The Pittsburgh Penguins had an off day on Saturday and hit the road for a two game road trip that begins on Monday against the Florida Panthers and ends Wednesday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
The team then returns home for back-to-back home games on Friday and Saturday afternoon which sets them up with four games this week.
Here’s a few things to ponder…..
*Winger Chris Conner has done some good things through five games with the club, providing speed to the bottom two lines but as one evaluator told me, fringe players like Conner have an expiration date after they’re called up. Their play begins to slow down after a handful of games and that time period is usually around 5-to-6 games.
The coaching staff has really liked the speed Conner has provided to the lineup and his ability to create plays in around the net but Conner’s not going to be a guy whose going to pick up too many points at the NHL level.
One of the main reasons is he has a below average shot which has really hindered his ability to stay in the nhl, previously.
*I would look for Mike Comrie to get back into the lineup this week for at least 1 or 2 games but likely not at the expense of Conner.
I have been very critical of Comrie’s play as I’m sure others have, and despite the Penguins being on a roll of late, it’s the smart decision to give him a few more looks but not on the 4th line.
After talking with Comrie on Friday, I get the sense this has been somewhat of a wake up call for him.
*Head coach Dan Bylsma was not pleased with his team’s blown lead Friday night as protecting leads remains a work in progress for the Penguins through 21 games.
One issue for Pittsburgh has been their positional play in the D-zone, as players are wondering to the wrong side and getting bunched up with two or even three players following the puck carrier, which has got the Penguins into trouble this season.
“We didn’t do a good job in their offensive zone, and that was indicative, ” Bylsma said in his post-game comments on Friday. “We prolonged their time in the offensive zone by some of our plays on the wall. We lost a battle on the wall, and they got five or six guys around the puck. We’re going to address and look at those situations. That’s not the kind of game, defensively, we want to play.”
*Marc Andre Fleury’s bounce back month has led to Brent Johnson being the forgotten man of late. Johnson who is 6-2-1 on the season with a 2.11 GAA and .927 save percentage, will get the start in one of the next two games on the Penguins upcoming road trip and is likely to play in 2 of the next 4 games.
Johnson hasn’t started since November 10 and is scheduled to make two more starts this month.
*I’m going to touch base on this later in the week or early next week but I’ve have some discussions with scouts around the league and also local and national media members about Evgeni Malkin.
I’ve been hard pressed to find an evaluator who feels Malkin’s one of the top-5 forwards in the game. One NHL evaluator even struggled to put Malkin in the top-10.
The consensus top-3 is Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Alexander Ovechkin who are considered to be in a league of their own. Malkin use to be in that discussion but no longer.
Again, will touch base on this a few days from now but the question around the league is whether Pittsburgh can be a championship team, if Malkin’s not one of the premier players in the league when he’s being paid to be one.
It’s a great discussion as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2008-2009 with Malkin on his rookie deal.
The Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins improved to 9-0-0 on the road, defeating the Hersey Bears 4-3 on Saturday night.
The Baby Penguins continued to their dominance against Hershey, improving to 4-0 against the Bears this season.
Brett Sterling (5) and Dustin Jeffrey (6) each had a goal and an assist, and John Curry (5-2-0) made 24 saves in the win.
Sterling the was games No. 1 star and is averaging a point per game, collecting 10 pts (5G-5A) in 10 games this season. Dustin Jeffrey earned the games No. 2 star, and leads the Baby Pens in scoring with 18 points this season.
Keven Veilleux (1) and Brian Strait (1) also scored for Wilkes Barre, each netting their first of the season.
Curry who has rebounded this season to provide solid play behind No. 1 netminder Brad Thiessen, outplayed Bears goaltender Semyon Varlamov (1-1) who made 19 saves in the loss.