines just like the suicides many of us ran for baseball, basketball, etc. Notice the competition between Crosby, Hornqvist and Pascal Dupuis. Intense.

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IMG_9720IMG_9723Malkin

Notice how Malkin puts his stick out in front to win the race, like an Olympics speed skater reaching across the finish line. No shootout at the end of practice. Death of the monthly Moustache Boy?

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IMG_3499Again!

Herb Brooks tribute. #RIP

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IMG_9803Crosby

Crosby took feeds from the right point to finish his work Monday. Look for him to follow that up Tuesday night against the Wild.

Many thanks to John Toperzer Sr. for his photographic contributions. Love you, Dad

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– Penguins super prospect Derrick Pouliot is day-to-day with an upper body injury. He skated Monday for Wilkes-Barre but wore a red non-contact jersey, according to the Citizen’s Voice.

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– Former Penguins coach, Dan Bylsma, co-hosted on NHL Live Monday and talked about Marc-Andre Fleury.
“He has to be himself, smiling, happy-go-lucky,” The former coach says that’s a tell with Fleury. He has to be showing shooters in practice the puck after he makes a glove save.

Fleury has three shutouts in his last four games. If GM Jim Rutherford was thinking about trading the Flower in his final season before unrestricted free agency, now would be the time! While that last statement is meant to be a joke, there’s something to the old adage “buy low, sell high.”

Fleury needs eight minutes and 57 seconds of scoreless hockey to become Pittsburgh’s all-time record holder for consecutive shutout minutes in goal. Tomas Vokoun currently sits atop the record with 162:42 TOI and Fleury now has 154:46 TOI.

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– Not surprisingly, Bylsma was very gracious in all of his talk about the Penguins. Yes, he’s still getting paid by Mario Lemieux and company, but the man is all about class.

Co-host Steve Mears asked Bylsma about Beau Bennett.

“Talented guy. Got great hands, real nice touch with the puck. Does have a shot to finish, would like him to use it a little more. Had strong training camp in the absence of Malkin. He was one of the better players with the Penguins. Looking for him to come back strong, I think he can play on the top two lines. He’s got a lot of puck possession skills, hopefully he can go down to Wilkes-Barre get some conditioning in, be inserted into the Penguins lineup. I’d like to see him play 65-plus games.”
Bennett has played just 47 games in the last two-plus years.

Bylsma on Pascal Dupuis: “My favorite moment of the season to this point (Dupuis’s four-point Opening Night). Had a long rehab. He was out with major knee surgery. He was really happy to get back in that game. He’s been effective for them. He’s got a couple power-play goals. He’s been on a line with Evgeni Malkin. He’s not been playing with Sidney Crosby but he is playing with Malkin, with Sutter at times but with Malkin all of the time.

“Ray Shero’s made a couple of nice moves. That one (Marian Hossa trade with Dupuis package) was a throw-in that turned out to be a real good one for the Penguins.”

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– If Olli Maatta can handle thyroid tumor treatments/surgery with such grace, just think how easy it will be when the Pens rely on him to stop a 2-on-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final some day.

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– The Washington Capitals allowed six goals to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. Mike Green and his $6 million salary need to go. Coach Barry Trotz stresses defense but Alexander Ovechkin is a coach killer. At least former Penguins Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen got paid.

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– When on-ice officials overruled a called penalty to the Kings’ Jarret Stoll on Brandon Sutter last week, Penguins coach Mike Johnston argued the call but didn’t go crazy or blow his top. Fans are still learning about the former Portland Winterhawks head coach, but so far the results are encouraging. That said, what a bunk ruling that was.

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Interviews, Courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins

Mike Johnston:

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Sidney Crosby:

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Scott Harrington:

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Links

Ryan Wilson of Hockey Buzz previews the Penguins-Wild Tuesday. Click here.

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

PS — If you are an American, vote today!

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Penguin Notes: Ehrhoff Stock Up, To Penalize Or Not To Penalize, Pouliot Hurt

By John Toperzer

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– Thursday was an excellent showing for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but keep in mind that the Stanley Cup champs played their backup goalie and were missing leading scorer Anze Kopitar, plus Marian Gaborik and the suspended Slava Voynov.

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– Pittsburgh recalling Jayson Megna makes one wonder if the team’s forwards aren’t completed healthy. Kind of like when Scott Harrington was with the team for a week-plus but never saw any time.

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IMG_2948

– Christian Ehrhoff seems to be finally getting “it.” He attempted seven shots Thursday (though he compiled only two registered shots on goal) and came out strong from the drop of the puck.

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– Will Beau Bennett reunite with Steve Downie and Brandon Sutter when he comes back from knee injury in 10 days or so? Bennett has top-six forward ability, but the above third line played well in the preseason and coach Mike Johnston anxiously looked forward to displaying the trio before Bennett got hurt. Johnston doesn’t like to mess with a good thing – he’s made very few lineup changes through nine games – and Pascal Dupuis, Evgeni Malkin and Blake Comeau have looked pretty good over the last week.

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– Of course, the team is striking on the power play like nobody else. Olli Maatta will be lost on the second unit for November and it looks like Ehrhoff will benefit the most. Paul Martin has seemingly served as Johnston’s ugly stepchild and has averaged only 55 seconds on the man advantage.

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– Johnston was not pleased with the referees reversing a Penguins power play Thursday. “I thought it was unusual, usually’s a call’s a call. If the referee felt he made a bad call, usually he’ll say “that’s what I saw.” They were very adamant that they erred on the call and they got it right. I don’t think you can go with that approach because probably most calls can be debated between two officials. I’d rather see them always trust their instincts. When they make a call, they make a call.”

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– KDKA-TV’s Bob Pompeani was at it again Friday. The Pittsburgh Steelers will retire their second number in history Sunday night, Mean Joe Greene’s number 75. Here’s what he had to say during Friday’s sports report.

“None of the players on the current team of course were even born when Mean Joe Greene was leading the Steelers on a dynastic run through the NHL history books.”

Pompeani then interviewed longtime veteran, Brett Keisel, and it got me wondering how old Keisel was. It turns out that the defensive lineman was born on Sept. 19, 1978, when the Steelers from that era had won only two of their four Super Bowls. Incidentally, Greene retired after the 1981 season and I still have the “One for the Thumb in ‘81” bumper sticker for which he coined the slogan.

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– Perhaps the only funny part about the sombering Maatta news was the rampant speculation prior to the 1:00 PM press conference. Twitter went crazy with the possibilities. Whether the news was about owner Mario Lemieux or GM Jim Rutherford, everybody seemed to have a guess.

There’s not much more anyone can say about Maatta other than that he’s a brave person and we keep him in our prayers.

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– Does anyone else find it funny that ROOT Sports announcer Jay Caufield spends time during games in Mario Lemieux’s private box? Isn’t he supposed to be an objective reporter? I realize he’s in the inner circle, so I guess “it is what it is” as coach Cowher always used to say.

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– Coach Johnston noted that Kris Letang is played good defense, challenging forwards, using his physicality well. What the coach would like to see Letang improve upon is his decision making coming out of his own end with the puck.

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–Say what you will about the ROOT broadcast duo of Bob Errey and Paul Steigerwald, but I would rather listen to them (or HOFer Mike Lange and Phil Bourgue on radio) than any national outlet.

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– Penguin super prospect Derrick Pouliot is dealing with an upper-body injury and won’t play over the weekend for AHL Wilkes-Barre.

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer

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