-Paul Martin returns to the lineup tonight after missing 18 games due to a broken hand suffered in the Olympics.
Just about anyone with a rooting interest in the Penguins should be enthused about that development. The three people who should be happiest with Martin's return are:
1.) Brooks Orpik. At the age of 33, it's no secret Orpik is not the same caliber of player he was at his prime. But even when things were ideal for Orpik, he was usually teamed with an offensively skilled defenseman. Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang and most recently, Martin. For all the physical play Orpik is lauded for, he really is a stay-at-home defenseman. He's Rob Scuderi with a scary stare and highlight-reel hits. It's no coincidence Orpik's struggles this season have primarily come with Martin out of the lineup. Martin will provide a boost to Orpik's game.
2.) Matt Niskanen. With Martin and Kris Letang each out of the lineup, Niskanen has been the Penguins defacto No. 1 defenseman. He's mostly live up to that billing by compiling a career season in terms of his production and overall play. But in the past week or two, a few signs of wear and tear have shown up in Niskanen's game. He's averaged 21:17 of ice time this season, the most in his career. Early in his career, Niskanen was a top pairing defenseman with Sergei Zubov in Dallas. Even then, Niskanen was the secondary option on that pairing to the veteran Zubov. Since the Olympics, he's been the team's top option on the blue line with even-strength and the power play. A decreased role could do him some good.
3.) Olli Maatta. No one player on this roster has had such a sharp decline in the latter stages of the regular season than Maatta. It's not so much the fact that he's 19. It's more of a a matter that he's playing professional hockey for the first time. That presents such a different physical and mental grind. Maatta had taken quite a few steps to take care of his body off the ice. He's going to great lengths to eat well and sleep upwards of 10 hours a day. In other words, he's not doing what typical 19-year-olds do. Additionally, Sidney Crosby had mentored him a bit in terms of the rigors a teenage rookie will face. Crosby went though them in 2005-06 as an 18 year old. Even with that in mind, Maatta still is human. Humans make mistakes and he's made a several the past few weeks. A decrease role will benefit him as well.
-Overall, the team's puck possession game will benefit with Martin's return. Look at the mess they were with regards to holding on to the puck Tuesday against the Hurricanes. they fumbled most of that contest. Three of the Hurricanes' goals came directly off their turnovers. Martin is all about puck possession.
-Special teams figure to get a boost with Martin as well. The power play has been shutout the past four games. Part of the reason there has been an inability to move the the puck through the neutral zone. Again, that's a big part of Martin's game.
-We're presuming Orpik and Scuderi will still be the first defensemen over the boards short of injuries of fatigue with regards to the penalty kill but Martin figures to get some shifts on a unit which has not been sharp as of late. His ability to make little plays in tight spaces in the defensive zone with the puck can make a world of difference.
-According to the team's Web site, the Penguins have some significantly different lines in warmups:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Beau Bennett
Brian Gibbons - Jussi Jokinen - James Neal
Jayson Megna - Brandon Sutter - Lee Stempniak
Taylor Pyatt - Craig Adams - Tanner Glass
Brook Orpik - Paul Martin
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen
Rob Scuderi - Robert Bortuzzo
-Beau Bennett as a right wing > Beau Bennett as a left wing.
-We're not sure it would win too many Survivor Series matches, but that third line is intriguing. It has some speed. Stempniak has a history of being more than competent as a third-liner.
-Bennett is a much better option as a first liner than Stempniak and Stempniak is a much better option as a third liner than Bennett.
-The Penguins' starters are Beau Bennett, Chris Kunitz, Olli Maatta, Matt Niskanen and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Simon Despres, Deryk Engelland, Marcel Goc, Evgeni Malkin and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Jets' starters are Michael Frolik, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Mark Stuart, Jacob Trouble and Ondrej Pavelec.
-Their scratches are Zach Bogosian, Ben Chiarot, Keaton Ellerby, Al Montoya, Mark Scheifele, Devin Setoguchi, Chris Thorburn.
18:10: On a chip and chase play up the right wing, Stempniak whips a wrister low on net. Pavelec kicks it out.
16:54: Maatta chops a loose puck at the left point. It his a stick in front.
