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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Top Five Pittsburgh Penguins Goals of 2008

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The Penguins scored a lot of goals in 2008. These goals may not be the prettiest or the fanciest goals they scored, but they are the most emotional and the most memorable.

I still get goosebumps watching these goals.

Enjoy!

January 1st, 2008 - Sidney Crosby wins the Winter Classic:


November 11th, 2008 - Ruslan Fedotenko scores in overtime to complete a comeback win against the Detroit Red Wings


May 9th, 2008 - "Evgeni Malkin says 'Take That!'" to the Flyers


June 2nd, 2008 - Maxime Talbot ties game five against the Red Wings


June 2nd, 2008 - Petr Sykora wins game five against the Red Wings


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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Year In Review

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2008 was a great year for Penguins hockey. The year began with the memorable Winter Classic. In the first outdoor regular season NHL game played in the United States, Sidney Crosby scored in a shootout to win the game for the Penguins. The team went on to win the Atlantic division title, their first division title in 10 years. They then became Eastern Conference Champions, dispatching of the Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers with relative ease. They played in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1992. It was one of the most memorable years in Penguins history.

Over the next few days, as the results of our survey come in, we will examine the Best of 2008.

However, today we will look at an in depth statistical breakdown of the year that was.

THE PITTSBURGH PENGUINS IN 2008 - BY THE NUMBERS

These numbers start with the Penguins/Sabres game on January 1st, 2008 and end with the Penguins/Bruins game on December 30th, 2008 and only include regular season games.

All data is taken from Hockey-Reference.com.


Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Regular Season Record:
46-25-10

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Regular Season Home Record:
24-10-5

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Regular Season Road Record:
22-15-5

Regular Season Goals For in 2008:
256

Regular Season Goals Against in 2008:
215

Regular Season Home Goals For in 2008:
136

Regular Season Home Goals Against in 2008:
96

Regular Season Road Goals For in 2008:
120

Regular Season Road Goals Against in 2008:
119

Longest winning streak in 2008:
Six games (Nov. 1 - Nov. 15)

Longest losing streak in 2008:
Three games (Twice: Oct. 25 - Oct. 30 and Dec. 6 - Dec. 10)

Longest home winning streak in 2008:
Seven games (Mar. 12 - Apr. 2)

Longest home losing streak in 2008:
Four games (Dec. 12 - Dec. 30)

Longest road winning streak in 2008:
Five games (Nov. 1 - Nov. 26)

Longest road losing streak in 2008:
Three games (Oct. 25 - Oct. 30)

Most goals scored in one game in 2008:
Nine (Nov. 12 versus New York Islanders)

Most goals allowed in one game in 2008:
Seven (Dec. 20 versus Toronto Maple Leafs)

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Regular Season Record VS. Eastern Conference:
42-22-8

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Regular Season Record VS. Western Conference:
4-3-2

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Regular Season Record VS. Atlantic Division:
18-6-5

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Regular Season Record VS. Northeast Division:
11-10-1

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Regular Season Record VS. Southeast Division:
13-6-2

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Regular Season Record VS. Pacific Division:
1-2-1

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Regular Season Record VS. Central Division:
2-0-0

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Regular Season Record VS. Northwest Division:
1-1-1

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008 Regular Season By Opponent:
VS. Anaheim Ducks: 0-0-0
VS. Atlanta Thrashers: 3-1-1
VS. Boston Bruins: 1-3-0
VS. Buffalo Sabres: 5-2-0
VS. Calgary Flames: 0-0-0
VS. Carolina Hurricanes: 3-1-0
VS. Chicago Blackhawks: 0-0-0
VS. Colorado Avalanche: 0-0-0
VS. Columbus Blue Jackets: 0-0-0
VS. Dallas Stars: 0-0-0
VS. Detroit Red Wings: 1-0-0
VS. Edmonton Oilers: 1-0-0
VS. Florida Panthers: 3-1-0
VS. Los Angeles Kings: 1-0-0
VS. Minnesota Wild: 0-0-1
VS. Montreal Canadiens: 2-1-0
VS. Nashville Predators: 0-0-0
VS. New Jersey Devils: 5-1-2
VS. New York Islanders: 6-1-0
VS. New York Rangers: 2-1-3
VS. Ottawa Senators: 1-3-1
VS. Philadelphia Flyers: 5-3-0
VS. Phoenix Coyotes: 0-1-0
VS. San Jose Sharks: 0-1-1
VS. St. Louis Blues: 1-0-0
VS. Tampa Bay Lightning: 3-2-0
VS. Toronto Maple Leafs: 2-1-0
VS. Vancouver Canucks: 0-1-0
VS. Washington Capitals: 1-1-1


What can we learn from these numbers? Well, first of all, the Penguins only lost ten home games in regulation in 2008. Unfortunately five of those ten losses have taken place in the last month.

The Penguins longest home losing streak also took place this month, and it may carry on into the new year. The Mellon Arena, which was once a very friendly building for the Penguins, is no longer doing the team any favours.

Still, the Penguins 2008 campaign was a very successful one, but what went in like a lion has definitely gone out like a lamb. The Penguins opened the year with a five game winning streak and ended it with two straight losses.

Over the next few days we will be revealing the results of the Best of 2008 Survey as we continue our wrap up of 2008.

Happy New Year from Penguins Experience!

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Game Recap: Bruins 5 - Penguins 2

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Marc Savard scored a goal and added two assists as the Boston Bruins defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 at the Mellon Arena. The Bruins scored two power play goals and a shorthanded goal in the victory. Petr Sykora and Pascal Dupuis scored for the Penguins who have lost two games in a row and eight of their last 12. This was the team's fourth straight loss at home.

The Boston Bruins lead the Eastern Conference in points and have now won nine straight games.

The Penguins opened the scoring in the first period when Petr Sykora banked in a rebound to give the Penguins their only lead of the night. Dustin Jeffrey recorded his first NHL point by assisting on that goal.

The Penguins managed to keep up with the Bruins for the first two periods, but in the third they fell behind and, by the mid-point of the period, they were dominated. Tim Thomas made several key saves and the Penguins allowed a backbreaking shorthanded goal that turned the tide against them for good.

The Penguins scored their first goal off a rebound. They then spent the rest of the night trying to be pretty. Their power play was ineffective, and an attempted back door play from Sidney Crosby to Ryan Whitney allowed the shorthanded goal that sealed the victory for Boston.

Much will be made of the number of marginal penalties called against the Penguins, but that is not what cost them the game. It helped the Bruins, but the Penguins would have lost that game anyway. Maybe the score would have been different but the Penguins' play in the third period and on the power play cost them a victory, not the referees.

The Penguins look like they are trying too hard to make perfect plays. They look like they are afraid to make mistakes, and this fear is causing even more mistakes. A defensive lapse late in the second period gave the Bruins the go ahead goal.

The Penguins are passing too much. This is especially true of their star players, but no one on the team is willing to sacrifice and work for goals. The team needs to go after "dirty" goals. The need to chip the puck in around the net. They need to create traffic. Their first goal was a clear example of this and yet they failed to continue this practice.

The back door play from Crosby to Whitney is well-known around the league. The Bruins scouted it and cut it off immediately. When the Crosby attempted it, despite the fact that the passing lane was blocked, the Bruins made them pay. Crosby needs to shoot more. Opposing teams are learning that he will likely pass the puck and thus they look to cut off his passing opportunities. It's working.

Malkin should no longer be on the point on the powerplay. He is too much of a defensive liability there. Whitney and Goligoski would do fine along the blue line while Crosby, Malkin and Satan/Sykora could play up front.

But then, someone needs to do the dirty work. People like Matt Cooke and Tim Wallace are creating a physical presence on the ice, but this needs to happen more, especially in front of the net. Dustin Jeffrey is willing to head to the net and chip in an "ugly" goal. More players needs to do that. Not every goal needs to be a highlight reel goal. Ryan Malone is making a ridiculous amount of money in Tampa Bay this year because he heads to the net and chips in pucks. In the NHL many goals are scored by hard work and dedication. But not on the Penguins.

Jordan Staal should be one of the players creating more of a physical presence. He is a large man and yet he rarely uses his body to his advantage. Max Talbot has been almost invisible recently. He needs to start mixing it up.

