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Pens Points Friday: Lightning Game Day

Pens survive Leafs, but questions remain. Is Despres going to stick around for a while? Bryzgalov gets shutout in first start. Did the 2005 lockout serve to improve the '03 draft class?

J. Meric

Good morning one and all!

Hope everyone in the US had a great Thanksgiving. From a cold and snowy Yankee Lake in upstate NY, here are your Black Friday tasty morning links:

Fitting in with the Thanksgiving theme (bear with us, this is the last of TG but it was really funny), PensInitiative tries to match Pens players to the foods they'd be in a typical TG meal. (Hint: Sid's a turkey but Geno's something bigger.)

We're now a day and a half removed from the 6-5 slugfest against Toronto, a game that was remarkable for a Penguins comeback, yes, but also for a litany of mistakes in the defensive zone that dug the Pens in that hole to begin with. Kris Letang deemed his first shift of the second period "probably the worst shift of my life". That game was all over the place, according to Dan Bylsma.

Improved play of Simon Despres in his first game following the return to the Pens reportedly has the coaching staff impressed. Despres was probably the best Pens defenseman against the Leafs, which is not saying much, but at any rate he looks to stay in the lineup for Friday's game in Tampa. Here's your official game preview.

The competitive landscape in today's matchup is altered by the absence of Steven Stamkos who is nevertheless making miraculous strides in his recovery from a serious tibial fracture. He may, possibly, be available to team Canada in Sochi after all.

The similar question is now being posed in regards to Paul Martin, who was hoping (and was considered a near-lock) to make team USA. His tibial fracture is apparently less serious as it doesn't require surgery, but it came with a 4-6 week estimated absence and could very well make the unlucky blueliner miss the cut he was very hopeful to make. Martin's injury could keep him out until after Christmas or even further, and Team USA will be announced on January 1 as part of the Winter Classic festivities. Given that Pens staff is also USA's staff, my hope is they'll at least have a first-hand insight into his recovery, progress and potential availability.

Has Pascal Dupuis gone from underpaid overachiever to overpaid underachiever? He's still near the top on the Pens in ES scoring, though now that he makes the same salary as Kunitz, is it reasonable to expect the same production? From Dave Molinari, a look at Dupuis who is still keeping up high levels in other parts of his game, despite a relative scoring drought.

I've officially had enough of watching Robert Bortuzzo's arrested development in Pittsburgh, what with getting continually scratched in favor of Deryk Engelland, which is a ridiculous travesty for both the player and team. While I'm happy Simon Despres is getting another opportunity, I can't imagine what Bortuzzo did to deserve this. If one bad game (against the Flyers) is all it took for Bylsma to sentence this kid to the press box for the remainder of the season, then I guess Kris Letang should eat nachos while forfeiting pay for the next 8 years.

Over the last 3 seasons, James Neal has been one of the top scorers in the NHL, with 131 points in 131 games played. Following his return from injury earlier this month, Nealer is hitting his stride, with 11 points (6G, 5A) in the last 5 games.

In a look around the league, only two games were on tap last night, but they were fun (admittedly I only saw highlights, because, well, turkey and stuffing).

That's it for today. #29 turned 29 yesterday (happy belated, Flower). #15 turns 30 today (happy happy, Tank, and heal up soon). Given it's Tampa and they always activate Malkin's beast mode, let's hope the scoring flurry continues for Geno and Lazy. Don't forget it's a 4 pm start. Let's go Pens.