15:49: Paul Postma chucks a puck from the right point on net. Fleury kicks it out. Wheeler is there and jabs the rebound on net. Fleury kicks that out too.
14:33: Jacob Trouba plays a puck from behind his net and is slammed from the side by Glass into the boards. Trouba falls to the ice holding his face. That was very close to being boarding.
14:24: Jim Slater races up the right wing, gets a step on Scuderi and attacks
14:15: Mark Stuart snaps off a wrister from the right point juuust wide to the far side.
13:44: A puck goes out of play and strikes Jets head coach Paul Maurice in the head:
If you can't give your all to a coach bleeding from the face, you have no heart: pic.twitter.com/OXBJYKH2jJ— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) April 4, 2014
12:06: Off a feed by Stempniak, Sutter lifts a wrister from the right circle. Pavelec fights it off. That was a nice little pass by Stempniak to set up Sutter.
10:26: Bortuzzo chases after a dump in into his right wing corner and is slammed awkwardly from behind by Eric Tangradi. No call.
9:24: Steuart fires a slapper from the right point wide to the far side.
9:16: Coasting up the right wing, Bennett cuts to the slot from the half wall. He jams up Stuart who is forced to leg whip him and trips him up. That's two minutes for tripping. Martin, Niskanen, Neal, Kunitz and Crosby take the ice.
8:05: Evander Kane races up the right wing, cuts in from the half wall and whips a wrister to the net. FLeury kicks it away.
7:34: After Crosby steals a puck off Kane in the left circle, he slides a feed to Jokinen in the right circle. Jokinen one-times it on net. Pavelec reads the pass and kicks it out.
7:16: The J.V. power play strikes . Jokinen cycles out of the right wing corner and slides a feed to Crosby in the right circle. Adam Pardy tries to defend Crosby. Crosby sneaks a pass to Bennett low in the left circle. Bennett leans down and swipes a one-timer by the right skate of a helpless Pavelec. What passing. Crosby and Jokinen get assists. Penguins 1-0.
6:15: Racing up the right wing, Megna uses Tobias as a a screen and lifts a wrister from the right circle. Pavelec snags it.
5:11: off a turnover by Maatta from the Penguins' blue line, Kane has a wrister from above the left circle blocked by a stick-on-puck by Niskanen.
2:36: Jussi Jokinen play a puck oultof his own right wing corner and BLAM! He's plastered to the ice by Dustin Byfuglien. Jokinen falls to the ice. he take a few moments to recover and makes his way to the bench minus his stick. Athletic trainer Chris Stewart attends to him and appears to be examining his right hand or wrister.
2:32: More hitting. Neal tries to play a puck in the left wing corner of his own zone. He sees Wheeler chasing him down, braces for contact and stick Wheeler on the ice with a forearm/shoulder. Afterwards, Gibbons tries to play a puck out from his left point and is flattened by Stuart.
1:49: A partial slapper by Nisaknen from the right point is fought off by Pavelec despite traffic.
0:58: Eric O'Dell challenges Martin one-on-one up the left wing. Martin stands his ground and fights the puck off with a stick-on-puck.
0:30: The Jets get their first power play as Pyatt is called for hooking Matt Halischuk near the Winnipeg bench. Sutter, Adams, Orpik and Martin take the ice.
0:06: Playing a puck banked off the right corner boards of the Penguins' zone, Byfuglien chases down the puck and cranks a one-timer. Orpik chases him down and deflects it out of play.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 1, Jets 0.
-A potential injury to Jussi Jokinen aside, that was a pretty good period for the Penguins. They looked like the team which was dominant in early stages of the season.
-We're not going to give Martin all the credit for how the first period went, but he was a big reason for it. He just calmed thigns down when he was on the ice.
-So far so good with switching Bennett and Stempniak. Bennett seemed comfortable with Crosby and Stempniak had a nice little pass to set up Sutter with a chance. Additionally, Bennett drew the penalty on which he scored on.
-This game has taken on a pretty physical tone already.
-The Penguins have an 8-6 lead in shots on net.
-Attempted shots are tied, 11-11.
-Niskanen leads the game in shots with two.
-If there was any notion of easing Martin back to the lineup, forget about it. Martin leads the game with 8:35.
-Enstrom and Pardy each lead the Jets with 7:49 of ice time.
