*Back from a great honeymoon with my wife Vanessa but ready to get back to work. Here’s the latest:
*Those in Jordan Staal’s camp tell me the Penguins reported recovery time of 5-to-6 weeks for Jordan Staal is being a bit optimistic. Indications are some members of Penguins hockey operations staff feel the same way too.
Was told today from a team source that the Penguins are not expecting Staal back until late November-early December.
*The Penguins are entering day 7 of training camp and the battle for the No. 6 and No. 7 defensemen spots remain up for grabs. I’m told Ben Lovejoy is keeping a hold on one of the two spots but he has not separated himself from the pack by any means.
Meanwhile, Deryk Engelland who entered camp as the favorite for the No. 7 spot is in for a tough battle.
Corey Potter has emerged as a legitimate candidate to knock off Engelland for a depth spot. In eyes of those I’ve spoken with today, there’s a sense that Potter brings a better overall game to the table than Engelland and still provides a physical ability that the Penguins would lack if they went in Potter’s direction.
As for the young defensemen in the mix, I continue to hear rave reviews about Brian Strait and he’s closer to contributing at the NHL level than some thought he was. A minor injury may derail his shot at making the club out of camp but he remains under consideration if the Penguins feel he’s ready and the best option as the No. 6 defenseman.
He will not make the team out of camp to be the No. 7 defenseman.
*Expectations are rising for Mike Comrie who is having a tremendous camp but there’s been situations in the past couple training camps where expectations get “too high” for some players before the regular season begins.
*As good as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are, there have been few instances in their career’s where either player has elevated the play of a linemate throughout an entire season to the point that former greats of the game like Mario Lemieux could.
Every year we hear, “Chris Kunitz will score 35 goals playing with Crosby”……. In the past we heard, “Ruslan Fedotenko will net 25 goals with Malkin”….. and so on.
This is not a knock on either player but it just hasn’t happened yet where a winger on the Penguins roster who for instance has been a consistent 15-to-23 goal scorer, has that career year with Malkin or Crosby.
There’s intrigue surrounding Brett Sterling that he could be that “player.” I’m not buying it yet but he’s really caught the eye of the staff who see top-6 scoring potential.
Sterling will get another prime opportunity tonight playing with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby on the top line.
*The Penguins are having what they are calling the “Ultimate Home Game” tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets, giving out free tickets and more than 8,000 tickets to students from participating post-secondary schools.
It’s a great measure from the team, especially bringing the youth hockey programs in for the game but it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to reward all season ticket holders with the free tickets tonight.
Tonight’s forward lines will be:
Sterling – Crosby – Malkin
Tangradi- Jeffrey – Kennedy
Dupuis – Craig – Asham
Wallace – Vitale – Godard