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Pensburgh Ups and Downs: January 2016

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Ups and Downs: January 2016. Find out which individuals played well, and which had rocky months for the first month of the calendar year.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

December pretty much sucked for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pascal Dupuis had to hang up the skates. The team's slump and ill-fiting system cost Mike Johnston his job, followed by an adjustment period to Mike Sullivan's more uptempo system. Marc-Andre Fleury had a concussion and missed most the month. December nearly derailed the Pens to the point where 2015-16 was starting to look like a lost season on the wrong side of the playoff bubble, a shocking development for a star-powered team expected to contend.

Luckily for Pittsburgh January was a stabilizing month with a 6-2-3 record, including wins in 4 out of the last 5 and at least a point in the standings in 7 of the last 8 games of the month. There was excitement, as there always is; Clendening and Perron were sent to Anaheim for Hagelin. Pouliot made his NHL debut. It all ends with the Pens clinging to the last spot in the playoffs as the month ends. Not a stable place to be, but one they can improve on as the season hits the unofficial back stretch following the all-star game.

You can check out past Ups and Downs for this season:

Goalies Performance Comments
Marc-Andre Fleury http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png The ol' workhorse Fleury is back; started 10 of the team's 11 games this month, a great 6-1-3 record, strong 2.27 GAA and .923 save % and 2 shutouts. Is giving the team a more than a chance to win every game after numerous slow starts from the skaters in front of him.
Jeff Zatkoff http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png Only played one game on the month on 1/18 vs STL and it wasn't a good one (0-1, 4.23 GAA, .833 save %). Expect limited playing time to continue as he hasn't shown much this season, which will force the Pens to lean on MAF as much as possible.
Defensemen
Ian Cole http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png 0 points in 9 games this month, and now officially seems mired as the #7 defenseman with the recall of Pouliot. Quite the fall from grace for Cole, who entered the season on the top pair, and now can't crack the lineup due to poor performance.
Adam Clendening
http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Traded to Anaheim. I still have no idea if Clendening is a good or bad NHL player, but the Pens coaches only played him 9 games (and none since 12/19). Clendening was subsequently waived by the Ducks and claimed by Edmonton, so hopefully he gets a chance to play out there.
Trevor Daley http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png A tied-for defense high 3 goals in January, plus added an assist. Daley isn't without his flaws defensively, but he's added some speed and puck-skills to the back-line, and has looked decent in spot shifts on the top-line when Letang's been injured. In all, a solid veteran add that the Pens have needed given Cole's decline.
Brian Dumoulin http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png A modest 0 goal, 2 assist month for Dumoulin, but he continues to log a bunch of minutes and perform well in his role as a top-4 defenseman for the Pens. He's looking very comfortable for a player still technically an NHL rookie.
Ben Lovejoy
http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png 0g+2a for Lovejoy who's season is starting to slow down. Only 20 hits, an even +/- and 13 blocked shots on the month (all season lows) and just 15 shots on goal in 11 games. 
Kris Letang http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Simply sensational stats for Letang, 3 goals + 11 assists (6 of the helpers on the PP) in just 10 games, including the back-end of the month where he was nursing a hurt hand/wrist that prevented him from practicing. Letang's been a huge difference maker and driver of the offensive engine.
Olli Maatta http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Respectable 5 points (1g+4a) in the 11 games, including what stood as the GWG on 1/17 vs CAR, but wasn't without some adventures in his own end, including getting zoomed past by J. Hansen on 1/23. Also could stand to shoot the puck a little more with on 12 SOG in 11 games in Jan (compared to 23 SOG in 13 in Dec).
Derrick Pouliot http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Welcome back to the NHL, Derrick Pouliot! After a half-season apprenticeship in the AHL, the youngster picked up 1 point (an assist) in his second game of the season so far. The Pens are bringing him along very slowly - but it's telling they didn't assign him back to the AHL for the all-star break. Pouliot is probably here to stay, if he can prove he's ready for prime time.
David Warsofsky http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Diagnosed with a concussion after a bizarre injury caused by referee Tim Peel vs CAR on 1/17. That was Wars only game of the month, and when he's healthy again, he'll find himself #8 on the NHL depth chart now with Pouliot up, which isn't a great place to be.
Forwards
Beau Bennett
http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Dude is a Greek tragedy at this point; comes back from 5 week shoulder injury on 1/23 only to throw a shoulder check in his first game back to re-injure said shoulder. Back on the IR.
