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Talking to Myself: Shoulders, Elbows, and Divisional Woes

This week, I talk about other people talking about Olli Maatta's shoulder, Ryan Suter's elbow, the Pens' divisional struggles and more.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

January 13, Penguins Live

Head coach Mike Johnston on Derrick Pouliot being sent down:  "The key thing for Derrick is, we want to get him playing.  If he's not in our lineup here, we need to get him playing.  A young defenseman like that, we want in the lineup, playing lots of minutes with [Wilkes-Barre head coach] John Hynes.  That will give Derrick a chance to play in all situations.  He did a good job up here, but it's a maturing process.  We don't want Harrington or Dumoulin or Pouliot sitting here waiting for their opportunity to play.  They're close enough if we need them, we can make the switch if we decide to."

This is in contrast to how Scott Harrington was handled earlier.  He was recalled and scratched a bunch of times.  He sat again yesterday.  Getting these kids playing time is unquestionably the right move, even if that policy hasn't been consistently applied all season.

January 13, Penguins Hotline

Phil Bourque on Olli Maatta being shut down for the year: "At 20 years old, to go through shoulder surgery last summer after such a great year, then you find out you have cancer, you have a lump in your neck and have to go through that, then you get the mumps, and now this news here about the shoulder again, you feel for him.  He's a great hockey player.  He's going to be a great NHL player for many years to come.  Just make sure this is done right.  Now you can really take your time.  You're going to have 7-8 months to get this thing bang-on right so you never have to worry about it again."

Terrible news for Maatta.  Hopefully this surgery works and the additional time helps his rehab.  Bob Grove and Bourque also talked about how this might impact general manager Jim Rutherford's plans going forward.  There's been a lot of talk about UFA-to-be Paul Martin being traded.  I didn't buy into him being shopped solely due to his UFA status, though if an actual hockey deal presented itself, I thought a move could be possible.  Without Maatta, it's even harder to see how a Martin deal could make the team better.

January 14, Penguins Live

Steve Kolbe on Ryan Suter's elbow that knocked Steve Downie out of the game: "In real time, that would have been a tough one to pick up.  Suter is not that type of player.  And I saw a quote today, and maybe Sidney Crosby said something to Suter on the other side, and I quote here 'Come on Sid, you know what type of guy I am.'  That was the response from Suter after that hit."

Suter may not be a dirty player, but that was a dirty elbow.  Given the system the NHL has in place, 2 games for a first offense in which a serious injury did not occur is about as good as you could get, so I'm satisfied.  Personally though, I think it should have been at least 5 just because of how avoidable it was.  There was no reason for him to flare out his elbow like that.  The Hockey Hurts website has a matrix with a variety of criteria they use to come up with proposed suspensions.  I don't know that it's perfect, but I like it more than what the NHL does.  Their numbers usually have some teeth to them that might actually serve as a deterrent and seem to focus more on the act and less on the result.  Suter would have received 10 under their system, and he'd have lost close to $1M in salary.

Sam Kasan on Coach Johnston:  "Every day, the PR staff sends around clips on the team from the local beat writers or anybody that writes about the team.  Mike Johnston does not receive those clips.  From day 1, he said 'I don't want to receive the clips, I don't want to read what is being said about me because I don't care.'  In a sport where so many people and so many egos and so many concerns about what being said, here's a guy that literally gives zero cares.  All he cares about is his team, his coaching staff, his players and how they're doing.  He's not letting outside distractions tinker with anything he's doing.  He's not feeling that outside pressure a lot of people talk about with the Penguins.  He doesn't really care about that stuff."

Johnston's inaugural season as an NHL head coach hasn't been perfect.  There have been some things I haven't understood, and the Pens' divisional play has been a big red mark, but overall, I've been impressed with him so far.

January 15, Penguins Live

Brian Metzer takes a deeper look at Sidney Crosby's alleged down year: "People want to say Crosby is underachieving, but he's leading the league in points per game with 1.21 points/game and that's in 39 games.  Everybody else has played 42, 43, 44 games.  Jakub Voracek is at 1.18, Evgeni Malkin is number three at 1.17.  Yes, he's not scoring goals right now, but he's still rolling up points and that's still going to make you just as successful.  The interesting thing here, December is the month that killed Sidney Crosby.  Over the October, November, and January schedule so far, Sid appeared in 28 games and put up 42 points, an average of 1.5 points/game.  In December, where keep in mind he had the mumps... he didn't show outward signs of this, but its still a virus, it makes you lethargic. You don't just bounce back from not playing for a week and have your legs under you the way you need them to be.  He put up just 5 points in the month of December in 11 games.  That brought everything down..  Had he maintained his previous rate of scoring, he'd have probably an additional 16 more points and he'd have 58 points and be leading the league in scoring and nobody would be talking anything about it.  Overall, he had that bad 11 game stretch, and it wasn't even really a month because he missed games."

Crosby's goal totals dipped this season, but he's still been very productive.  He's picked up the goal production recently (4 in his last 4 games, thanks David Perron).  I think the slump talk was less about the actual numbers and more about how he looked.  There was a lot of perimeter play and forced passes, even when good shooting opportunities were there.  Lately, he's been more aggressive offensively, both with shooting and with attacking the defense and taking the puck to the net.

January 16, Penguins Live

Wes Crosby on Marc-Andre Fleury (finally) getting the All-Star call:  "It was great, especially for me, who is somewhat of a Marc-Andre Fleury apologist of course. [laughs] The guy deserves it and I thought he should have been in there anyway.  I don't think it should have taken injuries to get him in there.  Quite frankly, this is the best season of his career.  I looked at his other all-star year in 2010-11; his numbers weren't even close.  He has six shutouts.  I don't really know what else he could have done.  Marc-Andre Fleury has been the Penguins best player this year.  He's the reason why they are where they are.  There was a period of time in late December, early January where the Penguins could not score more than 2 goals.  They just couldn't.  They relied on Marc-Andre Fleury to at least get a point, and he did, almost every time.  He's the reason they didn't go on long losing streaks.  He kept them in it when Sidney Crosby wasn't scoring goals and even when Evgeni Malkin went on a little bit of a goal drought too."

I have a tough time getting worked up about the All-Star Game, but I do agree with Crosby that Fleury should have been there from the start.  At the end of the day, he got the call, so I guess it all worked out.  I don't think going will tire him out much.  Sure, he could have been relaxing on a beach somewhere, but he'll probably play one period and knowing his personality, he'll have a blast doing it.  This probably won't be anymore taxing on him than a practice or two.  I would like to see the coaches rest him a little more by getting Thomas Greiss into more games though.  There's no reason Greiss can't make at least 1 start per week.

January 18, Penguins Hotline

Bourque, on the heels of two more divisional losses:  "I'm officially concerned now.  If we were talking in November, I'm probably not putting a lot of weight into it, but here we are in the middle of January and the Penguins are 6-8-3 in their own division.  That's unacceptable.  That's unacceptable for this club."

The Pens' struggles within their division have been the biggest issue for them so far.  If only they could take how they've managed to overcome regular season injuries over the years and apply it to this problem...  The frustrating part about it for me is that so much of it seems to be self-inflicted.  Maybe we should all hope they drop down into a wildcard spot and end up on the Atlantic division side of the Eastern conference playoff bracket.