After a day spent practicing and making happy Christmas memories for some really sick youngsters and their families, the Pens are set to face the Calgary Flames today at 1 pm.
First up, though, the newest news: Pens have just announced a two-year extension for Jeff Zatkoff worth $600,000 annually. We can only speculate, but does this mean the end of Tomas Vokoun's career?
The Flames were widely expected to be bad this year, having entered a full rebuild mode. Jarome Iginla left on the quest for a Cup, Mikka Kiprusoff retired, and Brian Burke was hired to run hockey ops in the hope that he could bring some competence with him. The young team started off surprisingly well, and rookies Sean Monahan and Swiss goalie Reto Berra were praised for their early play. Monahan, the #6 pick in the 2013 draft, was the most prominent junior-eligible player to be kept with the big club following the 9-game look-see audition.
Alas, since those early successes the Flames have descended into mediocrity, Berra's play has been more Swiss cheese than Swiss watches, Brian Burke did fire Jay Feaster but so far has been too busy managing his wild hair to hire a replacement. He did outline the process for hiring the new GM and did stress he doesn't want to do the job himself. Okey dokey then.
So today, the 13-16-6 Calgary Flames find themselves second-to-last in the Pacific and in a rare visit to Pittsburgh for a matchup against the hugely depleted Penguins who are amidst a 6-game winning streak, having won 11 of their last 12 games despite missing half the team for an assortment of reasons. This is exactly the kind of game the Pens could lose if they think the Flames will be much easier to handle than, say, the Wild, a decent WC team they just beat handily. Here is the game preview.
Today's Empty Netters is so comprehensive and it has every bit of news and action from yesterday (and there were some cool things worth seeing), so instead of repeating it all here, you should check it out. Some must-see highlights from yesterday include: the Islanders scoring two shorties on the Rangers on two consecutive penalty kills in a span of two minutes, and just barely missing a third one (after the Rangers tied at 3, the Isles pulled themselves together and won 5-3); Alex Ovechkin scored his 400th goal, a feat well worth noting (though, deflatingly, it was an ENG), Backstrom assisted on all 4 Caps goals, Caps PP works like dynamite and blows everything into pieces, and there was a reason Vigneault never let the Sedin twins take part in shootouts - they are so laughably bad at them. The Canucks still have Luongo and Kesler so they did beat the Hawks, in SO, in Chicago. Stranger things have happened, I guess.
And lastly, some women's hockey that is bound to be even more fun than men's come Olympics. Last night's exhibition between Canada and USA was fun, Americans won handily yet again, 4-1, which didn't sit too well with Canadians so there was another all-out brawl and the penalty boxes were six-deep. The two teams square off again on December 28, and I'm setting my DVR.
Don't forget it's an early game today: join the thread at 1 pm. Let's go Pens!