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Insider Only Sunday Night’s Pens Buzz: On Vitale, Bennett, Malkin and Yale’s Antoine Laganiere

(1) Word is Evgeni Malkin did indeed have severe sunburn from being out in the hot sun on Friday and anyone who has had a severe case of sunburn knows how painful it is to deal with in the first 24 to 48 hours. It’s possible that’s the reason Malkin was unable to play Saturday night like some believe, and if it was, we’re never going to find out as anyone involved with the Penguins and close to the situation are denying it and will continue to deny it.
As soon as word leaked out that Malkin wouldn’t be playing and those who saw him that day knew how badly sunburned he looked, the Penguins I’m told immediately leaked out that Malkin is dealing with a nagging shoulder injury to shutdown the sunburn speculation.
I heard from a former NHL coach today who you can say is very old school and I asked him what he would do if he was coaching the Penguins and the real reason Malkin had to sit out Saturday’s game was because of severe sunburn on an off day and he said he would “fine” Malkin {if he could} and called Malkin “irresponsible” if that was actually the case. This is just one coaches opinion but found it interesting. Could you imagine a team trying to fine a star player for sunburn.

(2) When Joe Vitale returns to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for a few games, he usually comes out and has an excellent game. Last night vs the Florida Panthers was no different and Vitale had a very strong all around game, logging 12:39 of ice time and registering an assist, 5 hits (tied for team-high) and won a team-high 13 faceoffs, winning 77% of his draws. When Vitale isn’t in the Penguins lineup, the team misses his speed and grit and Vitale continues to show he should garner more consideration from the staff to be a regular part of the top-12 forward group.
What hurts Vitale from being a regular in the rotation is that he doesn’t kill penalties, which is his downfall in leaping Craig Adams, Tanner Glass on a now stacked Penguins lineup, but the penalty kill is an area Vitale hasn’t been given much of an opportunity from the staff. That doesn’t mean he can’t also excel in that area and the Penguins penalty kill isn’t exactly one of the NHL’s best right now.
Vitale is 62.9% in the faceoff circle this season, tops on the team and the Penguins best right handed centerman.

(3) Like Joe Vitale, Beau Bennett continues to make a good argument that he should garner serious consideration to be a part of the top-12 when this group is fully healthy but like Vitale he’s going to be a long shot.
Buzz in Penguin circles is that if Sidney Crosby and James Neal are healthy for start of the playoffs, Kunitz, Crosby, Dupuis, Iginla, Malkin, Neal, Morrow, Sutter, Cooke, Jokinen and Adams will be locks to take up 11 of the 12 forward spots, with Glass or Kennedy taking the final forward spot. If, as expected, that ends up being the plan at least for start of the playoff, Bylsma, though, should have a short hook on the likes of Glass and Kennedy.

4. The Penguins, as expected intend to make a hard push to sign Yale forward Antoine Laganiere and are already doing so. I wouldn’t call them the favorites but an NHL source says there is mutual interest between the Penguins and Laganiere. Laganiere and his advisors have a shortlist of 4 to 5 teams they see as ideal fits and expect to sign with a team in the next 48-72 hours. NHL sources have pegged the Canucks among the favorites to sign Laganiere. The Penguins depth chart at center will likely deter him away from Pittsburgh but Laganiere is very fond of the organization I’m told.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound center is the top college free agent forward available and attended the Penguins prospects camp this past July. Laganiere has a good skill set and the feet are improved enough that scouts feel he can play in the NHL. Laganiere is very effective at using his size to protect the puck and for those who saw the Frozen Four, will contend this in that when Laganiere gets going he can really move well on the ice.
Laganiere had 15 goals and 29 points in 37 points for Yale.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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