MORNING SKATE NOTES
— The Philadelphia Flyers come to town tonight with some momentum, winners of back to back games in convincing fashion, including a 5-0 shutout win over the Ottawa Senators last night. The Flyers last in the NHL with 31 goals, have scored 9 goals in their last two games and Claude Giroux appears to be finally breaking out with a goal and 2 assists over that span. If this is the start of the Flyers turning around their season, this really looks like a must win for them as they have to start stacking some wins together. The Penguins absolutely dominated the Flyers in Philadelphia on Oct. 17th and the Flyers couldn’t skate with them. I think the Penguins will see a better team tonight.
— The goaltending matchup tonight will be Marc Andre Fleury vs Ray Emery. The Flyers have opted not to start Steve Mason who posted a shutout last night.
— The Penguins again will be without Paul Martin who did not participate in the morning skate. Martin, though, has been skating on his own and is dealing with what appears to just be a minor injury.
— The Penguins are 10th in the NHL in goals, averaging 2.88 per game. Three of their top-6 forwards are in significant goal droughts with Pascal Dupuis at 11 games, Evgeni Malkin 10 games, and Sidney Crosby 7 games. Malkin’s career long goal drought is 11 games (Dec 27, 2009 – Jan 14, 2010).
— The Flyers have killed off 16 of their last 17 shorthanded opportunities.
— The Penguins are at full strength at the forward position when it comes to their core forwards for the second straight game with the return of James Neal who saw his first action in five weeks on Saturday night vs the Blues.
— The returns of Neal and Beau Bennett in the past week has phased Jayson Megna out of the lineup for now. The coaching staff appears interested in giving Beau Bennett, Brandon Sutter and Matt D’Agostini a couple games together, despite D’Agostini being on what is said to be a very short leash. The third line of Bennett – Sutter – D’Agostini is a group the staff envisioned together in training camp but injuries halted that plan. Evaluators I hear from doubt D’Agostini finds a fit on this team and some wonder whether Bennett will get lost offensively playing on the third line but there’s just not a fit for him in the top-6 right now. One thing to watch with Bennett; His shot is much stronger than last season and he’s been firing the puck in practice. Wrist is healthy.
— The schedule starts to pick up for the Penguins with 11 games over the next 17 days. The highlight matchup is Monday night at home against the NHL leading Ducks. During the 11 game stretch, the Penguins have three sets of back to back games. Word is the plan is for Jeff Zatkoff to get four starts over the next 11 games. Fleury has started 14 of the Penguins first 17 games.
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Beau Bennett – Brandon Sutter – Matt D’Agostini
Tanner Glass – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Olli Maatta – Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik – Matt Niskanen
Deryk Engelland – Robert Bortuzzo
Marc Andre Fleury