Post-Tampa Bay Observations
*Defenseman Jay McKee returned to the lineup for the first time in five games and made the most of his opportunity. Head coach Dan Bylsma opted to make Alex Goligoski a healthy scratch after Goligoski participated in warmups, opening the door for McKee to get back into the lineup
McKee played a strong defensive game and his aggressiveness in the neutral zone stood out, stepping up and cutting off passing lanes. It’s believed that getting McKee back into the lineup today was just to get him some playing time but there’s still some thought around the team that the coaching staff has not found the right combinations to this point.
*Star forward Evgeni Malkin suffered a right foot injury in the second period of Sunday’s game and did not return in the third period. Malkin will be re-evaluated in Pittsburgh on Monday. A team source tells me that team officials are calling it a bone bruise right now until further evaluation is done.
However, more buzz after the game was about the Penguins success with Malkin off the top power play unit in the third period.
A reason for Pittsburgh’s inconsistencies on the power play this season is that everyone is not playing a role that suits their best capabilities.
Bill Guerin is more effective in the high slot with Alex Ponikarovsky or Chris Kunitz being the primary puck retriever. That was evident during the sequences before Gonchar’s game winner. But, you can’t keep an Evgeni Malkin off the top unit.
*It was somewhat surprising not to see any retribution on Steve Downie who in my opinion intentionally took out Sidney Crosby’s back legs. The opportunity was there for Michael Rupp or others to send a response but there was none.
*Tyler Kennedy returned to the lineup after being scratched for the past two games. Kennedy had 10:56 of ice time. Alex Goligoski and Max Talbot were Pittsburgh’s two healthy scratches. Eric Godard remains sidelined with a groin injury but is expected to be cleared to play this week.
Talbot being scratched was somewhat surprising after Michael Rupp was the odd-man out in the morning skate during line rushes.
*Including Alex Ponikarovsky, Pittsburgh has 9 players with 10+ goals. Ruslan Fedotenko and Tyler Kennedy each have nine.
Pascal Dupuis netted his 17th goal of the season against Tampa Bay and is closing in on 20 goals along with Jordan Staal (19) and Bill Guerin (18).
*Seven players in the game were first or second overall selections in the NHL draft. The list includes C Vincent Lecavalier, D Victor Hedman and C Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay, and C Sidney Crosby, Marc Andre Fleury, C Evgeni Malkin and C Jordan Staal of Pittsburgh.
Lecavalier, Stamkos, Crosby, and Fleury are former No. 1 picks.