-It's trade deadline eve. We tend to stay away from all the speculation and rumors on this subject. It gets nauseating in trying to keep track of every little connection between Player A and Team B. We will have a full-blown chat for tomorrow but we'll indulge in trade talk a tad tonight.
-There has been a lot of talk about the Penguins and Ryan Kesler of the Canucks. With the Canucks moving goaltender Roberto Luongo today, it certainly seems like the Canucks are in a fire sale. Kesler controls his fate with a no-trade clause so if he were traded to the Penguins, he would need to approve it.
-We're not sure Kesler would benefit the Penguins that much. Presumably, he would replace Brandon Sutter on the third line as center and that would be a considerable upgrade but the wingers on that potential line would still be substandard. Ryan Kesler is much better than Brandon Sutter. But is Taylor Pyatt-Brandon Sutter-Joe Vitale all that much better than Taylor Pyatt-Brandon Sutter-Joe Vitale?
-The idea of bringing back a "three-center model" is nice. It certainly worked for the Penguins when Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal were those three centers. But the key to that model's success was the third line center having sufficient wingers. A large part of Staal's success was his chemistry with Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy and Jarkko Ruutu.
-Sutter has certainly been underwhelming his his two seasons here. He definitely has another level or two he could hit but expectations of him must be tempered give the revolving door of substandard wingers he has been paired with this season. One could argue his best line this season came with Andrew Ebbett and Chris Conner, two AHL/NHL "tweeners," this season.
-Plan A for Sutter this season was Matt D'Agostini for heaven's sake. He's on plan L at this point.
-That's why we think the Penguins' biggest target should be bottom six wingers. They have a hole on the first line's right wing and on the blue line. But Paul Martin (and perhaps Kris Letang) will return at some point on defense. Additionally, Beau Bennett will be back at some point. Finally, Brian Gibbons has done his job as a fill-in on Crosby's right wing a higher level than Pyatt, Conner, Vitale or D'Agostini have on the third line wings. With the exception of Jayson Megna or Harry Zolnierczyk, there arent' any other internal options for those roles.
-That said, if he can upgrade those positions as well, Ray Shero should pursue it in any reasonable fashion.
-Make no mistake, the only standard for this team with Crosby and Malkin is the Stanley Cup. Anything short of that is failure. But don't dismiss the horrible timing of what has happened this season. The ONE year the salary cap has come down since it was insituted, the Penguins have lost their most talented defenseman - Kris Letang - to a stroke and a high-end backup goaltender - Tomas Vokoun - to blood clots. Add Those ailments and the implications they have on the salary cap and the fact that it decreased this season, that's a tough spot for Shero to operate in.
-Yadda, yadda about "excuses." That's just rotten luck.
-Long time EN reader Bernardo Mainou is in Nashville:
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Brian Gibbons, Chris Kunitz, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Deryk Engelland, Kris Letang and Paul Martin.
-The Predators' starters are Gabriel Bourque, David Legwand, Craig Smith, Roman Josi, Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne.
-Their scratches are Victor Bartley, Rich Clune and Devan Dubnyk.
19:40: Off a turnover by Scuderi from behind his own net, Weber snaps a wrister from the right circle wide to the far side.
19:25: Jussi Jokinen whacks a one-timer from the right circle. Rinne fights it off and smother the rebound.
18:17: A backhander by Eric Nystrom from the slot is kicked out by Fleury.
17:28: Rinne, playing his first game since Octiber, seems just fine. Crosby races up the right wing on a two-on-one with Kunitz against Weber. As Weber slides down, Crosby is able to tuck a backhanded pass around him to Kunitz coming in off the left wing. Kunitz jabs a shot on net and Rinne appears to be able to kick it out with his right skate. Wow!
16:52: Roman Josi blasts a slapper from the right point. FLeury boots it out.
15:57: Niskanen and Scuderi are teamed up while Orpik and Maatta are a pair.
15:36: Mike Fisher booms a slapper from the right wing. Fleury eats it up.
15:17: Orpik chops a slapper from the right half wall. Rinne eats it up.
12:53: Off some tic-tac-toe passing, Neal has a chance in the slot but loses the puck on a poke check by Ryan Ellis.
11:59: A wrister by Crosby from above the left circle is deflected out of play by Josi.
10:11: The Penguins go to the power play as Simon Moser is called for slashing Malkin. That appeared to be a weak penalty. Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz, Neal and Niskanen take the ice.
8:25: Off a cross-ice pass by Crosby, Malkin sweeps a one-timer from the right circle wide of the cage and off the end boards. The puck kicks out and is smothered by Rinne.