Nick Bonino http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Missed the last 6 games of the month after a likely broken finger/hand from blocking a shot 1/12 vs Carolina. Should be back in a couple of weeks, and hopefully can reboot his season, which after only 3 goals in 40 games, could certainly use a reboot.
Sidney Crosby
http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Crosby kicked it in high-gear during January with a team high 8 goals (4 on PP and 3 of them GWG) and 6 assists for 14 points in the 11 games, for season highs in G,A and P. He's looked reinvigorated, focused and dangerous just about every shift, just like the Sid of old.
Matt Cullen
http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Only 3 points (1g+2a) on the month, but Cullen has shown positional flexibility to not look out of place filling in on the top line wing for injury replacement, and his strong work as a PK center has helped ease the loss of Bonino. In all, another solid month for what's been a solid depth player for the team this season.
Pascal Dupuis http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Haven't heard much still from old Duper, but he did recently tweet about the charity Pens and Pins bowling tournament next month.
Eric Fehr
http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png With injury comes opportunity, and Bonino down has necessitated a shift for Fehr from 4th line RW to lower-line center. He had minimal production on the month (1g+0a) but adds size and PK ability. One thing to watch will be faceoffs, which he wasn't asked to take much until now, and his 47% on 104 January draws isn't impressive.
Carl Hagelin http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Certainly made an impression, with 4 points (all assists) in 5 games with the Pens after a 1/16 trade to the team and points in 4 straight. Also 13 shots in the 5 games. Hagelin has opened up opportunities with his speed and found quick chemistry on the 2nd line with Malkin-Kessel. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to be a consistent point producer.
Patric Hornqvist
http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png January was a huge month for Hornqvist, who solidified himself as Crosby's right-winger with 11 points (3g+8a) in 11 games, including 4 PP points where he's been highly effective screening goalies and doing dirty work for the 4 stars on the ice.
Phil Kessel
http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Good month for the thrill with 10 points (4g+6a) in 11 games, most of that coming in the end of the month (7p in last 6gp). With only (for him) 33 SOG he probably can stand to pull the trigger a little more, but it almost feels like he's finding his footing and getting comfortable with his coach and teammates especially after the Hagelin trade.
Tom Kuhnhackl http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Played the last 8 games, earning 1 assist in a checking line role, but doesn't really stand out. Has pretty good size, isn't a lumbering skater but hasn't shown a ton of puck skills. Good on him for making his NHL debut and earning a long look, but I'm still not quite sure what he's bringing to the team.
Chris Kunitz http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Kunitz was having a decent month (3g+2a) before going back first into the boards vs PHI on 1/21 trying to deliver a check. Was diagnosed with a stinger, hopefully the 36-year old heals up, the team needs him at full power.
Evgeni Malkin http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Great month for Geno with 5g+8a in 11 games, highlighted by a hat-trick 1/23 vs VAN.. And a buried gem: only 4 minor penalties in those 11 games (after taking 10 in 14 games in Dec). Malkin has been focused and consistently productive all season.
David Perron http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Traded to Anaheim, where he broke out with his new squad scoring 5 points (2g+3a) in his first 4 games there. Seems like a beneficial trade for both sides, with each player fitting into his new team better than he was going with his old. All the best, DP57.
Sergei Plotnikov http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png AHL players with no experience are playing over him now. Not sure why, but the coaches don't seem to have Plotnikov (who only played 3 games in Jan) in their plans. It doesn't seem like he will be seeing much more playing time in February at this rate.
Kevin Porter http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Dressed for all 11 games of the month, Porter only recorded 1 assist. About the best thing about him is the coach seems to like him, and the team does well when he kills penalties. That's more than most 4th-liners-of-the-past can say, but an upgrade could probably be used before the deadline.
Bryan Rust http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Rust played 8 games in the NHL in January, scoring 2g+0a (and the GWG 1/9 vs MTL). He adds some speed to a lower-line, and wasn't demoted to the AHL for all-star weekend, his position in the lineup right now seems relatively secure among the forwards who started the year in the AHL.
Conor Sheary http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png

Sheary played 8 NHL games with 1g+0a and only 6 SOG. He's flashed his impressive speed in spurts, but otherwise hasn't been much of a difference maker. He was sent back to the AHL for all-star weekend, and it remains to be seen if he'll be back or if he can be a difference maker should he be back in the NHL.