A few quick hits for the last two-day break in game action we'll see this regular season:
As you've probably seen by now, Marc-Andre Fleury is the Penguins nominee for the Masterton trophy- representing "the player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication to hockey." Can't argue any of that, Fleury's been the ultimate good soldier as he's had to watch a younger guy take his job as the starting goalie.
Personally, I thought Conor Sheary who's went from 5'7 player that was undrafted to an AHL only contract to dominating that league to getting an NHL chance to putting up 50 points in 55 games on Sidney Crosby's line has shown a lot of dedication over the years.
Ditto Justin Schultz, persevering through his tough times in Edmonton, coming to Pittsburgh and going from one of the NHL's worst defenseman to one of the league's best in under a year. Quite a story.
But, can't argue against Fleury, a true sportsman and great guy/teammate. It's also difficult to get too amped up for the Masterton, the one trophy the Penguins haven't won in years past despite some pretty powerful stories in Kris Letang (stroke) and Sidney Crosby (concussion back to best player) in recent years.
Everyone's favorite topic: expansion draft! ESPN did an interesting mock of quickly just choosing players from each team without considering potential Vegas strategies like trades. Here's who the experts had the Penguins losing:
- Scott Burnside: Brian Dumoulin
- Craig Custance: no Penguin made his projected 23 man Vegas roster....So I assume Vegas takes a player like Derrick Pouliot or Oskar Sundqvist and assigns to the AHL? That's me guessing on his behalf, though.
- Pierre Lebrun: Carl Hagelin
- Joe McDonald: Hagelin
Alright, you animals, chop it up in the comments about everyone's favorite subject. Personally I don't see the Penguins leaving Dumoulin available, it makes the most sense for them to go 8 skaters protected (Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and Letang all auto-picked....Add Hornqvist, Schultz, Maatta, Dumoulin). Naturally, the overly processed matter of trading Fleury will have to be finalized as well.
Either way, it is possible that Hagelin could be left exposed, as well as guys with value like Ian Cole and Bryan Rust who there's almost no room for. Pittsburgh is going to lose someone they would rather not, but that's the deal with expansion.
Spring is here and so is warm weather. Need a new sweet shirt? Of course!
Gotta take the good with the bad for injury news:
No Cullen, Malkin or Ruhwedel at #Pens practice. Sheary, Guentzel and Hainsey are skating. -MC— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) March 28, 2017
Conor Sheary was in a regular black injury jersey. No official word on his status for tomorrow night but after leaving Sunday's game early and not returning, that's a pretty encouraging sign that he won't be out of the lineup too much longer.
Jake Guentzel and Ron Hainsey were both in no-contact jerseys but more importantly were just out there in the first place with the team. That's a step forward for both in the process of returning.
Still no Evgeni Malkin which means he almost certainly won't be back for tomorrow night's game. Coach Mike Sullivan has said they have a "game plan" for Malkin, but he hasn't skated in quite some time. As of now it certainly looks as if the Penguins full focus is getting Malkin as healthy as possible for the playoffs versus trying to rush him back now in the seeding battle in the Metro Division. That's probably for the best.
Pens forwards in 3v3 drill:— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) March 28, 2017
This isn't necessarily the forward lines for tomorrow's game versus Chicago, but they well could be. Why the team continues to insist on Phil Kessel on a 3rd line with almost nothing to work with is beyond me, especially with Phil in a recent scoring slump.
Sullivan loves his 3-line talent split but at this point it seems unproductive to play guys like Bryan Rust (recently back from injury) and Chris Kunitz in top-6 roles and doom Kessel to play with guys like Carter Rowney. Doesn't seem very conducive to helping Kessel bust a slump.