-Crosby is 4 for 5 (80 percent).
-Olli Jokinen is 2 for 2 (100 percent).
-No one has more than one blocked shot.
20:00: It appears Jussi Jokinen is well enough to resume playing:
Jokinen is on the ice for the start of the secod period.— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) April 4, 2014
-The Jets will start the period with 1:30 of power-play time on fresh ice. Glass, Adams, Orpik and Martin take the ice.
19:31: Wheeler sneaks in from the right wing and snap off a wrister which misses the cage, hits the boards and clears the zone.
19:16: From the slot, Byfuglien re-directs a a pass from the left point wide of the cage.
19:02: Andrew Ladd pounds a one-timer form the high slot wide of the cage.
18:30: Pyatt's minor is killed. The Jets had a few quality chances with that power play.
17:51: Crosby snaps off a pass from the left wing to the slot. Bennett fights off Anthony Peluso and has position but misses the puck.
17:22: Scuderi chucks a wrister from the left point. Pavelec eats it up despite traffic.
17:08: The Jets tie the game as puck management hurts the Penguins once again. After Scuderi fumbles a puck at the Jets' right point, Wheeler leads a rush through the neutral zone. He taps it to Olli Jokinen at the Penguins' blue line. Joine gives it back to Wheeler in the slot. WHeeler gets behind Bortuzzo, draws a hook from Neal and forces a pass to Byfuglien to the left of the cage. Fleury kicks out the puck. Jokinen sticks with it and pokes it into the open cage. What a display of speed by the Jets. Scuderi and Bortuzzo did not play that well at all. Wheeler gets the only assists. Jets 1, Penguins 1.
16:21: A wrister by Neal from the right circle is snagged by Pavelec.
15:17: A wrister by Trouba from the right half wall is kicked out by Fleury.
14:25: Kane challenges Scuderi down the slot. Scuderi trips him up in the slot. That's two minutes. It's Scuderi's first minor penalty of the season. Wow. Orpik, Sutter, Martin and Gibbons take the ice.
12:47: A slapper by Trouba from the right point hits off the leg of Olli Jokinen and deflects away.
12:25: Scuderi's minor is killed with little threat from the Jets.
11:57: Bennett pushes the puck up the left wing on a three-on-one against Trouba. Bennett sneaks a feed to Crosby to the right of the slot. Crosby feeds it to Kunitz in the slot. Kunitz jabs the puck which deflects over the cage.
10:18: A defensive breakdown gives the Jets a lead. Pardy dangles around Sutter and Megna at the left point and taps a feed to Halischuk below the goal line. Matt Halischuk tries to deal it to Kane in the slot but Stempniak washes him out with a solid hit. The puck ends up sliding to Zach Redmond above the right circle who whacks it through a few legs and stick by an out of place Fleury. Yeesh. What happened there? Plenty of players in a white jersey need to take a bite out of that crud sandwich. Halischuk and Pardy get assists. Jets 2-1.
8:41: Orpik chops a one-timer from the right. It hits a body in front. Kunitz and Crosby each have a chance at the rebound but can't get a clean stick on the puck.
7:54: Adams whacks a puck from the slot at the cage. It bounces on net where Pavelec smothers it.
7:19: Jussi Jokinen hustles into the Jets' zone and chucks a wrister on net from the left half wall. Pavelec snags it.
5:20: Orpik is playing with Beortuzzo.
4:52: Sutter lifts a wrister from the right half wall which is blocked.
4:30: Martin is out with Scuderi. Slater chips and chases apuck upt he right wing. Arriving at the puck along the Penguins' end boards Slater slams Martin the ice.
3:58: Neal tries to jam in a a loose puck from the right of the cage in tight. Pavelec holds it out.
3:38: Martin snaps off a wrister from above the right circle which is bloked.
3:21: Trouba chops a shot from the right point. Fleury kicks it out.
3:05: Byfuglien snaps off a shot from the high slot. Trouba is above the blue pain and redirects it wide of the cage.
2:54: Off a partial two-on-eon, Crosby whips a wrister from deep on the right wing off the side of the cage.
