-We had informal chats with Sidney Crosby and Predators center David Gaustad this morning. We talked to each of them about faceoffs. Gaustad complimented Crosby in terms of his improvement in that area through his career while Crosby said Gaustad is one of the toughest opponents in the faceoff circle for him.
-Gaustad got into a lot of the technical details of taking faceoffs. He has been one of the best faceoff specialists in the NHL. Oddly, he said his former Sabres teammate Teppo Numminen, a defenseman, was someone who helped him out quite a bit during his career in learning the art of faceoffs.
-Another aspect of faceoff draws Gaustad talked about was how much scouting goes into that specific aspect of the game. With a day off yesterday, the team watched video of the Penguins' faceoff specialists. They keep tabs on how the Penguins' individual faceoff numbers and even break them down by specific zones. Additionally, they keep tabs on officials and how they handle faceoffs in regards to their positioning for dropping the puck and how quick they are to throw someone out of the circle for jumping the gun.
-Crosby felt Gaustad was such a tough opponent in that area primarily due to his size (6-foot-5, 223 pounds).
-Gaustad told a good story about in facing Mario Lemieux in the earlier years of his own career. During one game, he was winning a lot of draws against Lemieux who was older and couldn't get that low for the draw due to his ailing back. They lined up for one faceoff in the Sabres' zone and BLAM! Lemieux won it and set up a teammate for a quick goal. Lemieux had sort of "rope-a-doped" for a win at a key moment of the game.
As was pointed out on this blog yesterday, the Penguins' faceoff numbers in the offensive zone have been pretty bad the last two games. Things don't get easier today as the Predators as a team have the second-best faecoff winning percentage in the NHL at 55.2 percent. They have four faceoff specialists who are north of 5- percent in their draws tonight.
-We're a bit surprised that Marc-Andre Fleury is getting the start tonight against the Predators. With a road game tomorrow against the Devils' who have seen their offense come to life as of late, it seemed like a home game against a Predators team with a struggling offense would be an easier game to start Zatkoff in tomorrow. That said, there is hardly a guarantee Zatkoff plays tomorrow. But with three games in four days, it's hard to imagine Fleury playing in all three games.
-With Paul Martin being expected to return to the lineup tonight and Kris Letang expected to play today despite missing the morning skate due to an illness, we'll be interested to see which defenseman gets scratched. We're assuming it will come down between Deryk Engelland or Robert Bortuzzo. Both of them were involved in the Flyers' first goal Wednesday when Bortuzzo was simply beaten in a puck battle by Wayne Simmonds. Engelland compounded matters by screening Marc-Andre Fleury on the shot by Brayden Schenn.
-The last time Predators forward Eric Nystrom played the Penguins, he hit Penguins defenseman Kris Letang in the head while playing for the Stars in 2012:
-It'll be interesting to see if any of Letang's teammates will remember that tonight.
-The Penguins have recalled gritty center Zach Sill from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He offers a willingness to be physical and can win faceoffs.
-UPDATE: Sill did not participate in warmups.
-Hockey Hall of Famer Jarri Kurri is on hand to scout this game for the Finnish National team. Jussi Jokinen and Olli Maatta seem like locks to make Team Finland.
-Former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is also here. He has been around for a few days as part of meetings with Team USA executives.
-Phil Bourque has a fan on hand:
-We always run into a Craig Adams fan:
-The Great Joe Vitale:
-With plenty of Team USA executive on hand, this fan wore the jersey of a potential Team Canad member:
-Fans entering the barn:
-There are a few Predators fans on hand. Shea Weber:
-A blank mustard Predators jersey from the all-too-short Peter Forsberg era:
-Another 33 and this one is obscure. Wade Brookbank who may have played a handful of preseason games for the Penguins:
-It's a good night for offensive defensemen. Paul Coffey:
-Jersey of the Night: Randy Carlyle:
-The Penguins starters are Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo and Dustin Jeffrey.
-The Predators' starters are Mike Fisher VIktor Stalberg, Colin Wilson, Roman Josi, Shea Weber and Marek Mazarnec.
-Their scratches are Victor Bartley, Rich Clune and Matt Hendricks.
-No Jimerson. No photo.
18:05: Off a faceoff wi in the Penguins' left circle, Josi takes a pass at the left point, move towards the center point and launches a clean one-timer on net which Fleury fights off with little trouble.