Maybe there is actually too much pure offensive talent on the power play. Perhaps adding some grit, like Matt Cooke or even Jeffrey or Wallace, would help. Something needs to change.

Of course, there are still injuries. The team is desperately missing Tyler Kennedy's physical work and energy. The team is desperately missing Mike Zigomanis' face off wins. The team is desperately missing its heart. Last year when Talbot and Crosby and Fleury and Roberts went down other players stepped up their game and filled in the holes. That is not happening this year.

The Penguins meet the Bruins again on Thursday, this time in Boston.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Game Preview: Boston Bruins @ Pittsburgh Penguins

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Mellon Arena

Game Time: 7:30pm/ET
From: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Penguins Record: 19-13-4 (7th in Eastern Conference)
Bruins Record: 27-5-1 (1st in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting: October 20th, 2008 @ Boston (2-1 Pens [SO])

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Miroslav Satan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Evgeni Malkin - Petr Sykora
Maxime Talbot - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke
Mike Wallace - Dustin Jeffrey - Alex Goligoski

Brooks Opik - Rob Scuderi
Hal Gill - Ryan Whitney
Phillipe Boucher - Mark Eaton

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury (11-6-2 / 2.86 GAA / .909 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Tyler Kennedy (sprained knee) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (upper body) - out indefinitely
Kris Letang (lower body) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game


BOSTON BRUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Milan Lucic - Marc Savard - Phil Kessel
P.J. Axelsson - Stephane Yelle - Chuck Kobasew
Blake Wheeler - David Krejci - Michael Ryder
Shawn Thornton - Vladimir Sobotka - Martin Pierre

Zdeno Chara - Mark Stuart
Dennis Wideman - Matt Lashoff
Matt Hunwick - Shane Hnidy

BOSTON BRUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Tim Thomas (15-3-3 / 2.04 GAA / .935 SV%)

BOSTON BRUINS INJURIES:
Andrew Ference (right leg surgery) - on injured reserve
Petteri Nokelainen (right arm/hand) - on injured reserve
Marco Sturm (knee) - on injured reserve
Aaron Ward (leg/ankle) - on injured reserve
Patrice Bergeron (concussion) - out indefinitely


PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Malkin (14)
ASSISTS: Malkin (44)
POINTS: Malkin (59)
+/-: Malkin (+22)

BOSTON BRUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Kessel (22)
ASSISTS: Savard (32)
POINTS: Savard (43)
+/-: Savard (+23)


Hal Gill returns to the Penguins line-up tonight. The Penguins defenseman has missed 10 games with a shoulder injury. He has not played since December 6th.

Interestingly it looks like, rather than making a defenseman a healthy scratch, Alex Goligoski will be moved to right wing on the fourth line. I also assume he will spend some time on defense, especially on the powerplay. Dressing seven defensemen is something the Penguins did last year, so we'll see how it works out.

Eric Godard will be the scratched forward for the Penguins.

Also, it looks like Tim Wallace will return to the Penguins line-up tonight. He provides a sort of toughness that the Penguins need, so it will be good to see him in action once again.

The Bruins are definitely hot. They lead the Eastern Conference and they have won eight games in a row going into tonight. The Bruins only loss this month came on December 10th in Washington. They are 11-1 on the month so far.

This will be a test for the Penguins who started slumping around the same time the Bruins started heating up. The Penguins December record is 5-7-1 and they have not won two games in a row since the middle of November.

The effort was there on Saturday night against Montreal, so hopefully the team will begin to trend upwards from there.

Gill returning will definitely help, especially on the penalty kill.

Tonight's game is the first of a home-and-home. The Penguins play in Boston on New Years Day.

Tonight will also be the 250th NHL game for Sidney Crosby and the 200th game for Jordan Staal. Staal will become the youngest player in NHL history to play 200 games.

Prediction: 4-2 Bruins
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why Don't Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin Like Each Other?

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From their interactions on the ice it's pretty obvious that there is some bad blood between Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

During games between Ovechkin's Washington Capitals and Malkin's Pittsburgh Penguins, Ovechkin frequently goes after Malkin, hitting him often, even when the hits are behind the play or when Malkin is not in a position to score. That's not like Alexander Ovechkin. He's typically a very smart hitter. He doesn't take himself out of position like that very often.

In recent international competitions Malkin and Ovechkin have both played for the Russia team, but they rarely played on the same line. Even during power plays the two were mostly kept apart.

Why?

A recent interview with Alexander Ovechkin sheds some light on this topic.

In an interview with Slava Malamud, posted on the Capitals Insider blog in the Washington Post, Ovechkin is asked about his relationship with Malkin.

"There is no war and everything that was between us is in the past. I just think that he was wrong in acting like he did. He said things that shouldn't have been said. I won't go into it in detail," said Ovechkin.

When pressed, Ovechkin stated that the fued has to do with Evgeni Malkin's Russian agent, Gennadiy Ushakov.

In 2007 it was reported that Alex Ovechkin had an argument with Evgeni Malkin's agent in a nightclub. Some say the argument turned into a physical confrontation.

In November of this year, Malkin told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Ovechkin punched Ushakov, calling it a "bad situation."

Ovechkin denies this.

However, in the Washington Post interview, Ovechkin goes on to say that there is no feud between the two players.

"I don't see any rivalry between myself and Malkin. Or between myself and Crosby. And now they are adding Semin to our threesome too. There is nothing of that sort: we just play, get our points, someone is in front, someone is second... Of course, a headline like 'Ovechkin Versus Malkin' catches the eye, but I don't see any reason to pour gasoline onto the fire," says Ovechkin.

So what NHL player does Ovechkin dislike?

"Jarkko Ruutu. He is the dirtiest player and does everything in an underhanded way. Just a rat running around," said Ovechkin.

While this interview sheds some light on the fued, it ends up providing more questions than it does answers.

Ovechkin may not have a professional fued with Malkin, he may just go out there and get points without much concern for his fellow countryman, but personally there does seem to be some definite hostility. Hostility that sometimes brings itself out on the ice.

The Capitals play in Pittsburgh on January 14th. We'll see what happens.
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Best of 2008 Survey

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Less than one week remains in 2008 and that means there is less than one week left to vote in our Best of 2008 Survey.

Once the winners are determined they will be announced during the first week of January.

In the survey you can vote for the Penguins game of the year, the Penguins player of the year, the biggest surprise of the year and more.

Again, you can complete the survey at THIS LINK [Link opens in new window.]

Have your say, vote today!
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sidney Crosby VS. John Tavares

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Sidney CrosbyJohn Tavares
Photos: CBC.ca and 4SportKeeper.com

John Tavares is tearing up the World Junior Championships this year. He had four points in Canada's 15-0 blowout victory against Kazakhstan today and will likely go first overall in next year's NHL entry draft. He has frequently been called "The Next One."

Obviously he is not the first to have been given this moniker.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby came into the NHL with similar hype. So how do the two players compare?

Tavares has won the CHL Player of the Year award, the OHL's Most Oustanding Player award and the CHL and OHL Rookie of the Year awards. He was a member of the OHL's First All-Star Team and OHL's First All-Rookie Team.

In order to be drafted to the OHL at the age of 14 (rather than 16) he became the first player ever to be granted "exceptional player" status by the league.

Sidney Crosby had his share of junior hockey awards as well.

Crosby was named CHL Player of the Year, QMJHL Most Valuable Player and was named Rookie of the Year in both the QMJHL and CHL. Crosby also won the scoring race in both the CHL and QMJHL along with being named to the All-Rookie Team and All-Star Team in both leagues.

In Tavares' best junior season thus far, he scored 72 goals and added 62 assists for 134 points. Crosby's best year was his final year in the QMJHL when he scored 66 goals and 102 assists for 168 points. Tavares is currently in his final year in the OHL. He currently has 25 goals, 27 assists and 52 points in 31 games. Crosby's best season saw him score 2.7 points per game. Tavares' is currently on a at 1.7 points per game pace.

However, the QMJHL is generally a higher scoring league. In the past ten years the CHL scoring champion has come from the QMJHL eight times.

So will John Tavares have the same degree of success in the NHL that Sidney Crosby has? That remains to be seen.

