Only the Stars’ Kari Lehtonen (3803:59) saw more time in goal last season than did Marc-Andre Fleury (3792:24).
Don’t be shocked to see Steve Downie have a big game in his Penguins debut Thursday. After all, he registered a Gordie Howe Hat Trick – goal, assist, fight — on Opening Night last season for the Flyers.
Downie had a turbulent time of it in 2013-14. Following his early success, he was traded from the Avalanche to the Flyers in late October for Max Talbot. Downie then battled ear and concussion injuries thereafter, even serving as a healthy scratch after coach Craig Berube questioned his intensity level.
Long term, the Pens might be more worried about Downie’s knee. He missed all but two games in 2012-13 with a torn ACL and MCL.
In the meantime, he should be a lot of fun to watch under assistant coach Rick Tocchet’s guidance.
Kris Letang is getting a chance to prove himself on the power play in front of new head coach Mike Johnston. It’s not unfair to suggest that Paul Martin outplayed Letang on the man advantage over the past couple seasons.
If Letang shows improvement keeping odd-man, short-handed rushes to a minimum then the top unit of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist and Letang have a chance to stay intact. These players are skating as the team’s No. 1 unit during Thursday’s game-day skate.
More likely, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff will take one of the top five spots at some point as the power play finds its way.
Hat tip to Ryan Wilson of Hockey Buzz for the link to Ehrhoff’s ability on the power play. His best years of production came with the Sedin twins in Vancouver and he should see similar talent here in Pittsburgh.
“Hockey’s hockey. We’re not going to re-invent the game,” said Pascal Dupuis Wednesday, referring to new head coach Mike Johnston’s style.
Thursday’s Game-Day Media Interviews (Courtesy, Pittsburgh Penguins)
Transcribed media highlights (not intended to be perfect or complete statements)
Mike Johnston media notes:
I don’t think any team is where you want to be at this point. It’s still a work in progress. As far as execution goes, we’re still going to build over that over the next couple months.
Matchups, I still want to keep tempo and pace, don’t want to over matchup.
We look at the analytics and what we see, make our judgments as to what matchups are best.
Last night, a lot of the goals were scored in a five-foot area.
Power plays are based on your best players. Hornqvist and Kunitz are very good around the net. Interchangeable. Our other power play, with Sutter, has two defensemen on it.
If you want to play a speed game, you have to have shift range in the 40 seconds area. There’s no grey area.
The key thing in the morning skate is we want to keep our feet moving. For our goaltenders it’s really critical that they get the right types of shots. Then we had 2-on-1’s at the end.
Sidney Crosby media notes:
Long offseason, ready to start with a clean slate. We all just want to get started.
Pretty focused on what we need to do, not so much on other team.
Pat (Hornqvist) has a right shot, he’s good from that area. He goes to the net hard. Get pucks to the net. It has been a short timeframe, but we have a good idea of what we need to do. Stick to the basics.
We play a high pace game, got some grit thrown in there. Our depth and ability to play fast game will be our strength and have to improve over time.
You don’t want to be thinking too much out there, react.
With goalies, big guy takes space, get traffic prevent him from stopping first one, if he does, make it hard stopping rebound. Those things don’t change against any goalie you play against (John Gibson).
Getzlaf, he’s able to use his size to hold onto the puck I wouldn’t be able to lug it as long as he does. He does everything well.
Olli Maatta notes:
Absolutely, excited to get back in there, first game of the season.
I don’t expect too much but I’ve had a good summer, even with shoulder, anxious and ready to go. Want to be mentally ready (for first hit on injured shoulder).
Paul Martin – he’s so easy to play with, he makes it so much easier for myself.
Good four weeks of practice, I think we’re ready, get better as the season goes along.
Ducks have good four lines, first line one of best in league.
I knew I wouldn’t be ready for preseason, but really happy I’m here.
Pascal Dupuis media notes:
Feeling great, played a couple preseason games. Long time coming, perfect.
Body feels good, knee feels great, last couple weeks were huge for me.
Everything is pretty much back to normal.
Sudsy played some great hockey for us in the playoffs. Geno wants the puck on his stick, makes my job easy, bring some passion and intensity to the game.
Hopefully the puck is going to be on his (Malkin’s) stick more than mine.
Pregame ritual, my nap, maybe? No, putting the pads on and playing the game that I love. Excited about coming back. It’s an exciting time, new coach, new management.
I have a lot to prove right now.