1:13: Craig Adams scores!?! Okay. The third and fourth lines combine for a strong sequence of puck possession in the Jets' zone. Eventually, Stempniak backhand a feed to Adams in the right circle. Adams strikes a one-timer through a screen by Enstrom and behind Pavelec. Enstrom really hurt Pavelec there. Stempniak and Niskanen get assists. Jets 2, Penguins 2.
0:47: Corralling a puck at the right point, Maatta chips a puck on net form the center point. Pavelec fights it off and smothers the rebound.
0:00: End of period. Jets 2, Penguins 2.
-First things first. The Blue Jackets beat the Flyers, 2-0. That clinches the Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division for the Penguins. We believe they get a coupon to Isaly's for that.
-That was a pretty rotten period overall for the Penguins. They finished out with some momentum, but they weren't very sharp for the bulk of that 20 minutes. They were sloppy with the puck.
-After the Jets' first goal, it looked like Bortuzzo was teamed with Orpik while Martin was teamed with Scuderi.
-Any intrigue the new third line offered at the start of the game was quickly snuffed out on the Jets' third goal. Sutter and Menga were undressed by Pardy, a borderline NHL defenseman.
-We're not sure the Penguins' first line showed a lot of chemistry that period.
-The second line has been nearly invisible.
-The Penguins have a 14-12 lead in shots on net.
-The Jets have a 26-24 lead in attempted shots.
-Trouba leads the game with three shots.
-Niskanen, Neal and Jokinen each lead the Penguins with two shots.
-Martin leads the game with 16:25 of ice time.
-Enstrom leads the Jets with 15:39.
-The Jets have a 13-12 lead in faceoffs (52 percent).
-Olli Jokinen is 4 for 5 (80 percent).
-Crosby is 5 for 8 (63 percent).
-Postma and Stuart each lead the game with two blocked shots.
19:39: Sutter lifts a wrister from the left point over the cage.
19:02: Ladd leans down and swipes a one-timer from the slot which Fleury smothers.
18:24: A loose puck slides to Crosby to the right of the cage. Pavelec challenges him. Crosby tries to force a pass to Bennett i the slot. Trouba plays the puck away.
17:31: Bortuzzo, who is back with Scuderi, swipes a slapper from the center point wide of the cage.
16:50: Redmond swipes a slapper from center point wide of the cage.
15:45: A wrister by Stuart from the left point is blocked by Orpik who breaks it his stick. O'Dell settles the rebound and snaps it wide of the cage.
15:31: Stuart steps up and smacks a slapper from above the left circle. It gets blocked.
14:09: Niskanen whips a wrister from the right half wall wide to the far side.
13:31: Adams whips a wrister from deep on the right wing. Pavelec steers it away.
12:29: Crosby tries to rush the puck upt he slot. O'Dell is able to knock the puck off his stick. It slides to Kunitz on the left wing. Kunitz swipes it on net. Pavelec eats it up. Officials call Stuart for hooking Crosby. Crosby, Neal, Kunitz, Niskanen and Martin take the ice.
12:18: Welcome back Paul Martin. Neal digs the puck out of a pile-up on the left half wall and slinks his way up the boards. he snaps off a little pass to Martin sneaking down the slot. Martin leads down and fires a one-timer by the left skate of Pavelec for the go ahead goal. Neal and Crosby get assists. Penguins 3-2.
11:44: Jayson Megna races the puck up the left wing and is slammed hard to the ice by Pardy. Oof. Pardy has had Megna's number all night.
10:40: Redmond races through the neutral zone, gains the Penguins' blue line and snaps off a wrister wide of the cage.
9:53: After being run over by Byfuglien on the right wing wall, Crosby steals a puck in the right circle and lifts a wrister which Pavelec kicks out.
9:46: A one-timer by Kunitz from the right circle is kicked out by Pavelec.
9:35: Crosby chases down Wheeler racing up the right wing without the puck and holds him up. That's an easy interference call. That's a poor penalty for Crosby to take. Glass, Adams, Martin and Orpik take the ice.
8:52: Enstrom chops a slapper from the right point. It gets blocked. Glass chops the rebound and it hops out of play. Officials rule the puck hit Ladd's stick then went out of play. That's a break for the Penguins. They could have been penalized for delay of game.
8:05: A wrister by Olli Jokinen from the left circle missed the cage.
7:36: Sutter steals a puck in the Penguins' slot and chips it down ice to kill off the rest of Crosby's minor.