Several other players have been called "The Next One" and have not taken the league by storm (Eric Lindros and especially Alexandre Daigle come to mind.) Not all players who have had success in the CHL see that success translate to the NHL. Corey Locke, Simon Gamache and Ramzi Abid led the CHL in scoring, but did not make significant impacts in the NHL.

Tavares' success will also depend on the team that choses him. If he is drafted to a team that is dedicated to rebuilding and will surround him with players that will help him grow, he will be much more likely to succeed. If he is expected to come into the NHL and immediately carry a weak team, there is a chance he will stuggle.

Tavares will also have an age advantage when he enters the NHL. He missed the cutoff date for the 2008 entry draft by just five days and he will be 19 when he plays his first NHL game. Sidney Crosby played his first game at the age of 18. Tavares is also a slightly larger player and this, combined with his age, should make his transition to the NHL an easier one.
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Game Recap: Canadiens 3 - Penguins 2

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Andrei Kostitsyn scored three goals and Carey Price made 32 saves - including 17 in the third period - as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins last night at the Mellon Arena.

The loss was the Penguins seventh in the last eleven games. The team has not won back-to-back games since winning six in a row in mid-November.

Pascal Dupuis and Sidney Crosby scored for the Penguins. Crosby's goal was only his second in the last 13 games.

Last night was definitely a case of two players beating the entire Penguins team. Kostitsyn's three goals were the only ones scored by Montreal and Carey Price was unbeatable in the third period. He made several nearly impossible saves to win the game for the Canadiens. Malkin and Crosby were buzzing around the net for nearly the entire final frame and they were not able to get one past the Habs goaltender.

Marc-Andre Fleury had a decent game. The third Montreal goal was one he should have stopped, but the first two goals were caused by the Penguins defense collapsing around the net and allowing the Canadiens to jam the puck in. Fleury can not be faulted for either of those goals.

A good sign for the Pens was that the effort was definitely there. They worked hard all night and were simply beaten by a hot goaltender. The frustration was evident at the end of the game as Ryan Whitney smashed his stick against the glass as time ran out in the third period.

I would much rather have the Penguins lose games like this than how they lost last Saturday against the Leafs. It must be tough for the players however, to know they put in the strong effort that was needed and they still were not able to get the win.

The loss sent the Penguins into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, only three points ahead of ninth place Carolina.

The Penguins now head into a home-and-home against the Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins.
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Game Preview: Montreal Canadiens @ Pittsburgh Penguins

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Pittsburgh Penguins Third Jersey Night
Game Time: 7:00pm/ET
From: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Penguins Record: 19-12-4 (6th in Eastern Conference)
Canadiens Record: 18-9-6 (5th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting: February 21st, 2008 @ Montreal (5-4 Pens)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Miroslav Satan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Evgeni Malkin - Petr Sykora
Maxime Talbot - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke
Ryan Stone - Dustin Jeffrey - Paul Bissonnette

Brooks Opik - Rob Scuderi
Phillipe Boucher - Alex Goligoski
Ryan Whitney - Mark Eaton

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury (11-5-2 / 2.84 GAA / .911 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Tyler Kennedy (sprained knee) - on injured reserve
Hal Gill (right shoulder) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (upper body) - out indefinitely
Kris Letang (lower body) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game


MONTREAL CANADIENS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Andrei Kostitsyn - Tomas Plekanec - Alexei Kovalev
Alex Tanguay - Robert Lang - Matt D'Agostini
Guillaume Latendresse - Maxim Lapierre - Tom Kostopoulos
Steve Begin - Ben Maxwell - Sergei Kostitsyn

Andrei Markov - Mike Komisarek
Roman Hamrlik - Josh Gorges
Patrice Brisebois - Francis Bouillon

MONTREAL CANADIENS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Carey Price (13-4-5 / 2.39 GAA / .919 SV%)

MONTREAL CANADIENS INJURIES:
Mathieu Dandenault (left arm surgery) - on injured reserve Christopher Higgins (left shoulder) - on injured reserve
Saku Koivu (right ankle/foot) - on injured reserve
Georges Laraque (groin) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Malkin (14)
ASSISTS: Malkin (44)
POINTS: Malkin (59)
+/-: Malkin (+23)

MONTREAL CANADIENS LEADERS:
GOALS: Lang (11)
ASSISTS: Markov (21)
POINTS: Tanguay (26)
+/-: Gorges (+14)


Dustin Jeffrey will make his NHL debut tonight, as the AHL Penguins continue their revolving tour through Pittsburgh. Paul Bissonnette will also be in the Penguins line-up. Before being sent to the AHL early in the season Bissonnette played six games in the NHL. Bissonnette leads the WBS Pens in penalty minutes.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have not won back-to-back games since November 13th - 15th. They have lost their last two home games by a combined score of 9-3.

For Montreal, former Penguin Georges Laraque will be placed on injured reserve due to a groin injury and he will miss tonight's game. The good news for the Canadiens is that Andrei Kostitsyn will return to the line-up tonight after missing two games with a leg injury.

Montreal captain Saku Koivu will also miss tonight's game with an unspecified lower body injury.

This will be a good goaltending duel between Carey Price and Marc-Andre Fleury. The offense will also be on display as Crosby and Malkin will meet the former Penguins duo of Alexei Kovalev and Robert Lang. Lang and Kovalev have been on a role recently.

The winner of tonight's game will be the sole owner of the number five position in the Eastern Conference.

Prediction: 3-2 Penguins

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Game Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Pittsburgh Penguins

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Game Time: 7:30pm/ET
From: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Penguins Record: 18-11-4 (7th in Eastern Conference)
Maple Leafs Record: 7-16-9 (14th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting: March 20th, 2008 @ Pittsburgh (4-2 Pens)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Miroslav Satan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Evgeni Malkin - Petr Sykora
Maxime Talbot - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke
Tim Wallace - Jeff Taffe - Eric Godard

Brooks Opik - Rob Scuderi
Mark Eaton - Whitney
Phillipe Boucher - Alex Goligoski

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury (10-4-2 / 3.06 GAA / .904 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Tyler Kennedy (sprained knee) - on injured reserve
Hal Gill (right shoulder) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (upper body) - out indefinitely
Kris Letang (undisclosed) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game


TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING LINE COMBINATIONS:
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Vaclav Prospal - Jeff Halpern - Mark Recchi
Jussi Jokinen - Paul Szczechura - Adam Hall
Matt Pettinger - Steven Stamkos - Evgeny Artyukhin

Andrej Meszaros - Steve Eminger
Paul Ranger - Lukas Krajicek
Marek Malik - Jamie Heward

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Mike Smith (5-12-8 / 2.50 GAA / .924 SV%)

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING INJURIES:
David Koci (broken hand) - on injured reserve
Gary Roberts (elbow/groin) - on injured reserve
Olaf Kolzig (upper body) - day-to-day


PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Malkin (15)
ASSISTS: Malkin (43)
POINTS: Malkin (58)
+/-: Malkin (+22)

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING LEADERS:
GOALS: St. Louis (12)
ASSISTS: St. Louis (15)
POINTS: St. Louis (27)
+/-: St. Louis (+4)


Ryan Malone returns to Pittsburgh for the first time as a visitor.

"I've been coming to this rink since I was a little kid and it's weird. I never really changed over in the visitors locker room before. So I'm looking forward to this, it's going to be fun," Malone said.

It will be interesting to see how Penguins fans react to the return of the first Pittsburgh born player in NHL history.

Former Penguins Adam Hall and Mark Recchi will also be in the line-up for Tampa Bay. Gary Roberts will not play due to an injury.

Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney will make his season debut tonight. Whitney has not played an NHL game since game six of the Stanley Cup Finals. He played his first professional game in months on Saturday night, earning a power play assist for the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Unfortunately another Penguins defenseman has suffered an injury. Kris Letang was injured during last night's game against the Buffalo Sabres. Letang is listed as day-to-day.

Hopefully the Penguins gained some positive momentum following yesterday's win. The Lightning have struggled this season and they have only won once in December. The Lightning are 1-8-3 on the month. The last time they won more than a single game in a row was in October when they won three straight games.

There is a chance that the Lightning could surprise the Penguins, however. Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos are all talented offensively and Mark Recchi always seems to step up his game against the Penguins.

