All-Star break is over and the Pittsburgh Penguins are gearing up for the unofficial beginning of the second half of the season. Tomorrow they get the Winnipeg Jets- make that the impressively surprising 26-14-8 Jets in Pittsburgh before a tough road trip to Washington on Wednesday, and an always dreaded trip to New Jersey on Friday. Then a quick turnaround for a Sunday afternoon matinee at home against Nashville before taking the show out west for 3 games in 4 days in Western Canada with an Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver roadie.
Tough stretch of 7 games in 12 days so we hope the players enjoyed their break, they won't have another one even close to it one for some time.
Upcoming Goaltending Schedule
With those 7 games in 12 days, and a goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury playing at the all-star game (the less said, the better), Pittsburgh is going to have to be cautious and smart with the goalie work-rates. Dave Molinari of the PG says indications are that Thomas Greiss will play the first game tomorrow (vs. Winnipeg) to clear Fleury for Wednesday in Washington. Wise move and a smart breakout- Winnipeg is playing well but feed the backup to the non-divisonal team and let Fleury (career 20-10-3 vs Washington, including playoffs) get the start in the more important game.
Minor league call-ups:
Pens brought back up some farm teamers:
Wilson could be the most interesting- he got hurt in his first game in the NHL, so we haven't really seen what the rookie can do just yet. He's only recently been healthy but has put up 8 points in the last 4 games down in Wilkes-Barre, so hopefully he gets a chance to show where he's at.
Also, reading between the lines, it would seem like a good sign for the health of Kris Letang to see that uber-prospect Derrick Pouliot has not been recalled. Harrington has basically been on the Pittsburgh-WB/S yo-yo now as the #7 defenseman in the organization with the long-term injury to Olli Maatta, so not bringing back Pouliot seems to indicate Letang may be on the mend.
Zac Rinaldo has his hearing today with the NHL still scheduled, despite the weather on the east coast today. Rinaldo will face the music for his hit on Letang and hopefully justice will be served.
Injured players update
Patric Hornqvist and Blake Comeau
Both skated for about 40 minutes today just before Penguins practice together, with strength coach Mike Kadar. This is a good step for Hornqvist (lower body) and Comeau (wrist) who haven't been on the ice in some time, and as coach Mike Johnston predicted, would get out there today in the next step of their respective rehabs. Hopefully, ideally, they could be 7-10 days away from the lineup. Hornqvist even returned for the full team practice, which should put him a little closer on the timeline to returning, which is truly great news for a team that needs it.
Crosby, as you may have heard, pulled out of the All-Star game with a lower body injury, and the team even revealed that Crosby received an injection for an injury suffered in a 1/10 game vs. Montreal. Crosby, by missing the ASG, is subject to miss the team's next game, and he wasn't at Penguins practice today which may indicate that his absence could stretch longer than that. We'll see if we get an update, but for now it isn't great short-term news that Crosby was out for today's practice, even though in the long run it might prove to be a blessing to get him back (or as close) to 100% as possible.
Malkin missed last week's game vs. Chicago with a lower-body injury and his return doesn't seem so certain- he was officially placed on IR today (though retroactive to last week, so no big deal) and also wasn't at practice. Based on Johnston's comments last week, Malkin's participation in the next few games seems highly unlikely, so we'll have to see when he's able to take to the ice again for practice before progressing back to a game.
After practicing the day of the Chicago game, but not playing, Letang returned to practice today. As mentioned above with the Pouliot non-recall, Letang probably will be back sooner than later. Without Letang the Pens do have 6 healthy defenseman, but the team usually doesn't carry the bare minimum of healthy bodies on defense. Perhaps they'll recall Pouliot tomorrow if Letang isn't cleared/ready to go, but otherwise the safe assumption seems to be a return to game action sooner than later.
Missed the Chicago game with an "illness" but returned to practice and presumably is good to go.