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Insider Only Real test for Penguins new defensive structure is players breaking “bad habits” when they get into matchups with elite offensive teams

scuderi SABRES AT PENGUINS QUICK HITS
The Buffalo Sabres come to town tonight as a team in transition and are off to an 0-2 start. The Sabres played last night, losing to Ottawa 1-0 and Ryan Miller was very strong in goal, making 45 saves in the loss. The Penguins won’t be seeing Miller tonight as the Sabres will start Jhonas Enroth who went 4-4-1 with a 2.60 GAA and .919 save percentage last season.
Enroth is 1-2-0 in his career vs Pittsburgh. In back to back situations, it was no surprise to see the Sabres start Miller last night as Miller is 5-10-2 with a 3.46 GAA in his last 19 games against the Penguins.
The Penguins will start Marc Andre Fleury who is 12-5-2 with a 2.65 GAA all-time vs the Sabres.
SOME FALLOUT FROM THURSDAY’S OPENER
Marc Andre Fleury is off to a strong start to a season with a shutout in the home opener and it’s going to be big for him to keep building off Thursday’s win. It’s no revelation that Fleury performs well in the regular season but there is obviously more importance on Fleury having a strong October than there has been in years past.
“We believe in Fleury,” Sidney Crosby said after the Devils game. “I don’t think there’s any doubt in here. He made some great saves. We probably made him work harder than he needed to at the end, but there were some beauties.”
PENGUINS DEFENSIVE ZONE FOCUS
After one regular season game, all of the talk is about the impact Jacques Martin had on the Penguins defensively vs the New Jersey Devils. Not to take anything away from the Penguins, but what I’m interested to see is if the bad habits pop back up when the Penguins get into a matchup with a team that has elite offensive talent and likes to push the play offensively.
As good as the Penguins were defensively against New Jersey, the Devils are a team lacking top end speed and are likely to be one of the bottom-10 scoring teams in the NHL.
The real test will come when the Penguins face the likes of Washington and others. Will they be able to help themselves from not running around in their own end and playing pond hockey which always seems to happen at somepoint and has plagued them for the last four seasons of the Dan Bylsma era. That’s going to be the biggest thing for Martin to accomplish this season when it comes to his impact behind the bench. Can he be that presence to get the Penguins to break their bad habits?
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The Sabres come into tonight’s game with one goal in two games so it could be another stout defensive effort from the Penguins tonight.
One area the Penguins need to be better at than they were on Thursday is the puck possession game. At 5-on-5, the Devils had a +19 corsi rating.
“Second period in particular, and even at times in the third, neutral zone, execution with the puck wasn’t to our advantage,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said following Thursday’s win. {New Jersey} “played quite a bit in the offensive zone in the second period in particular with the long change and we didn’t do a good job with the execution with the puck to get to the offensive zone,” Bylsma said.
KOBASEW > KENNEDY

Way things have turned out, Chuck Kobasew has become Tyler Kennedy’s replacement in the lineup and while it’s just a short time period so far, the Penguins appear to have upgraded there at a much lower cost. If the Penguins were to have held on to Kennedy, he would have cost $2.1 million on a tender. Kobasew is here at $550,000. In a year where the cap dropped, those are the type of personnel moves contenders like the Penguins have to make.
“Chuck has done a very good job of coming in, playing with speed, playing physically and been real solid defensively away from the puck,” Bylsma said of Kobasew’s impact so far. “With his speed he’s been a factor, hunting down pucks on forecheck in everygame he’s played.”
One thing that stands out with Kobasew is that he’s game fast. In practices his quickness doesn’t standout as much but he’s been flying in a handful of preseason games and now one regular season game.
INJURY BUZZ
Kris Letang skated today, marking the first time he has been on the ice in eight days……Matt D’Agostini could be cleared to practice next week (week of Oct 14 – 20)…….

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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