The Penguins will need to maintain their focus and work for an entire 60 minutes in order to win this game. Focus and hard work have not been their strong suits this season.

Prediction: 6-4 Penguins

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Game Recap: Penguins 4 - Sabres 3 [OT]

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Alex Goligoski had two goals, Evgeni Malkin had three assists and Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. Pascal Dupuis also scored for the Penguins.

The Penguins are 2-2 against the Sabres this year. This was the final regular season meeting between the two teams.

Sidney Crosby's overtime goal proved to be a controversial one. It was immediately reviewed as some thought it may have been scored off of a high stick. Upon review it was cleared as a legal goal. The original referee's call on the ice was that it was a goal.

That hasn't stopped the controversy however.

Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller stated that he thought the goal should have been disallowed.

"I didn't get a great look, but from my gut feel I thought it was a little high," said Miller.

Marc-Andre Fleury played a good game. He wasn't outstanding but managed to hold the fort for the Penguins, especially in the third period where the Sabres badly outshot the Penguins 13-3. The final shots in the game were 35-22 Sabres.

The Penguins came back from a 2-0 second period deficit to win the game. It was the Penguins 11th comeback victory this season.

The Penguins return home tonight to face Ryan Malone and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Game Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Buffalo Sabres

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Game Time: 7:00pm/ET
From: HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY
Penguins Record: 17-11-4 (7th in Eastern Conference)
Sabres Record: 16-13-4 (9th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting:
December 8th, 2008 @ Pittsburgh (4-3 Sabres)


PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Miroslav Satan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Evgeni Malkin - Petr Sykora
Maxim Talbot - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke
Tim Wallace - Jeff Taffe - Eric Godard

Brooks Opik - Kris Letang
Rob Scuderi - Alex Goligoski
Phillipe Boucher - Hal Gill

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury

BUFFALO SABRES LINE COMBINATIONS:
Thomas Vanek - Jochen Hecht - Jason Pominville
Patrick Kaleta - Derek Roy - Drew Stafford
Clarke MacArthur - Adam Mair - Ales Kotalik
Andrew Peters - Matt Ellis - Daniel Paille

Jaroslav Spacek - Andrej Sekera
Hendrik Talinder - Toni Lydman
Teppo Numminen - Chris Butler

BUFFALO SABRES PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Ryan Miller

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Malkin (15)
ASSISTS: Malkin (40)
POINTS: Malkin (55)
+/-: Malkin (+19)

BUFFALO SABRES LEADERS:
GOALS: Vanek (24)
ASSISTS: Roy (19)
POINTS: Vanek (30)
+/-: Stafford (+6)


Please... just don't be like last game.

Both Hal Gill and Pascal Dupuis will be back tonight for the Penguins.

Buffalo Media:

Newspapers:
The Buffalo News

Blogs:
Sabres Report
Die By The Blade
The Goose's Roost
The Willful Caboose
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Game Recap: Maple Leafs 7 - Penguins 3

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This wasn't a good game.

This was a game where a 7-3 score actually made it look closer than it really was.

The Penguins were outworked and outplayed for nearly the entire game.

I'm not sure what it will take to motivate the Pittsburgh Penguins, but something has to.

Yes, the Penguins are at essentially the same point they were last year. Yes, they could win four in a row and everyone would forget about these losses. But it's not the losses that bother me. It's not the stupid decisions or the defensive lapses. It's the complete lack of effort.

If you watch the postgame interviews every Penguin said it. They were outworked. They didn't try.

Now that can mean two things.

It could leave you disheartened and upset that a team this young, this strong, this talented can't even be bothered to try. It could have you believe that something is seriously wrong with the Penguins.

Or it could leave you optimistic.

The Penguins are talented. They are good players. If they ever get motivated and start working hard they can dominate most teams in the NHL. That's what happened last year. Crosby and Fleury went down and the rest of the team started working hard. And they started winning.

But what will it take to get them to put some effort into their game?

I don't think it's a trade, at least not a major one. That's not what the Penguins need. They're a talented group of people. They're a very, very talented group of people. They don't have too many glaring weaknesses that can easily be solved via trade. Everyone always wants a blockbuster that will get Marian Gaborik or Ilya Kovalchuk here. And everyone always wants to trade Jordan Staal. I don't think either of those viewpoints are correct. A major trade is not needed or likely.

I've never been a fan of Michel Therrien. He only has one system. When that system works the team wins. When that system doesn't work the team struggles. Sometimes they still win, but they win because of their raw, natural talent. He can't adapt. His only coaching move is to change lines and switch goaltenders.

I think putting Dany Sabourin in for the third period wasn't the right move. If he didn't change goaltenders in the third against the Flyers, there was no reason to change goaltenders tonight. The Penguins were outshot by a huge margin in the first two period. Fleury wasn't stellar, but few goaltenders would be with their team playing that badly defensively. I know he put in Sabourin to shake up the team and try and get them focused, but it obviously didn't work. All it may have done is undermine Fleury's confidence.

I've never liked Therrien and I would likely be happy if he were fired, but I'm not sure if that would actually help the team.

The return of Ryan Whitney may help but, as Sidney Crosby said, it wasn't just one guy tonight. It was the lack of effort from the entire team that led to the loss. Something has to motivate these guys.

Hopefully they use tonight's game to realise that they actually need to work for their wins. Hopefully they decide that this is the last time they are going to be embarrassed like this. Hopefully they start to work hard.

Because they need to.

As a side note, with three goals tonight, Scott Hartnell has as many goals as Sidney Crosby.

I'm not sure what that means, but I think it's a sign of the apocalypse.

(Note, that isn't a shot at Crosby. It's just an observation.)
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Game Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Pittsburgh Penguins

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Pittsburgh Penguins Third Jersey Night
Game Time: 7:00pm/ET
From: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Penguins Record: 17-10-4 (7th in Eastern Conference)
Maple Leafs Record: 12-13-6 (11th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting: October 18th, 2008 @ Pittsburgh (4-1 Pens)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Jeff Taffe - Sidney Crosby - Miroslav Satan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Evgeni Malkin - Petr Sykora
Tim Wallace - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke
Ryan Stone - Maxime Talbot - Eric Godard

Brooks Opik - Rob Scuderi
Kris Letang - Mark Eaton
Phillipe Boucher - Alex Goligoski

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury (9-3-2 / 2.87GAA / .907 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Tyler Kennedy (sprained knee) - on injured reserve
Hal Gill (right shoulder) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (upper body) - out indefinitely
Pascal Dupuis (undisclosed) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game


TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Matt Stajan - Nik Antropov
Nikolai Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Lee Stempniak
Jason Blake - Dominic Moore - Jeremy Williams
Ryan Hollweg - John Mitchell - Andre Deveaux

Tomas Kaberle - Pavel Kubina
Mike Van Ryn - Ian White
Jeff Finger - Jamie Sifers

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Vesa Toskala (12-9-5 / 3.12AA / .887 SV%)

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS INJURIES:
Jonas Frogren (torn muscles in left arm) - on injured reserve
Jamal Mayers (broken right hand) - on injured reserve
Luke Schenn (knee) - on injured reserve
Mike Van Ryn (concussion) - expected to miss tonight's game
Niklas Hagman (concussion) - probable for tonight's game


PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Malkin (14)
ASSISTS: Malkin (39)
POINTS: Malkin (53)
+/-: Malkin (+20)

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS LEADERS:
GOALS: Antropov (12)
ASSISTS: Kaberle (18)
POINTS: Stajan (24)
+/-: Ponikarovsky (+4)


The good news: Maxime Talbot is back in the line-up tonight.
The bad news: Pascal Dupuis is out.

The Penguins injury woes continue.

Oddly enough, Jeff Taffe will take Dupuis spot on the first line, while Talbot will return to his role as fourth line center. It's odd that Talbot wouldn't take the spot beside Crosby, since he's played there before. Either he didn't impress on the first line, or Taffe impressed Therrien in the last game.

The Leafs are coming off of an 8-5 loss to the Bruins while the Penguins last three scores were 6-3, 6-3 and 9-2. This will likely not be a defensive battle.

Fleury will likely need to save the game for the Penguins, who have not played well defensively. It's not just the injured Penguins defense either. The team's forwards have, for the most part, been neglecting their defensive duties recently.

