MORNING SKATE BUZZ
The Penguins wrapup a three game homestand tonight with the Carolina Hurricanes (1-0-1, 3 pts) coming to town. The Hurricanes are 1-0-1 on the season and are coming off a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday in what was the breaking point for Flyers management who fired head coach Peter Laviolette following the loss.
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said after today’s morning skate, he was “shocked” to see Laviolette fired this early in the season. Laviolette is an assistant on Dan Bylsma’s Team USA’s coaching staff. Laviolette will have some down time now.
Carolina is a team that’s a hard read. Last season when healthy, they looked like a potential dangerous team with a solid group of top-9 forwards, strength down the middle, and a proven goaltender in Cam Ward. Once Ward went down in March with a high ankle sprain, things went south.
Moving to a much tougher division, Carolina is one of those wildcard teams in the Metropolitan division.
The Hurricanes top line of Jiri Tlusty, Eric Staal and Alexander Semin have yet to get going as the three have combined for zero points in two games. Last season, the Canes top line had a dominant game against the Penguins in a 4-1 Carolina win on Feb 28th. Tlusty, Staal and Semin combined for 3 goals and 5 assists in the win. Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin will get the primary matchup against the Canes top line tonight.
Pittsburgh went 2-1 against Carolina last season.
Jordan Staal will center Patrick Dwyer and Nathan Gerbe on the second line tonight.
Tuomu Ruutu and Tim Gleason are not expected to play tonight.
Tonight’s goaltending matchup features Marc Andre Fleury (2-0-0, 0.50 GAA, .979 SV%) vs Cam Ward (1-0-0, 2.85 GAA, .921 SV%).
Fleury 18-3-0 in his last 21 starts at home, is 5-0-0 with a 2.33 GAA in his last five home starts vs Carolina. Ward has been very good against Pittsburgh over the last couple years, posting a 1.85 GAA over his last nine starts vs Pittsburgh.
Olli Maatta had an excellent game Saturday night but there were some signs in today’s morning skate where it looks like he might sit for Deryk Engelland who has yet to play this season.
Engelland took the bulk of reps with Robert Bortuzzo in the morning skate. We’ll see closer to game time but makes no sense not playing Maatta.
However, keep this in mind. Last year when Simon Despres made the team out of camp, the Penguins, mostly management I’m told, felt it was important for Despres development to not play every day, so the Penguins might take that route with the 19 year old Maatta.
Pittsburgh will dress the same forward lines: Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis; Jokinen – Malkin – Bennett; Jeffrey – Sutter – Kobasew; Glass – Vitale – Adams
Kris Letang is eligible to come off injured reserve tonight and has been skating hard during past couple conditioning on-ice workouts. Letang who is believed to just be dealing with some knee discomfort, is getting closer but won’t be playing tonight. He’s going to be back soon…..
OTHER INJURY NEWS
James Neal is not skating and remains off the ice. His return is not considered close at this point….Matt D’Agostini appears to be progressing and is believed to be on track to be cleared to play for when he’s eligible to come of LTIR, the week of October 21 – October 27. When this group is healthy, it remains to be seen where D’Agostini fits in the lineup.