Pittsburgh rebounded after their embarrassing performance Thursday night like championship teams do; winning their next game.
Martin Skoula scored two goals and Marc Andre Fleury made 31 saves as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 to snap a four game road losing streak.
Head coach Dan Bylsma made the right move going back to Marc Andre Fleury who was chased from the net against the Senators. Fleury had great rebound control tonight and clearly has put Thursday nights performance behind.
The signing of Martin Skoula is paying dividends for the Penguins but it can’t be overlooked that Skoula is reviving his career in Pittsburgh.
Skoula struggled the past two seasons in Minnesota and had a team high plus/minus rating of -16 for the Wild in 2008-2009, along with a -12 the previous season.
Skoula couldn’t land a guaranteed contact this summer and was cut from the Panthers and Blue Jackets during training camp.
Pittsburgh had expressed interest since mid-August but Skoula wanted to explore other options that would give him an opportunity to be a top-6 defenseman. After coming up empty on all of those options, Pittsburgh scooped in and signed Skoula to a one year deal worth $600,000 on September 30th, to play the role of a seventh defenseman.
In talking to sources in Minnesota that were close to Skoula, they tell me the KHL was the next option for Skoula after being let loose by the Blue Jackets.
Penguins management are never the people that make quick assumptions but Skoula could have a future in Pittsburgh beyond this year.
For one, Skoula a former teammate for a short-time with Bylsma, has hit it off with his head coach. The two are close and Bylsma has shown a lot of trust in Skoula on the ice. He’s been a good mentor to Ben Lovejoy and he’s playing Bylsma’s system better than many believed he would.
At age 29 and with Pittsburgh only having 2 of their top 6 defensemen under contract for next season, Skoula is showing that he could be a cheap reliable alternative for a team that will be tight against the cap next season.
Skoula is not only playing himself into being an option for the Penguins next year, but he’s showing the rest of the NHL that he can still perform as many were writing him off.
*Atlanta Thrashers winger Colby Armstrong is off to somewhat of a slow start after a 22 goal season in his first full year with the Thrashers.
Armstrong signed a one year deal worth $2.4 million this past summer and will be a free agent at seasons end. We have heard his name connected to Pittsburgh for the past year but all of that is just talk.
The Thrashers have all intentions of keeping Armstrong around and those close to Armstrong say his intentions of playing in Pittsburgh again are no longer a priority to him anymore. He’s content on where his career is headed.
*Pittsburgh split up Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby for the first time in three games as Crosby centered Max Talbot and Bill Guerin. Crosby had an assist and was a -1.
Malkin scored his 6th goal of the season in the third period and has goals in consecutive games.
* Defenseman Brooks Orpik returned to the lineup after missing four games and had a team high 5 hits.
*Winger Tyler Kennedy skated for the first time on Thursday in Pittsburgh and re-joined his teammates this morning. Kennedy participated in the Penguins morning skate and barring a setback, could return to the lineup Monday night against Florida.
Kennedy has been sidelined with a groin/hip related injury.
With Kennedy on the verge of returning and Chris Kunitz expected to be cleared to skate on Tuesday, Chris Bourque’s time in a Penguins uniform will be coming to an end.