6:49: Niskanen chops a slapper from the right point which his blocked.
6:05: Stempniak is out with Jokinen and Neal.
5:21: Wheeler wheels around to the back of the cage with the net and is bumped off the puck by Martin.
4:24: After icing the puck, the Penguins call timeout to get a rest.
3:36: Game. Set. Match. Gibbons steals a puck off Trouba in the neutral zone, races into the offensive zone, uses Trouba as a screen and rips a wrister from inside the left circle behind Pavelec. What an effort by Gibbons. That came out of no where. The goal is unassisted. Penguins 4-2.
2:00: Bennett has not recorded a shift since there was 9:35 remaining in the third period.
1:51: Wheeler pops a one-timer from the left half wall wide of the cage.
1:19: Trouba rockets a one-timer from the center point wide of the cage. Little corrals it off the end boards and taps it over the cage.
1:08: The Jets call a timeout to get organized. Pavelec is pulled for an extra attacker. Bennett is back on the ice.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 4, Jets 2.
-It wasn't perfect. The second period left a lot to be desired, but this game was a big rebound off a mostly rotten effort against the Hurricanes Tuesday. The Penguins controlled the puck much better, they cut down on turnovers, they won puck battles and they won the special teams battles. In addition to winning this game, they improved in areas which have been lacking in recent games.
-With the Atlantic Division title squared away and first place in the Eastern Conference out of reach, the Penguins have the luxury of resting some players in the final handful of games down the stretch. After a physical game like this, a few of the Penguins could benefit from a game off.
-Paul Martin came back in a big way. Even beyond scoring the game-winning goal, Martin's presence could be seen throughout this game. The Penguins seemed to be far more composed with him on the ice. They were able to get the puck out of their zone and up ice with a lot more ease. He just seems to know what to do with the puck in every situation.
-Secondary scoring was pretty key to this game. The Penguins' final three goals came from a fourth-line center (Craig Adams), a defenseman (Martin) and a third-liner winger (Brian Gibbons). When was the last time the Penguins got scoring from a variety of sources like that?
-Beau Bennett looked solid for the most part on Sidney Crosby's wing. The chemistry was a little disjointed at times but it was no worst or better than with Lee Stempniak out there.
-We're curious as to why Bennett did not take a shift for a stretch of seven-plus minutes late in the third period.
-The game was hardly perfect. The second line was a big non-factor for most of the game. Gibbons got a goal but it came through an individual effort off a poor turnover by the Jets.
-The third line was a non-factor as well. Stempniak and Sutter had a little chemistry but overall, it just didn't contribute much.
-Martin and Brooks Orpik looked like they didn't miss a beat. They fed off each other pretty well.
-Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta played a fairly clean game. They probably didn't mind a decreased workload. They were on the ice for the Jets' second goal but we would place more blame on the Penguins forward, specifically Sutter and Jayson Megna for how that goal unfolded.
-Robert Bortuzzo and Rob Scuderi did not look particularly sharp. If they enter the postseason as a pairing, they need to improve as a pair.
-Marc-Andre Fleury was out to lunch on the Jets' second goal but he was okay. He didn't have a ton of work tonight.
-Who impressive was the Penguins' puck possession tonight. They limited the Jets to 15 shots on net.
-Before getting too excited about this win, keep in mind the Jets as presently constructed, aren't a very good team. They're dealing with a ton of injuries. The Penguins should have won this game.
-The Penguins led in shots on net, 21-15.
-The Jets led in attempted shots, 44-41.
-Jacob Trouba led the game with three shots.
-Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Adams, Megna, Crosby, Neal and Niskanen each led the Penguins with two shots.
-Martin led the game with 23:46 of ice time.
-Trouba led the Jets with 23:23.
-The Jets led in faceoffs, 26-19 (58 percent).
-Olli Jokinen was 9 for 12 (75 percent).
-Adams was 6 for 7 (86 percent).
-Paul Postma led the game with four blocked shots.
-Niskanen led the Penguins with three blocked shots.
-Martin (87 points) moved past Chuck Arnason and Jiri Slegr (86 each) for 97th place on the franchise's all-time scoring list.
-Dan Bylsma recorded his 250th career wins.