8:11: The Moser minor expires. Not much there for the Penguins.
7:57: Maatta rips a wrister from the right circle. Rinne fights it off.
6:55: A wrister by Niskanen from the right point is kicked out by Rinne.
6:00: Taking a pass at the blue line, Smith lifts a wrister from above the right circle over a diving Robert Bortuzzo. Fleury is late to react to the puck and it clanks off the cross bar and out.
5:54: Taking a pass in the right circle, Weber booms a big one-timer which Neal blocks. Ouch.
5:48: The rebound kicks back up ice and springs Kunitz on a rush up the left wing. He cranks a one-timer which Rinne eats up.
3:14: The Predators strike first. Nick Spaling rips a wrister from the right circle but has it blocked by Maatta's stick. It hits off the end boards. Spaling beats Maatta to the rebound and chops it on net. Fleury hugs the right post and fights off the puck with his chest. Gaustad crashes in on net by Chuck Kobasew and directs the puck through Fleury's five hole with the inside of his right skate. Gaustad crashes into Fleury as the puck hits the back of the cage. Officials rule a goal initially but consult a video review. After a lengthy delay, officials award the goal to Gaustad. There doesn't seem to be much on the video which would overturn the call but officials rule that it was kicked in. Wow. No goal.
2:27: Battling for a puck with Malkin, Del Zotto is crunched from behind into the left wing corner boards of the Nashville zone. Oof. Not a smart play by Neal, He even sort of threw his left arm. He heads to the penalty box. That's not the first time those two were involved on a dangerous hit:
-Neal gets a boarding minor. Del Zotto returns to the bench. Sutter, Craig Adams, Orpik and Scuderi take the ice.
1:35: After handing his stick to Orpik, Glass lays down to block a Weber slapper in the right circle. Oof.
1:24: Another slapper by Weber from thi gh slot is blocked by Glass again. Dang.
1:08: Orpik blocks a slapper by Josi in the right circle. Adams clears the rebound.
0:37: Bortuzzo stands up Colin Wilson with a stiff check at the Penguins blue line.
0:27: The Neal minor expires.
0:23: As play moves back up ice, Bortuzzo and Wilson are engaged in a fight. It's a pretty fierce but hardly spectacular fight. They mostly wrestle around and land a few punches in tight. Someone is cut but its not clear as there is blood on Wilson's visor. They fall to the ice. Bortuzzo heads to the bench in a huff. His helmet actually slipped down into his jersey. he pulls it out and slam it on the ice before heading back to the dressing room. Yeesh.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 0, Predators 0.
-The Penguins had a few solid offensive chances but not surprisingly, the were limited to the first two lines. That was another flat effort, on offense at least, by the bottom two lines.
-The first two defensive pairings have been switched around. Maatta is with Orpik while Scuderi is with Niskanen. Niskanen-Scuderi was used to some success this season when Letang missed the start of the campaign due to his knee injury. Maatta-Orpik is a relatively new development.
-We're not crazy about breaking up Niskanen-Maatta but the Penguins needed spread the wealth a bit with Martin and Letang injured.
-Tanner Glass is one person who wants to keep his job on the bottom six.
-The Penguins have an 8-7 lead in shots on net.
-The Predators have an 18-16 lead in attempted shots.
-Kunitz leads the game with three shots.
-None of the Predators has more than one shot.
-Weber leads the game with 9:01 ice time.
-Orpik leads the Penguins with 8:19.
-The Predators control faceoffs, 14-9 (61 pecent).
-Legwand is 5 for 6 (83 percent).
-Malkin is 3 for 7 (43 percent).
-Glass leads the game with three blocked shots.
-None of the Predators has more than one blocked shot.
19:33: Matt Niskanen to the rescue. Crosby picks up a loose puck in the left wing corner, skate sbheind hte net, fends off Legwand and deals a little pass to Niskanen. Niskanen sneaks down to the dot and cranks a one-timer behind Rinne. What an effort by Crosby. He gets an assist along with Gibbons. Penguins 1-0.
19:21: The Predators get one back immediately. Fisher whacks a one-timer from the right point. It rattles around after hitting a body or two. Neither Orpik nor Maatta can get a stick on the puck. Patric Hornqvist is able to sweep the rebound behind a sprawling Fleury. Spaling and Fisher get assists. Penguins 1, Predators 1.
19:12: Malkin pushes the puck up the left wing and lifts a wrister. Rinne snags it.
18:27: Simon Despres chucks a wrister from the right point. It hits a stick and deflects on net. Rinne fights it off.
