The Pittsburgh Penguins closed out their pre-season with a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Mike Comrie scored twice and Evgeni Malkin had a goal and three assists in the win. Chris Kunitz and Alex Goligoski each added a goal and an assist for the Penguins, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 22 saves in the win.
Comrie and Malkin have showed early chemistry together and the Penguins have high expectations for Comrie.
“Mike is an extremely smart and intelligent offensive hockey player,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said in his post-game comments. Malkin and Comrie have remained together since the start of camp and the only question is who will join them on the line come opening night.
Top forward prospect Eric Tangradi spent the majority of time with Comrie and Malkin during camp and Tangradi has tried to force his way onto the team.
He’s performed extremely well and with Jordan Staal sidelined for several weeks, Tangradi is considered the best fit for the line but prior to camp the plan was for Tangradi to begin the season in Wilkes Barre. Many believe that will end up playing out.
However, as of late Saturday afternoon, sources with knowledge of the situation said the organization was still wavering what to do with Tangradi. There is believed to be mixed opinions inside the organization with the coaching staff among those in favor of Tangradi beginning the season in Pittsburgh.
Tangradi is just one of several difficult roster moves the Penguins brass must make before Wednesday at 3:00 p.m.
Roster moves though could come on Monday and are expected by Tuesday at the latest.
The buzz is that the Penguins will open up the season with 14 forwards, 7 defensemen and 2 goaltenders. Jordan Staal starting the season on long-term injured reserve (10 Games – 24 Days) remains a likely possibility which will help the Penguins promote players in his absence.
Including Staal, the Penguins have 13 forwards signed to one-way contracts.
Forward Mark Letestu who is eligible for waivers appears to have locked up a spot on the roster. Tyler Kennedy is also believed to be safe along with enforcer Eric Godard.
Tangradi and Dustin Jeffrey are not eligible for waivers which will play a factor in the Penguins decision making.
On defense, early word out of Detroit is that Ben Lovejoy closed out the preseason with a solid performance. Lovejoy was a +1 and had over 6:00 of ice time on the penalty kill.
19 year old Simon Despres who has been the surprise of camp appeared in his 4th game of the pre-season and 3rd straight. Despres was a +1, creating a nice outlet pass on Chris Kunitz’s 1st period goal. Indications are he held his own against Chicago and Detroit this weekend. Despres is still being considered to start the season in Pittsburgh.
Defensemen Deryk Engelland and Andrew Hutchinson did not dress against Detroit.
League sources indicate the Penguins are searching for a veteran defenseman and will explore the waiver wire. Penguins scouts were active this weekend.
The team though is not expected to put a claim in for 26 year defenseman Shane O’Brien who Dan Bylsma coached in the American Hockey League while with the Anaheim Ducks organization.
The Penguins will practice Monday morning at 11:30 a.m.