The Leafs have performed relatively well this season, considering the lack of "name" talent on their team.

I can see this being one of those games where the Penguins build up a big lead, watch it disappear and then come back in the third.

Prediction: 6-4 Penguins

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Maxime Talbot Signs Two-Year Contract with Penguins

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Maxime Talbot, whose current contract was scheduled to end after this season, has signed a two-year deal with the Penguins.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

I'm glad to see Talbot re-sign. I was a little worried that the Penguins would wait until the offseason to work on a new contract, as they typically have.

Talbot is an important part of this team and I'm happy that he'll be locked up for an additional couple of seasons.
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Game Recap: Penguins 6 - Thrashers 3

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Marc-Andre Fleury returned from injury and helped the Penguins defeat the Atlanta Thrashers last night by a score of 6-3. Evgeni Malkin had two goals and two assists, as he continues to lead the NHL scoring race.

The win was only the second one in six games for the Penguins, and only their third win in the month of December. Matt Cooke, Jordan Staal, Miroslav Satan and Phillippe Boucher also scored for the Penguins.

Rarely in a 6-3 win can you say that the goaltender stole the game for his team, but last night that is exactly what happened.

Without Marc-Andre Fleury the Penguins could have easily lost this game. He held off huge Atlanta pressure at the beginning and the end of the game, making several great saves. His glove hand was especially strong last night.

Defensively the Penguins played a bad game. Atlanta's third goal was a direct result of a terrible defensive lapse by Satan. With the score 5-2, Satan lazily passed the puck across the ice in the defensive zone where it was promptly snatched up by former Penguin Colby Armstrong. Armstrong walked in on Fleury all alone and scored.

The game also had it's rough moments. Armstrong and Eric Godard were both assessed ten minute misconducts in the third period for roughing. In the opening frame, some action around the net prior to Atlanta's first goal led to Sidney Crosby uncharacteristically unloading punches onto the back of a Thrasher's head.

This was not a textbook game for the Penguins, but they got the win they needed. The victory was mostly because of good goaltending in the Penguins' net, and soft goaltending in the Thrashers' net. This still wasn't a great effort, but it was a win nonetheless.

Interestingly enough, with Johan Hedberg pulled from the Atlanta net in the dying seconds of the game, Sidney Crosby had a chance at the empty netter. He passed the puck to Malkin, who was stopped. Seconds later Crosby had another chance to score, and he against passed to Malkin, who put it in this time.

Is this a case of Crosby actually wanting Malkin to win the scoring race? Or were the Penguins unsure if it was Malkin or Staal that scored the team's third goal? Staal's goal was originally credited to Malkin, so the empty net would have given him a hat trick if the original decision stood. Either way, classy move by Sid.

As a side note, the attendance in Atlanta looked particularly poor last night. If you remove the many, many Penguins fans I saw in the crowd, there were probably only a few thousand people there.

The Penguins play Saturday night at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Penguins will be wearing their third jerseys.
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mats Sundin Signs with Vancouver Canucks

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Mats Sundin has signed with the Vancouver Canucks.

This isn't Penguins-related, but it does end the excruciatingly long wait.

The choices for Sundin came down to Vancouver or the New York Rangers.

The long-time Leafs captain will return to his former home as a member of the opposition when the Leafs play the Canucks in Toronto on February 21st.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but I would assume it is a one year deal.

The Sundin signing gives the Canucks the veteran presence they lost when Markus Naslund signed with the New York Rangers this summer.
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gary Roberts to Retire after this Season

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Gary Roberts
TampaBay.com is reporting that Gary Roberts will retire after this season.

"I don't think there's any doubt, I'm gone after this season," Roberts said. "I'm going to retire. I'd like to finish on a god note. I'd like to come back and prove I can play and hopefully stay healthy enough to finish the season and finish playing a stretch of games and at least have some success. I'd like to finish on a high note."

That's just one more reason I wish the Penguins would have won the Stanley Cup last year. Gary Roberts deserved to retire as an inspirational leader of a Stanley Cup championship team. Now, unless he is traded during this season, he will retire on one of the worst teams in the league.

Gary Roberts reached cult hero status in Pittsburgh. His play against the Senators was legendary and, even though he wasn't a Penguin for very long, he will be fondly remembered.

The Post-Gazette doesn't think it will happen but I'd love to see the Pens trade for Roberts at the deadline, even if it were just so his career could end on the high note he's hoping for.

"I don't think there's any doubt this will be my last year," Roberts said. "I just hope I can finish on a good note."

I do too.


[Thanks to Empty Netters for bringing this to our attention.]
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Game Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Atlanta Thrashers

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Game Time: 7:00pm/ET
From: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Penguins Record: 16-10-4 (7th in Eastern Conference)
Thrashers Record: 10-16-4 (13th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting: November 20th, 2008 @ Atlanta (3-2 Pens)
[Our Recap]

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Miroslav Satan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Evgeni Malkin - Petr Sykora
Tim Wallace - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke
Ryan Stone - Jeff Taffe - Eric Godard

Brooks Opik - Rob Scuderi
Kris Letang - Mark Eaton
Phillipe Boucher - Alex Goligoski

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Marc-Andre Fleury (8-3-2 / 2.86GAA / .907 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INJURIES:
Ryan Whitney (left foot surgery) - on injured reserve
Sergei Gonchar (left shoulder surgery) - on injured reserve
Tyler Kennedy (sprained knee) - on injured reserve
Hal Gill (right shoulder) - on injured reserve
Mike Zigomanis (upper body) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game
Maxime Talbot (foot) - day-to-day, will miss tonight's game


ATLANTA THRASHERS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Slava Kozlov - Todd White - Bryan Little
Ilya Kovalchuk - Marty Reasoner - Chris Thorburn
Eric Perrin - Jason Williams - Colby Armstrong
Eric Boulton - Jim Slater - Joey Crabb

Tobias Enstrom - Nathan Oystrick
Ron Hainsey - Garnet Exelby
Niclas Havelid - Boris Valabik

ATLANTA THRASHERS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Ondrej Pavelec (3-5-0 / 3.16AA / .897 SV%)

ATLANTA THRASHERS INJURIES:
Mike Hoffman (broken right hand) - on injured reserve
Zach Bogosian (broken left leg) - on injured reserve, out indefinitely
Kari Lehtonen (tightness in back) - on injured reserve
Erik Christensen (partially separated right shoulder) - questionable for tonight
Mathieu Schneider (shoulder) - questionable for tonight


PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Crosby (13)
ASSISTS: Malkin (37)
POINTS: Malkin (49)
+/-: Malkin (+17)

ATLANTA THRASHERS LEADERS:
GOALS: Kozlov (14)
ASSISTS: Kovalchuk (20)
POINTS: Kovalchuk (31)
+/-: Reasoner (+7)


This is as close to a "must win" game as you can get playing a non-playoff team in December.

The Penguins have been on a slide recently, falling to fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference. After an impressive November, the Penguins have only won two games in December, against the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Islanders. They've lost four out of their last five as injury troubles have hit the team hard.

The good news is that Marc-Andre Fleury will make his return to the Penguins net tonight. Fleury hasn't played in over a month, so it will be good to see him back between the pipes. Whether or not this will boost the Penguins remains to be seen.

Ryan Stone and Jeff Taffe have been called up from WBS to fill in for Maxime Talbot and Jeff Taffe. Tim Wallace continues to fill Tyler Kennedy's role on the third line.

The Thrashers have lost three out of their last four and they have also only been victorious twice in December. Former Penguin Colby Armstrong scored two goals in 31 seconds on Tuesday night as the Thrashers defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1.

The Penguins have had a four day break after playing four games in six days last week. Michel Therrien was not happy with the team's performance on Saturday in Philadelphia.

"We were not good in every department," he said. "The energy was not there and a lot of times when the energy is not there, the concentration is not there."

The Penguins hope to bounce back tonight.

Prediction: 4-3 Penguins

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where Would the Penguins be Without Crosby and Malkin?

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have been hit hard by injuries this year. Tyler Kennedy, Maxime Talbot, Mike Zigomanis, Sergei Gonchar, Ryan Whitney and Marc-Andre Fleury have all missed significant playing time this season.

Last year was no better.