17:32: Collecting a loose puck at the right point, Kevin Klein hammers a slapper at net. It hits Evgnei Malkin's stick, Maatta's skate then glances off Gabriel Bourque's stick and under Fleury. That puck took a very indirect route to the net. A turnover by Maatta let do Klein's initial shot. Maatt didn't recover on the play very well either. Klein gets the only assist. Predators 1-0.
16:08: A backhander by Pascal Dupuis from in tight to the left of the cage is fought off by Mazanec.
13:39: After a few stagnant minutes, a forecheck by Kunitz in the Predators' left wing corner forces a turnover. Martin whacks a one-timer on net from the left point wide to the near side.
13:01: A wrister by Niskanen from the left point is blocked by Klein.
12:51: Viktor Stalberg lifts a wrister from the left circle. Fleury fights it off.
12:31: Off a defensive zone turnover by Jokinen, which was forced by Bourque, Legwand rips a wrister from the above the right circle wide to the far side.
10:48: Niskanen fumbles a puck at the Penguins' blue line and that leads to a scoring chance for Craig Smith int he slot. His wrister is fought off by Fleury..
10:11: On a partial three-on-two, Crosby and Dupuis each have looks at the net but fail to get a shot off.
9:47: The Predators are nabbed for too many men on the ice. Wilson will serve the minor, Malkin, Letang, Neal, Kunitz and Crosby take the ice. The lack of Martin is interesting.
7:41: As the Predators minor expires, Letang floats a wrister from above the left circle. It hits something and deflects to Malkin to the right of the cage. Before Malkin can get a shot off, Josi pokes the puck away.
7:27: Sneaking in deep on the left wing, Letang is able to jab a backhanded pass to Bennett. Bennett spins with the puck and hesitates and fails to get a shot off. Mazanec smothers the puck.
7:24: Pascal Dupuis is able to break out of a funk and tie the game. Sutter wins a faceoff in the left circle of ht Predators' zone. D'Agostini taps it back to Dupuis behind Sutter. Dupuis puts the hammer down on a one-timer which blows by Mazanec above his blocker. A big offensive zone faceoff win. It snaps a 12-game goalless streak for Dupuis. D'Agostini gets his first point with the Penguins. Assists go to D'Agostini and Sutter. The "Hey Song" is never in a funk. Penguins 1, Predators 1.
4:43: Off a neutral zone steal by martin, Bennett sneaks in from the right wing a veers towards the slot. As Sutter drives to the cage, Ryan Ellis shoves him into Mazanec. Despite that, Mazanec is able to come up with the save. Ellis is nabbed for interference against Sutter. Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Letang take the ice.
4:04: The Power play cashes in. Crosby deals a pass off the right half wall to Malkin at Center point. Malkin tees up a slapper which blows through traffic and is redirects by the backhand of Neal who is position to the right to the cage. It's Neal's first goal of the season. Crosby and Malkin. That play was set up by another offensive zone faceoff win. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 2-1.
1:52: After FLeury turns the puck over from behind his own net. Klein snaps off a wrister from the left wall. Fleury boots it out. Mike Fisher is right there in the slot and jabs the rebound back on net. Fleury smothers it.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 2, Predators 1.
-As someone brilliant recently pointed out, offensive zone faceoffs can be key to an offense. Each of the Pengins' goals came off offensive zone faceoff wins. The Penguins went 3 for 4 with offensive zone draws.
-The Penguins are actually a bit lucky to be ahead. Their puck management was horrendous for the first half of that period. They turned the puck over at least three times. If the Predators had a few more natural goal scorers, the Penguins may have given up a few more goals.
-It's amazing how hit or miss this power play is. On its first chance, it looked clueless. On it's second chance, it looked unstoppable.
We're not sure what to make of Mazanec. The two goals he allowed were tough. Beyond that, he hasn't been tested a great deal.
-Martin looked pretty smooth for his first game back. Whatever was wrong with him, his confidence wasn't impacted.
The Penguins have a 10-9 edge in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 15-14 edge in attempted shots.
-Dupuis, Bennett, Jokinen and Stalberg each lead the game with two shots.
-Weber leads the game with 9:17 of ice time.
-Crosby lead the Penguins with 8:11.
-The Penguins have a 10-6 lead in faceoffs (63 percent).
-Crosby is 5 for 6 (83 percent).
-Smith is 2 for 3 (67 percent).
-Maatta leads the game with two blocked shots.
