Morning Pens Buzz

The logic behind the Penguins callup of 2009 1st round pick Simon Despres is not yet known. Despres in his first professional season, has been playing well at the AHL level but not playing dominant hockey by any means.
The Penguins sent down Alexandre Picard to make room for Despres who makes his NHL debut vs the Caps tonight. Picard was a +5 in seven games with the Penguins this season.
The callup is not money driven as Despres carries an $840,000 cap hit at the NHL level, while Picard carries a $600,000 cap hit.
The 20 year old struggled in training camp and was among the Penguins first cuts not appearing in a preseason game as the Penguins felt it was important to get him down immediately to Wilkes Barre and start his career in the minors.
The Penguins though are believers in giving their top prospects a cup of coffee at the NHL level for the experience and rewarding their play in the minors, even if there’s no plans for a long-term stay with the big club this season.
We saw it this season with Eric Tangradi who was recalled in November, appearing in two games in what was a short-term callup after he had 7 goals and 5 assists in his first 12 games. I wasn’t a fan at that type of recall due to how well Tangradi was playing in the minors. Since returning to Wilkes Barre, Tangradi has 1 goal and 1 assist in seven games.

If the Penguins were planning the callup ahead of time, some are questioning why they didn’t recall Despres Wednesday morning so he could get a full practice in with his team on Wednesday. Despres is participating in today’s morning skate but morning skates don’t resemble “practices” by any means.
Despres is neck and neck with 2011 first round pick Joe Morrow as the Penguins top prospect in their system.
Despres has appeared in 22 games as a rookie this season for WBS, tallying three goals, four assists, seven points and a plus-3 rating. Despres leads WBS with three game-winning goals, while his seven points are tied for the team lead among defensemen.
The 6-foot-4, 219-pound Despres completed a stellar four-year career with Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in 2010-11 by helping to lead the Sea Dogs to both the QMJHL and Memorial Cup championships. The Laval, QC native also captured the Emile “Butch” Bouchard Award as the Best Defenseman in the QMJHL.
Last season Despres was also a member of Team Canada’s silver-medal winning squad at the 2011 World Junior Championships, tallying three assists and a plus-7 rating in seven games.
Despres comes into tonight’s game with 0 NHL games, while Robert Bortuzzo has appeared in just 2 NHL games. The Penguins were mixing and matching their d-pairs this morning so it’s not clear whether those two will be paired together tonight.

Odd Handling of Letang Situation

The handling of the Kris Letang situation has been odd. The Penguins are being “very precautionary” with him now but why weren’t they from the start?
Letang after taking a vicious hit to the head in Saturday’s game that broke his nose, later returned, scoring the game winning goal in overtime. The Penguins were off on Sunday and Letang ended up practicing on Monday after visiting with the doctor.
After visiting with the doctor after a short skate for him on Monday, Letang traveled with the team to New York. Letang then was a full participant in Tuesday’s morning skate but afterwards was ruled out and it was deemed he needed to return to Pittsburgh for further evaluation.
Due to Letang also having an illness, according to the team, the Penguins are doing the right thing by being very cautious with him but they should have from the start, just like the Nick Johnson situation last February when he suffered a concussion in a fight against the Av’s….. where he left the game…..returned in the third period….. then practiced two days later on a Friday at Southpointe, only to leave the ice early and he suffered concussion symptoms until mid April, a span of nearly two months.
Some Player Tidbits for tonight’s game
— Evgeni Malkin had 16 points in 12 November games and goes into the month of December on a five game points streak. In his last five games vs Capitals, Malkin has 1 goal and 8 assists. Malkin has 26 points in 19 career games vs Caps…..
—- Sidney Crosby (11 pts) might catch Alexander Ovechkin (18 pts) in points by the weekend. Crosby trails Ovechkin by just 7 points and Ovechkin has played in 18 more games. Ovechkin though plays his best against Pittsburgh, with 19 goals and 33 points in 25 career games. The Penguins though have limited Ovechkin to just 2 goals in the teams last five games. Crosby in his career vs Capitals has 35 points in 21 games…..
Mike Knuble is struggling of late but has 31 goals and 46 points in 62 career games vs Pens. He has a point in 13 straight regular-season games vs. Pittsburgh (12g-4a)….
— Michal Neuvirth is 2-0-0-1 with a 0.65 goal-against average, a .977 save percentage and two shutouts in three career games against the Penguins. Tomas Vokoun has a 8-9-2-4 record with a 2.63 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage and two shutouts against the Penguins.