Fleury, Talbot, Sidney Crosby and Gary Roberts spent a great deal of time in the press box last year. The team has been hit with some definite bad luck on the injury front.

However, the Penguins have been quite lucky in one respect: They've never had to play a game without either Crosby or Malkin in the line-up.

Last year Evgeni Malkin stepped up and led the team when Crosby went down with a high ankle sprain. He managed to carry the offensive load for the Penguins until Crosby returned.

One of the blessings of having "the two-headed monster" on the team is that if one player is injured, or covered, or off his game, the other can step up and take over. This one-two punch is a big reason for the Penguins success.

But where would the Penguins be without both Crosby AND Malkin?

At this point in the season the Penguins have scored 100 goals as a team. Crosby and Malkin have scored a total of 25. Two players have carried one quarter of the team's offense. And this doesn't include the goals that have been assisted by either Crosby or Malkin.

The last time the Penguins played a regular season game without either Crosby or Malkin in the lineup was before the lockout. Before either man was drafted. Before the "new NHL."

It was on Sunday April 4th, 2004. The Penguins defeated the Washington Capitals 4-3 at Mellon Arena. The Penguins goals were scored by Matt Bradley, Milan Kraft, Lasse Pirjeta (who had two.) The only Penguin in the line-up that day who is still with the team is Brooks Orpik.

Of course, not long after that game the future of both teams would be changed forever. In the 2004 NHL Entry Draft the Capitals chose Alexander Ovechkin first overall. The Penguins had to "settle" for Evgeni Malkin.

It's tough to guess where the Penguins would be without their two superstars. This year's team is without a doubt stronger than the 2004 team - even with Crosby and Malkin taken out of the equation - so there isn't much comparison possible there.

So what would the team be like if both Crosby and Malkin went down with injuries?

Hopefully the Penguins never have to find out.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Evgeni Malkin Speaks on Crosby, Detroit and Marriage

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Yahoo's Puck Daddy has posted another translated Russian interview, this time with Evgeni Malkin. While not as explosive as the interview with Alexander Semin, there's still some interesting stuff here.

The line that everyone is paying attention to is:

Sidney Crosby is following right behind you. Why is this player hated by a lot of fans?

"Maybe because of his behavior? But I think that Crosby is the best player. And those who are in the spotlight are always not liked."


I don't think this is Malkin taking a shot at Crosby. This is Malkin taking a shot at fans who dislike Crosby because he's marketed as the face of the league and he acts that way. Sidney Crosby knows he needs to act a certain way off of the ice in order to make the league look good. Semin called this "dead wood." Yes, Crosby may be "boring" but he's being responsible.

Another interesting comment from Malkin came when he was asked if he's learned how to use his strength properly to last through a whole season.

"It comes with experience. Gonchar explained a lot of things to me. It is extremely important to lay a good foundation during summer workouts, and not hanging out in night clubs," said Malkin.

Is that why Malkin looked tired at the end of the last two seasons? Too much clubbing? It's good that Malkin realised that he needs to build up his strength and it looks like he did something about that.

Malkin is also moving into his own house (this housewarming party is this Friday) with his girlfriend. He said that he wants to get married in five years.

In regards to other NHL teams Malkin said the "bitter rivalry between Pittsburgh and Detroit is fueled by journalists" and that the "Islanders are the most difficult [team to play against.] Although not long ago we routed that team 9-2. But this was an exception from the rules. Usually we play such a difficult and stretchy game with them. "

And how about hating Philly? Malkin said that the Flyers are "a strong and an unpredictable team. Life is never easy with the Flyers."
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sidney Crosby Wants More Philly Hatred

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In an interview with the Pittsburgh Penguins official website, Sidney Crosby stated that his team's lack of intensity on Saturday was their downfall. Crosby went on to say that the team "didn’t hate Philly enough on Saturday."

I think we can all agree that it's pretty much impossible to hate the Philadelphia Flyers enough. You can always hate them more. Always.

"You have to have that intensity. You have to have that willingness to go out there and compete on every shift because they certainly did. If you don’t match that, especially on the road, you’re going to be in trouble," said Crosby.

"That’s the bottom line. I don’t think it had anything to do with the game before. We don't hate them enough right now. They outworked us early and we had it tough getting back into it."

It's hard to believe the Penguins had trouble getting themselves hyped up for a game against the Flyers. This is the place where fans thirst for blood, where the players are taunted and threatened, where fans throw things at the Penguins' bench. This is the home of "Crosby Sucks."

Last season Evgeni Malkin was asked about Philly and he responded with "I don't really like playing against them. I don't like that team."

The hatred is there. It just didn't translate into effort on Saturday.

I also don't think the Penguins lack of intensity had anything to do with the 9-2 victory against the Islanders on Thursday. That game wasn't really emotional, it was more of a celebration. Though perhaps the Penguins players celebrated a little too much following the win. They did have a day off between games though. Besides, earlier this season, the Penguins followed an even more emotional 7-6 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings with a 5-4 shootout win against the Flyers two days later.

Maybe it was their recent schedule that caused the Penguins to look so flat. The Penguins recently played seven games in 10 days, and they lost five of those games. Maybe the injuries are piling up for the Pens, but it wasn't just a lack of talent that caused the loss in Philly, it was the lack of effort.

The Penguins are still a relatively young team and they are a very inconsistent team. If they want to win the Stanley Cup this year they'll need to learn to play in tough situations. When they are tired and injured and emotionally drained great teams reach that next level. They dig deeper and they find ways to complete.

That's what the Penguins did successfully last year and what they're not doing this year.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Penguins Experience Best of 2008 Survey

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2008 is coming to a close and Penguins Experience wants to know what Penguins moments and players meant the most to you in 2008. We have put together a short survey to determine the Pittsburgh Penguins Best of 2008.

You can complete the survey at THIS LINK [Link opens in new window.]

The survey will be open until the end of the year. Once the winners are determined they will be announced during the first week of January.

You may only complete one survey per IP address. No personal information other than what you voluntarily submit is tracked and no information supplied will be sold. No spam will result from completing this survey.

Again, you can complete the survey at THIS LINK [Link opens in new window.]
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Game Recap: Flyers 6 - Penguins 3

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The Philadelphia Flyers scored four powerplay goals to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins this afternoon at the Wachovia Center. Mike Knuble had two goals and Mike Richards had a goal and two assists in the win. Jordan Staal, Eric Godard and Ruslan Fedotenko scored for Pittsburgh. The goal was Godard's first as a Penguin. Dany Sabourin played for the Penguins despite the fact that Marc-Andre Fleury was also dressed for the game. It was the first time Fleury was in uniform for a game since November 15th.

The Flyers have now won four straight games and eleven out of their last fourteen. The Penguins have lost four out of their last five and seven out of their last eleven.

The Penguins played quite a bad game. Heading into the third period the Flyers were up 5-1 and looked unstoppable. The Penguins didn't manage a shot until the second half of the third. The game got physical in the late stages. Eric Godard got into a fight with Scott Hartnell with less than six minutes to go.

Again, the lack of a physical presence around the opponent's net hurt the Penguins. Hartnell and the Flyers were crashing Sabourin all night and creating goals that way. Someone on the Penguins needs to do the same. The Penguins also got into penalty trouble in this game and the Flyers capitalized on Pittsburgh's mistakes.

Crosby and Malkin had relatively quiet games today. Malkin had an assist on Godard's goal but Crosby left the game with no points and a "Crosby Sucks" chant from the Flyers' fans. Crosby had a few giveaways today, but they were caused mostly by the Flyers' offensive pressure.