-A determined Jussi Jokinen is on the cover of Ice Time:
18:22: Malkin has chance in tight to the right of the cage but has it blocked by backchecking Bourque.
18:17: Off a fed from the lef twing corner by Malkin Neal rips a wrister which clunks off the cross bar.
16:03: Orpik flings a wrister from the right point into a cluster of bodies in the slot. It gets kicked out.
15:24: Crosby rips a wrister from the right circle which Josi partially blocks.
15:10: Off a feed by Crosby from the left circle, Letang rips a wrister wide of the cage from the slot.
14:17: Wow. Just wow. Collecting a loose puck behind the cage, Malkin sneaks a pass to Neal darting just above the blue paint. Neal has a step on Klein and jabs a quick shot on net. Mazanec reaches back to his right and simply robs him with a glove save. WOW!
12:02: Taking pass from Malkin from behind the cage, Letang Jabs a quick shot from the bottom of the right circle into Mazanec. Mazen scrunches against the near post and tries to stop the shot but allows the puck to squeeze through into the net. Officials rule a goal on the ice but consult the video. No clue what might have been disputed. A quick review confirms the goal. Malkin and Neal get assists. Penguins 3-1.
10:25: After Dupuis forces a turnover along the Nashville end boards, Crosby whips a quick wrister from the right circle. Mazanec kicks it out.
8:53: Malkin is called for hooking Josi. Orpik, Martin Adams and Sutter take the ice.
8:46: Patric Hornqvist has a chacne in front but chops the puck over the cage.
6:53: The Predators' power play expires with little threat to the Penguins.
6:43: Taking a pass from Malkin on the right wing, Sutter lifts a wrister from the right circle over the cage.
6:00: Maatta floats a wrsiter from the right point on net. Mazanec eats it up.
5:16: Using a screen, Bourque rips a wrister from the left wing wide to the far side.
3:38: Battling for a puck behind the Nashville net, Josi puts a Heimlich Maneuver on Kunitz. That's two minutes for holding. Neal, Crosby Malkin, Kunitz and Letang take the ice.
3:19: Letang snaps off a shot from the right circle wide tot he far side.
3:09: A slapper by Malkin from near center piont is rejected by Mazenec.
2:50: Malkin booms a one-timer from the right point which Mazanec fights off.
1:38: The Josi minor expires. The Penguins put a few decent perimert shot son net.
1:26: The route is on. Jokinen leads a rush up the left wing and gains the offenvie zone, He leaves a drop pass for Sutter. From above the left cirle, he lifts a wristerwhich rises at the cage. Mazanek seem to think the puck as going over the cage and ducked the puck only to have it clink off the cross bar and into the net. Jokinen and Martin get assists. Penguins 4-1.
0:18: Glass smacks Nystrom from behind the Nashville net. Nystrom wants a little revenge and they drop the gloves in the Nashville slot. Glass lands the majority of punches and even opens a cut over Nystrom's left eye. Glass ends the fight with a big right which hits off the back of Nystrom's head and drops him. Nystrom is in distress. An athletic trainer rushes out to attend to him. Nystrom gets to his skates quickly but it's obvious he's in a daze. He's helped to the bench and dressing room by teammates while the trainer holds a towel over his eye. That was scary. We're not sure if it was related, especially since Glass wasn't on the team then, but Nystrom was the player who injured Letang with a high hit to the head while with the Stars in 2012:
0:00: End of period. Penguins 4, Predators 1.
-The Penguins' superior talent level just took over there. They controlled the puck most of the period and puts a lot of high quality chances on net.
-It looks like Mazenec is starting to wilt under pressure.The last two goals he allowed were a bit weak.
-Neal and Malkin seem to have their chemistry going tonight. They are doing some pretty things with he puck.
-The Penguins have a 25-15 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 42-28 lead in attempted shots.
-Weber leads the game with 18:56 of ice time.
-Martin leads the Penguins with 15:46.
-The Penguins have an 18-13 lead in faceoffs (58 percent).
-Crosby is 7 for 10 (70 percent).
-Nick Spaling is 6 for 8 (75 percent).
-Maatta leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Klein and Josi each lead the Predators with two blocked shots.
-The Predators have said Nystrom will nto return to the game due to an "upper-body" injury.
20:00: Carter Hutton takes over for Mazenec in net.
18:26: Martin fires a slapper from the right point. Hutton fights it off.
17:50: Bennett jostles Ellis with a hit to the chest in the neutral zone.
