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Trusting Zatkoff, a test for Johnston

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Bylsma didn't trust Zatkoff against good teams in back-to-back games, how will Johnston deploy the backup in order to keep him sharp and Fleury rested?

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

During the 2013-2014 season, Jeff Zatkoff was Marc-Andre Fleury's backup and former head coach Dan Bylsma's usage of the goaltender made it quite clear, he didn't trust the unproven goaltender in back-to-back situations, especially against good teams.

As Hooks Orpik wrote back in February for PensBurgh, the deployment usage by Mike Johnston was different with the Fleury and Thomas Greiss tandem than that of Bylsma a season earlier using Fleury and Zatkoff.

Analytical review shows a team's performance, thus the starting goalies own will drop in the second game of back to backs, which makes it important to play the backup in the first or second game.

Last year, Fleury played in both games of a back-to-back set just twice.

A 4-3 OT loss that he was pulled after three goals against on eight shots in 20:52 of action against the Tampa Bay Lighting on December 23rd. The second was a 2-0 shutoff on April 11th against the Buffalo Sabres. Yeah that game, the playoff clinching victory.

If Johnston is to take the same approach with Fleury this season, it will require him to trust Zatkoff to handle those 17 games and not shy away from the tough games like Bylsma did with him.

Back to Back Schedule is Tough

As noted above, Penguins will play 34 games in 17 sets of back to back games but it won't be easy as only 13 of the 34 will be at home.

The Capitals, Devils, and Red Wings have the schedule maker to thank getting the Penguins twice in the 34 games as the home team, while Penguins will only have the Hurricanes twice at home.

Penguins will be the home team for only 5 out of 17 second games against Buffalo, Edmonton, Carolina, Washington, and Philadelphia. In the first game, they'll be the home team for one of them.

Penguins will play 4 sets in October and November then double that number in December with four more.

Kessel in Back to Back games

Last season, Phil Kessel played in 36 games (18 sets) posting an average of 12.61 ES Corsi For in the second game, which was better than his 11.78 first game average.

By comparison:

Patric Hornqvist played in 15 sets: First game 13.07 / Second game 13.27

Alex Ovechkin played in 16 sets: First game 17.00 / Second game 17.125

It is a safe expectation that Kessel will increase his Cori For numbers playing with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin throughout the season and should be just under those numbers by Ovechkin.