The Penguins' next game is Thursday night in Atlanta. Marc-Andre Fleury will likely start that game. It looked like Fleury was going to start the third period for the Penguins, but Michel Therrien left Sabourin in net for the entire game. Most of the goals the Flyers scored were due to defensive errors by the Penguins, so it's not fair to blame the loss on Sabourin.
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Game Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Philadelphia Flyers

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Game Time: 1:00pm/ET
From: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA
Penguins Record: 16-9-4 (6th in Eastern Conference)
Flyers Record: 15-7-6 (5th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting:
November 13th, 2008 @ Pittsburgh (5-4 Pens [SO])


PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Miroslav Satan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Evgeni Malkin - Petr Sykora
Connor James - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke
Jeff Taffe - Tim Wallace - Eric Godard

Brooks Opik - Rob Scuderi
Kris Letang - Mark Eaton
Phillipe Boucher - Alex Goligoski

NOTE: Maxime Talbot is listed as in the line-up on the Penguins official website, but was listed yesterday as day-to-day. Connor James has been called up from WBS so it looks like he will be filling Talbot's role.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Dany Sabourin (6-5-2 / 2.20GAA / .921 SV%)

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Simon Gagne - Mike Richards - Mike Knuble
Scott Hartnell - Jeff Carter - Joffrey Lupul
Scottie Upshall - Glen Metropolit - Andreas Nodl
Riley Cote - Darroll Power - Arron Asham

Kimmo Timonen - Ossi Vaananen
Braydon Coburn - Andrew Alberts
Matt Carle * - Lasse Kukkonen

Matt Carle is likely for today's game, but is not 100% certain.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Martin Biron (10-6-4 / 2.95GAA / .901 SV%)

PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Crosby (13)
ASSISTS: Malkin (36)
POINTS: Malkin (48)
+/-: Malkin (+16)

FLYERS LEADERS:
GOALS: Carter (20)
ASSISTS: Richards (20)
POINTS: Gagne (34)
+/-: Gagne (+17)


Both the Penguins and Flyers are coming off big games. The Pens defeated the Islander 9-2 on Thursday and the Flyers overcame a four goal third period deficit to defeat Carolina 6-5 in a shootout. Scott Hartnell had a hat trick for the Flyers.

Matt Carle will likely return to the Flyers line-up today.

Maxime Talbot is questionable for the game and it looks like Connor James will see his first NHL action this year. Marc-Andre Fleury will return to the line-up today, but it looks like Dany Sabourin will get the start. The Penguins third and four lines, along with their defense, have been decimated with injuries.

The game is in Philly, so it will be a rough one for the Penguins. It's also an afternoon game, which could lead to a slow start for both teams.

Prediction: 5-4 Penguins [SO]


Philadelphia Media:

Newspapers:
Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Daily News

Blogs:
Cuseadelphia
Eager to go Psycho
The 700 Level
The Orange Crush

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Pittsburgh Penguins Around the Web - Week Ending December 13th

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Pittsburgh Penguins Around the Web
Here's a look at some of the best, most interesting, funny and/or strange Pittsburgh Penguins-related findings from around the Internet over the past week:

Empty Netters thinks Thursday's game again the New Jersey Devils is something you'll be telling your children about.

I Bleed Black 'N Gold takes a look at Maxime Talbot's treatment of women.

Pittsburgh Sports and Mini Ponies questions some of the choices Rick Tocchet has made in life.

Puck Huffers has an alternate take on the Penguins/Devils game.

The Pensblog wants Ovechkin in the All-Star Game.

Faceoff-Factor breaks down the Penguins' record by team.

PensBurgh responds to a woman who feels she's losing her boyfriend to the Penguins.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

John Curry and Chris Minard Re-Assigned to AHL, Marc-Andre Fleury Returning

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Goaltender John Curry and forward Chris Minard have been re-assigned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League. This is good news for the Pittsburgh Penguins as it means that Marc-Andre Fleury will be returning to the line-up. Mike Zigomanis will likely also be back. Both have been out due to injury.

Fleury has been out of action since November 17th when it was announced that he would be sitting out with an undisclosed injury. At the time the injury was considered "not a major injury" but Fleury missed almost a month of hockey. His last game was November 15th.

Mike Zigomanis left the a December 3rd game in New York with an undisclosed injury and has not played since. He will be a welcome return to the line-up as his face off ability is among the league's best.

It is not known if Fleury or Dany Sabourin will make the start against Philadelphia on Saturday night.

Unfortunately, the Penguins injuries continue. Maxime Talbot will not play on Saturday and is listed as day-to-day. Talbot has been off his game recently and hasn't been playing his usual high-energy style, so it is obvious that something was wrong. Eric Godard will likely take his place in the line-up.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Game Recap: Penguins 9 - Islanders 2

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Petr Sykora and Pascal Dupuis both scored their first career hat tricks as the Pittsburgh Penguins destroyed the New York Islanders 9-2. It was the Penguins first win in four games and the Islanders fifth loss in a row. The win was exactly what the Penguins needed as they had been slumping recently.

The story of the night was Petr Sykora finally scoring a hat trick after going so long without one. Until yesterday Sykora has scored more goals and had more two goal games than any player without a National Hockey League hat trick.

It was an absolutely dominant game for the Penguins and it couldn't have come at a better time. The Islanders aren't exactly contenders but the Penguins had not performed very well recently and the blow out victory will give them some confidence heading into Saturday's game in Philadelphia.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to watch the game (I always seem to miss the games when the Penguins dominate) so I don't have much to say here.

It was good to see Dupuis with a hat trick as well as he had been struggling recently. Does anyone know what's wrong with Maxime Talbot? He has been a non factor recently and didn't play much last night.

Saturday's game in Philly will be a good one as the Flyers have been hot recently.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Game Preview: New York Islanders @ Pittsburgh Penguins

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Game Time: 7:00pm/ET
From: Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Penguins Record: 15-9-4 (6th in Eastern Conference)
Islanders Record: 10-16-2 (14th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting: November 26th, 2008 @ New York (5-3 Pens)


PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Miroslav Satan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Evgeni Malkin - Petr Sykora
Chris Minard - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke
Jeff Taffe - Max Talbot - Tim Wallace

Brooks Opik - Rob Scuderi
Kris Letang - Mark Eaton
Phillippe Boucher - Alex Goligoski

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
John Curry (1-1-0 / 2.67GAA / .907 SV%)

NEW YORK ISLANDERS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Sean Bergenheim - Doug Weight - Bill Guerin
Andy Hilbert - Josh Bailey - Trent Hunter
Blake Comeau - Richard Park - Jon Sim
Mitch Fritz - Mike Sillinger - Tim Jackman

Mark Streit - Thomas Pock
Brendan Witt - Freddy Meyer
Chris Campoli - Joe Callahan

NEW YORK ISLANDERS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Joey MacDonald (10-12-2 / 3.08GAA / .902 SV%)

PENGUINS LEADERS:
GOALS: Crosby (13)
ASSISTS: Malkin (35)
POINTS: Malkin (46)
+/-: Malkin (+14)

ISLANDERS LEADERS:
GOALS: Hunter (11)
ASSISTS: Weight (20)
POINTS: Weight (26)
+/-: Sutton (+5)


The Penguins have lost three in a row and four of their last five. The Islanders have lost four in a row and six of their last seven. Neither of these teams are on a roll. Phillipe Boucher returns for the Penguins, so that may give the team's sagging powerplay a boost. John Curry will be in the net for the Pens tonight so it will be interesting to see how the team reacts in front of him.

The Penguins have beaten the Islanders in both meetings this year.

Prediction: 4-3 Penguins

New York Media:

Newspapers:
New York Times 
New York Daily News 
New York Post  

Blogs:
The Drive for Five 
Islanders Army  
Islander Frontier  
On the Islanders Beat 
Lighthouse Hockey  
Islanders Outsider  
Islesblogger 
NYI Point Blank   Continue reading...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Ten Worst Hockey Arena Names in NHL History

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With today's revelation that the Pittsburgh Penguins new arena will be named after CONSOL Energy, the Internet has been filled with debate over whether or not "CONSOL Energy Center" is a good name. General consensus seems to be that, while it's not an outstanding name, it's not bad.

The Penguins could certainly do worse. Many have.

Here are our choices for the ten worst hockey arena names in NHL history:

First Union Center (Philadelphia Flyers - 1998-2003)
The name itself isn't so bad, but the fact that it shortens to the "F.U. Center" says a lot about Philly. It is now the Wachovia Center.

Raleigh Entertainment and Sports Arena (Carolina Hurricanes - 1999-2002)
What is now the RBC Center once had one of the longest and most generic names in the league. In this rare case adding a corporate-sponsored name was a good decision.

National Car Rental Center (Florida Panthers - 1998-2002)
This doesn't sound like a place for an NHL franchise. It sounds like the place you pick your car up on the way out of the airport. It's now known as the BankAtlantic Center, but it was also once the Office Depot Center, which is almost as bad as the National Car Rental Center.