17:12: The Predators get a chance to get back into this game as Engelland is called for hooking Gaustad at the Penguins blue line. Adams, Sutter, Martin and Orpik take the ice.
15:38: Maatta is able to fight off a check in his own right corner and flings it down ice. That is the Penguins' third clear of this kill.
15:12: The Predators power play is killed off with little threat.
13:47: Another power play for the Penguins. Smith is nabbed for slashing Jokinen at the Nashville blue line. Martin, Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Neal take the ice.
11:49: Corralling a puck at the left point, Maatt pumps a slapper on net. Hutton fights it off. The Penguins' power play expires with little threat but they didn't really press the issue given the score.
11:16: Stealing a puck off Maatta at the Penguins right point, Smith has a chance off the right wing. He lifts a wrister on net which Fleury fights off.
11:04: Attendance is officially announced as 18,606. It is the team's 297th consecutive sellout.
7:19: After a few stagnant seconds, Mattias Ekholm has a wrister from the right point blocked by Adams.
6:00: Letang flings a wrister fromthe right half wall on net. Hutton eats it up.
5:20: Niskanen sneaks a wrister from the right point on net through traffic. Hutton boots it out.
3:47: Ekholm has slapper from the right point blocked by Adams again.
3:25: Adams has a wrister from the left circle go wide of the cage.
2:38: Stalberg lifts a wrister from the left wing on net. It hits offf the outside of the near post. Engelland smacks Stalberg into the end boards for his troubles. A scrum develops behind the Penguins net but nothing comes of it.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 4, Predators 1.
-Sometimes making adjustments can get your team out of funk. Switching lines or a style of play can lead to different results. Occasionally, plain and simple luck can help you out. And other times, such as tonight, you run into a bad team which helps get you break out of a slump.
-After a strong initial surge, the Predators flat out stunk for the rest of the game. They were sloppy with the puck. They took some key penalties and simply couldn't keep up with the Penguins.
-Evgeni Malkin might not be scoring goals but he's been carrying this offense, as meager as it has been for the past few games. He extended a scoring streak to six games and set up two goals with two nice passes. A goal would be nice but he's still producing.
-Pascal Dupuis broke a 12-game scoring slump with a goal off a set play. He needed that badly.
-As we've been "casually" reminding everyone throughout the day, offensive zone faceoff wins were an issue for the Penguins the past two games. Tonight, they went 11 for 17 (64.7 percent) and picked up four goals. Starting with the puck in the offensive zone is always huge.
-Marc-Andre Fleury was good but hardly great. And he didn't have to be. The Predators didn't offer much of an attack.
-Olli Maatta had a bit of a rough game. He was a tad sloppy with the puck and seemed to be out of position on occasion.
-The Penguins' third line some offense, specifically in the form of Brandon Sutter who had a hand in two goals.
-Paul Martin was smooth and confident in his return. He had 22:03 of ice time on 25 shifts, recorded one shot and blocked one shot.
-Considering the Predators were finishing a 17-day road trip, their exhausted effort was understandable.
-Marek Mazanec stole a few goals early on but eventually collapsed a bit with a few leaky goals.
-A few updates on Eric Nystrom who left the game in the second period following a fight:
#preds said Nystrom (upper body) will be re-evaluated tomorrow. Did not know as to whether it was in Pittsburgh or Nashville...— JoshuaCooper (@JoshuaCooper) November 16, 2013
All good folks. Got popped behind the earhole! Weird spot. Appreciate the concern n support!!— Eric Nystrom (@enystrom23) November 16, 2013
-The Penguins controlled shots on net, 33-18
-The Penguins had a 51-35 lead in attempted shots.
-Kris Letang led the game with six shots.
-Patric Hornqvist led the Predators with four shots.
-Shea Weber led the Predators with 27:19 of ice time.
-Letang led the Penguins with 22:40 of ice time.
-The Penguins led the game in faceoffs, 28-19 (60 percent).
-Crosby was 10 for 14 (71 percent).
-Nick Spaling was 6 for 9 (67 percent).
-Maatta and Kevin Klein each led the game with three blocked shots.
-Matt D'Agostini recorded his first career point with the Penguins.
-Chris Kuntiz appeared in his 600th career game.
-Deryk Engelland appeared in his 200th career game.
-Neal moved ahead of Brooks Orpik for 67th place on the franchise's all-time scoring list. Both players have 125 points but Neal (63) has more goals than Orpik (12).