17:21: Seth Jones rips a wrister from the right point wide of the cage.
17:01: Off a little feed by Gibbons, Kunitz booms a one-timer from the slot wide of the cage.
15:34: Despres grabs Spaling behind the Penguins net. That's two minutes for holding. That's his third minor in two games. Sutter, Adams, Orpik and Scuderi take the ice.
15:02: Racing up the right wing, Weber cranks a slapper wide to the far side.
14:26: A wrister by Legwand from above the right circle is wide to the near side.
13:57: A one-time by Jones from above the right circle hits something and deflects wide.
13:41: Ellis chucks a wrister from center point. Fleury steers it away.
13:34: Despres' minor is killed with minimal threat from the Predators.
12:21: A wrister by Despres from the right point is blocked.
11:54: So close. Off turnover by Weber in his own zone, Neal deals a little feet do Malkin rips a wrister from the slot off the right post. Malkin hunches over in frustration.
11:46: A slapper by Victor Stalberg from above the right circle is deflected out of play.
11:36: Root Sports drops an Eddie Shack reference:
10:44: The Penguins get another power play and once again, Gibbons draws it. He's interfered by Del Zotto. That's the fifth penalty Gibbons has drawn in three games. Malkin, Neal, Crosby, Kunitz and Niskanen take the ice.
10:27: Short-handed, Malkin pushes the puck up the right wing one-on-one against Malkin who is playing defense. Malkin stands his ground ans trips the puck.
9:56: Kunitz chops a puck from the slot. Rinne gets a piece of it with his right leg.
9:32: Niskanen whacks a one-timer from the high slot. Gaustad blocks it and dives to poke the rebound out of the zone.
9:21: Off a cross-ice pass, Malkin leans down and puts a one-timer off the near post.
9:05: Malkin tosses a pass to the slot. Kunitz taps it on net. Rinne fights it off.
8:49: The Penguins are nabbed for too many men on the ice. Jokinen will serve the minor.
8:44: Del Zotto's minor expires and Nashville gets a power play.
8:35: Smith sweeps a one-timer from the right circle off the near post.
7:42: Jones slams Orpik to the ice with a reverse hit in the left wing corner.
7:09: Weber booms a one-timer from the center point. Fleury gets a piece of it despite traffic.
6:43: Gibbons clears the puck down ice as time expires. He ends up icing the puck.
5:58: Jokinen is skating with Crosby and Kunitz. According to Root Sports' Bob Errey, Gibbons went to the dressing room.
4:59: A wrister by Spaling from the right circle is kicked out by Fleury.
4:11: Nystrom jabs a wrister from the high slot wide to the right of the cage.
3:19: A backhander by Bortuzzo from the left point is blocked by Weber.
3:13: A wrister by Smith from the slot is blocked by Bortuzzo.
0:01: After a few stagnant minutes, Malkin whips a wrister wide of the cage from the left circle.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 1, Predators 1.
-Things really bogged down that period after a fast start. Each team buttoned things down and made it tough for each other offensively.
-Brian Gibbons had solid twenty minutes with a secondary assist and a drawn penalty.
-Neither team's power play has been all that sharp.
-The Penguins have a 12-11 lead in shots on net.
-The Predators have a 32-30 lead in attempted shots.
-Weber leads the game with 18:48 of ice time.
-Orpik leads the Penguins with 15:46.
-The Predators have a 24-22 lead in faceoffs (52 percent).
-Crosby is 9 for 16 (56 percent).
-Legwand is 6 for 10 (60 percent).
-Glass leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Bourque and Weber each lead the Predators with two blocked shots.
17:28: Pushing the puck around the offensive zone on a nice individual effort, Cullen rips a wrister from the right circle, Fleury kicks it out with his right leg. Gaustad jumps on the rebound but can't beat Fleury.
16:15: With Chuck Kobasew getting a shift on the top line, Kunitz whacks a one-timer from the right wing. Rinne steers it away.
15:04: Jones pushes the puck up the right wing and has a wrister blocked out of play by Despres.
13:13: Kunitz pushes the puck up the right wing and flings a backhander wide of the cage. Play is blown dead. Legwand is called for Kunitz. Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Niskanen take the ice.
12:32: Niskanen fumbles a puck at the left point of the attacking zone. It skids down ice to the penguins' zone. FLeury races out of the net and pokes it away from an on-rushing Gaustad. They collide a bit and take a tumble. Fleury is able to recover and play th epuck away from Nystrom. That allows the Penguins to play it back up ice. Eventually, Malkin taps a feed from the right half wall to Niskanen above the left circle. Niskanen tees up a one-timer which blows by Rinne and hits twine. The Penguins celebrate and Niskanen points at Fleury back down ice. Fleury has a you-know-what-eating grin on his face and waves back. What a crazy sequence. Malkin and Crosby get assists. Penguins 2-1.