The Thunderdome (Tampa Bay Lightning - 1993-1996)
I'm actually torn on this one, as "Thunderdome" is a pretty awesome name. Maybe the fact that the Lightning once played in a baseball stadium is tainting the name for me. This building is now home to the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball and is known as Tropicana Field.

Gaylord Entertainment Center (Nashville Predators - 1999-2007)
Okay... this one takes the cake. I know the founder of the company's last name is Gaylord, but you would think someone would have advised him not to call his company GAYLORD ENTERTAINMENT. That's just asking for ridicule. It's now (thankfully) known as the Sommet Center.

Xcel Energy Center (Minnesota Wild - 2000-present)
This one is a matter of personal choice. I hate when names exclude the "e" and capitalize the "X" in an attempt to seem cool. Minnesota, the 1990s called and they want their trend back.

Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim (Anaheim Mighty Ducks - 1993-2006)
Arrowhead Pond is a great name for a team called the Ducks. I have no problem with that. It's even better than the current name: the Honda Center. The issue I have is with the "of Anaheim" moniker stuck on the end. Can anyone tell me what's up with that? They were also called the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, rather than the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, at that point. Why? This weird convention even extends to baseball where the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" play in the "Angel Stadium of Anaheim." It's just confusing and I don't understand it.

Jobing.com Arena (Phoenix Coyotes 2006-Present)
There are so many issues with this name. First of all, it's named after a website. That never sounds good. I understand that the .com is part of the company name, but it just sounds cheesy for corporate sponsorship. Second, there is no such word as "jobing." It's spelled "jobbing." I'm not sure if the spelling mistake is intentional or not, but it's ridiculous. Finally, as the Pensblog will tell you, jobbing someone doesn't exactly have positive connotations to it. It means to lose. Way to go Coyotes.

The Cow Palace (San Jose Sharks - 1991-1993)
This wasn't just a badly named arena, it was a bad idea. This building was actually built for rodeos and livestock expositions. In addition to being a hockey arena, a concert venue, a convention center and a basketball stadium, it still hosts rodeo championships to this day. Thankfully the San Jose Sharks quickly had a new arena built, and they now play at the HP Pavilion at San Jose. While we're on the topic, what's with the "at San Jose" at the end of that name? Did someone from Anaheim name it?

The Checkerdome (St. Louis Blues - 1977-1983)
This, like the Thunderdome, walks the fine line between awesome and terrible. It was an amazing-looking arena, and reportedly had the best sight lines in hockey, but it was named after the appearance of a dog food logo. That's right. It was built as the St. Louis Arena but when Ralston Purina bought the building and the team in 1977 the arena was renamed. I guess they thought the rhyming "Purina Arena" was a terrible name, so they instead named it after the look of the company's logo. That would be like Pepsi renaming the Colorado Avalanche's arena "The Blue and Red Swirly Thing Center." It's ridiculous. The Checkerdome had no checkers on it anywhere and, thankfully, when Purina sold the team the St. Louis Arena returned.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Game Recap: New Jersey Devils 4 - Pittsburgh Penguins 1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins lost their third game in a row last night, falling 4-1 to the New Jersey Devils. Matt Cooke had the lone goal for the Penguins, scoring with less than four minutes left in the game. It wasn't enough for the Penguins to put together another comeback. The Penguins have lost four out of their last five and have not won two games in a row since their six game winning streak at the beginning of November.

Scott Clemmensen played a good game for the Devils, who are now 8-2 in their last ten games. The Devils have learned how to play without Martin Brodeur, which will make them even more dangerous when Brodeur eventually returns.

Dany Sabourin had a decent game for the Penguins. He wasn't outstanding, but the Devils got a lucky bounce on the first goal, a deflection on the second and screened Sabourin affectively on the third. The bounces did not go the Penguins way, as they hit quite a few posts as well.

That's not to say the Penguins didn't have any problems. They still have issues with creating a presence in front of the opposition's net. In fact, their one goal game from Matt Cooke charging the net. The Penguins need to do this more. The team misses Ryan Malone in this respect, but they need to suck up and crash the net. Yes, they have a lot of offensive talent that likes to score pretty goals, but they also need more tough grinding. Talbot hasn't been himself these last few games and, with Kennedy injured, Cooke has been the only one providing a physical presence on offense.

The Penguins defense wasn't bad, especially when you consider all of the injuries they are facing.

The Penguins play again tonight, this time at home against the New York Islanders.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Pittsburgh Penguins New Arena Gets a Name

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New Penguins Arena naming rights sold to Consol Energy
When the Mellon Arena finally closes at the end of next season, the Penguins will move across the street to their new home. And yesterday the new home got a name. The new Pittsburgh Penguins arena will be named after Consol Energy. KDKA reports that the naming rights for the new Penguins arena have been sold to the Pittsburgh-based coal mining company for several million dollars a year. The Pittsburgh Penguins have not commented on the matter, but an announcement is expected next week.

So what will be the building actually be called? I would assume "The Consol Energy Center." Based on recent arena-naming trends that sounds about right. I would like to have it be called the Consol Energy Arena or the Consol Energy Gardens, but it's a multi-purpose building and thus, like the Air Canada Centre, the Prudential Center and the RBC Center, it will probably have "Center" in the name. Realistically, it was never going to be called "Bob Johnson Gardens" or anything awesome like that. Given how Consol markets themselves it will likely be the CONSOL Energy Center, since they typically spell their name in all capitals.

I guess in the long run it doesn't matter what the arena is called. It will probably change names a few times during its lifetime anyway. It does however feel cold and sterile, like the new arena will. I understand the need for a new, shiny, state-of-the-art building, but I will always miss the Mellon Arena.

Thanks to Puck Huffers for the find.

Information on the new Pittsburgh Penguins arena is available on the team's official website.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Game Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ New Jersey Devils

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Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils
Game Time: 7:00pm/ET
From: Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
Penguins Record: 15-8-4 (5th in Eastern Conference)
Sabres Record: 14-8-2 (7th in Eastern Conference)
Last Meeting: November 29th, 2008 @ Pittsburgh (4-1 Penguins)


PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Miroslav Satan
Ruslan Fedotenko - Evgeni Malkin - Petr Sykora
Chris Minard - Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke
Jeff Taffe - Max Talbot - Tim Wallace

Brooks Opik - Rob Scuderi
Kris Letang - Mark Eaton
Alex Goligoski - Ben Lovejoy

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Dany Sabourin (6-4-2 / 2.14GAA / .923 SV%)

NEW JERSEY DEVILS LINE COMBINATIONS:
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Jamie Langenbrunner
Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus - Brian Gionta
Jay Pandolfo - Mike Rupp - David Clarkson
Sheldon Brookbank - John Madden - Barry Tallackson

Paul Martin - Bryce Salvador
Colin White - Johnny Oduya
Mike Mottau - Anssi Salmela

NEW JERSEY DEVILS PROBABLE GOALTENDER:
Scott Clemmensen (6-3-0 / 2.32GAA / .922 SV%)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS TEAM LEADERS:
GOALS: Crosby (13)
ASSISTS: Malkin (34)
POINTS: Malkin (45)
+/-: Malkin (+16)

NEW JERSEY DEVILS TEAM LEADERS:
GOALS: Parise (15)
ASSISTS: Elias (14)
POINTS: Parise (28)
+/-: Parise (+12)


After struggling after Martin Brodeur went down with an injury, the Devils have won seven out of their last eight games. In fact, their only loss since November 15th was the last time they played the Penguins. Goaltender Scott Clemmensen is 5-1-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average in six starts since Nov. 20, with the last loss coming in that same game against the Penguins.

Meanwhile, the Penguins have some serious injury problems and some serious problems scoring on the powerplay. They've lost three out of their last four games and still have a problem holding leads. Tim Wallace is expected to play his first game for the Penguins tonight, filling in for the injured Mike Zigomanis.

Crosby recorded a hat trick in the last game against the Devils and he and Malkin are still one and two in the NHL scoring race. Michel Therrien wasn't happy with the team's performance against Buffalo and he made a point to work on the powerplay at practice. It will be interesting to see what develops.

Prediction: 3-2 Penguins

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