GAME DAY BUZZ
PENGUINS (13-8-0, 26 pts) @ CANADIENS (13-4-3, 29 pts)
In a surprising development, Tomas Vokoun is getting the start in goal tonight vs the Eastern Conference leading Montreal Canadiens. Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma told reporters today that starting Vokoun tonight had been pre-planned for at least a few weeks now. “This has been a game that Tomas has been scheduled to play for a couple weeks now,” Bylsma said.
If this was planned weeks ago, how about telling your No. 1 goaltender ahead of time that he’s not going to be playing tonight in his hometown.
According to the Tribune-Review, Fleury expressed disappointment in learning that he’s not playing. “I’m not going to lie,” Fleury said on his disappointment. “Yeah, a little bit. Friends and family are going to be here.” The decision came as a surprise to Fleury. “A little bit, but it’s fine,”Fleury said.
By not starting Fleury tonight, Bylsma is not putting the best team possible on the ice in an important game where the Penguins are already going to be without Paul Martin and Evgeni Malkin. Fleury wanted the challenge against the East leading Canadiens. “Montreal’s a good challenge,” Fleury said. They’re first in the East.”
MARTIN’S INJURY CONSIDERED VERY MINOR, MALKIN STILL PROGRESSING
*Paul Martin’s injury is considered very minor and there’s a feeling around the team that he has a good chance of playing Monday night against Tampa Bay.
*Things continue to be on the upswing for Evgeni Malkin who is still working out and skating this week without no symptoms. Wouldn’t be a surprise to see him participate in Monday’s morning skate.
*Defenseman Mark Eaton makes his season debut tonight and will be paired with Matt Niskanen in a second pairing role. Tonight marks Eaton’s first NHL game in eleven months. He last played an NHL game on April 3, 2012.
THERRIEN’S IMPACT ON SKILLED PLAYERS
Michel Therrien is arguably the best turnaround coach in the NHL. Nearing the mid-mark out of the season, he has the Canadiens in first place in the Eastern Conference, playing a great two-way structure and he’s getting the most out of his young players and veteran players who have struggled in years past. While some wait for the Canadiens to phase out as the season progresses, with an excellent goaltender between the pipes in Carey Price and the Habs evolving into a team built for the playoffs that wear down the opposition, the Canadiens could be for real.
Regarded as a defensive minded first coach, one thing that stands out with Therrien is getting the most out of skilled players, especially young players. We’re seeing it in Montreal and Penguin players might not have enjoyed coming to the rink everyday like they do now under Dan Bylsma, but there’s no denying the top players excelled under Therrien in Pittsburgh.
Here’s a few career high seasons some notable Penguins had under Therrien that still stand:
*Sidney Crosby’s 120 points in 2006-2007 remains a career high.
*Jordan Staal’s 29 goals in 2006-2007 remains a career high
*Ryan Whitney’s 59 points in 2006-2007 remains a career high
*Sergei Gonchar’s 67 points in 2006-2007 tied a career high and Gonchar’s 65 points in 2007-2008 remain the second highest point total of his career.
*Evgeni Malkin’s 47 goals in 2007-2008 are the second most goals he has scored in a season.
*Ryan Malone’s 27 goals and 51 points in 2007-2008 remain a career high
PENGUINS LINEUP BUZZ
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke – Brandon Sutter – James Neal
Beau Bennett – Dustin Jeffrey – Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik – Kris Letang
Mark Eaton – Matt Niskanen
Simon Despres – Deryk Engelland
Tomas Vokoun in Goal
Notes: Eaton moves into the lineup for the injured Paul Martin and sources on the scene tell me all signs point to Simon Despres getting into the lineup tonight. No official word but Despres ran the second power play unit and Bortuzzo stayed out with the scratches I’m told. The only reasoning to play Bortuzzo would be for Bylsma wanting more toughness in the lineup. As I said last week, Despres should be playing for anyone not named Letang, Orpik or Martin.
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Brendan Gallagher
Brandon Prust – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Alex Galchenyuk – Lars Eller – Michael Ryder
Travis Moen – Ryan White – Colby Armstrong
Andrei Markov – Alex Emelin
Francois Bouillon – Josh Gorges
Tomas Kaberle – PK Subban
Carey Price to start in goal