11:58: Off a feed by Taylor Pyatt, Jokinen whacks a one-timer from deep on the right wing wide to the near side.
10:49: Kunitz is out with Vitale and GIbbons.
9:39: Moser chops a one-timer from the right circle. Fleury kicks it out. Niskanen is called for holding Gaustad in front of the net. Sutter, Scuderi, Orpik and Adams take the ice.
9:29: Josi booms a slapper from the right point wide to the far side.
9:12: A wrister by Legwand from the right circle is kicked out.
9:09: Battling for the rebound, Orpik drops Legwand hard in the right wing corner of the Penguins' zone. Orpik might have gotten away with that one.
8:42: The great Joe Vitale chips and chases a puck up the right wing and is cross checked to the boards by Legwand. That's two minutes for interference. We'll have four-on-four play for 1:02.
7:39: The Niskanen minor is killed. The Penguins will have a five-on-four power play for 58 seconds.
7:12: Neal tries to jam in a backhander from the left of the cage. RInne holds it out.
6:42: Legwand's minor is killed. Back to five-on-five. The Penguins didn't really do much with that brief power play.
5:52: Off a feed from Jones, Del Zotto booms a slapper from he left point wide of the cage.
5:15: Sutter lifts a wrister from the left circle over the cage.
4:48: A slapper by Ellis from the right point is blocked by a diving Glass.
4:18: Ellis has another slapper from the right point blocked by Glass' skate.
4:11: Neal muscles the puck up the right wing and punches a wrister wide.
3:17: Off a drop pass by Moser. Weber cranks a one-timer from the right circle off the far post. Yeesh.
2:55: Game. Set. Match. Settling a puck in the left circle, Crosby slides an easy pass to Kunitz in the slot by the glove hand of Weber. What a powerful shot. Crosby gets the only assist. Afterwards, Weber has a few too many words with officials and is given and unsportsmanlike conduct minor and a 10-minute misconduct. Not sure what he did exactly. Wilson will serve the minor. The Penguins get a power play. Neal, Maatta, Malkin, Niskanen and Crosby take the ice. Penguins 3-1.
2:05: A considerable "Let's Go Pens!" chant echos around Bridgestone Arena.
0:35: Rinne is pulled for an extra attacker.
0:20: Ooof. Crosby coasts up the right wing and centers a pass to Glass who has a wide open net but ends up hitting both posts with the puck. How did he manage that?
0:00: End of game. Penguins 3, Predators 1.
-Getting a win in general was good. Getting the game's first goal for the first time in seven contest was even better. But the best part of this 3-1 win tonight was how it was earned. This was a playoff-style game which featured some strong defense by both teams. The Penguins just waited this out until opportunities presented themselves and took this game.
-Yes, the Predators don't have an overly dynamic offese and the Penguins got luck with a few shots off the post by Nashville shooters, but this was an impressive defensive effort by the Penguins have been reeling in the absences of Paul Martin and Kris Letang.
-Matt Niskanen steeped up in their absence. He came though with two impressive goals including his sixth game-winner of the season. Where would this team be this season without Niskanen?
-Tanner Glass is certainly aware of what may happen tomorrow at the trade deadline and his play displayed that. He put his body though quite a bit tonight blocking shots from some of the best point shots in the NHL in Shea Weber and Roman Josi. Tanner Glass wants to stay on this team.
-Once again, this game turned into a special teams battle. There were nine total power plays. In the Penguins' three games since the Olympic break, there have a total of 27 power plays (9.0 per game). In their 58 pre-Olympics games, there 366 power plays (6.3 per game). Again, we wonder if the NHL has issued an edict to officials to call more penalties.
-The Penguins mixed and matched their lines and defensive pairings a fair amount tonight for varioius reasons. We're not sure if it really accomplished much. That said, it seemed like Rob Scuderi benefitted a bit by playing with Niskanen once again.
-We're still on board with Brian Gibbons being on the top line. He had a few little plays which helped the Penguins create a few offensive chances and he even drew a penalty which led to a power play. That's the fifth penalty he has drawn in three games.
-Evgeni Malkin was snakebit tonight. He hit a few posts. He had a pretty solid game in terms of creating offensive chances.
-Once again, the bottom six forwards didn't offer much in terms offense. We did like the efforts of Brandon Sutter, Craig Adams, the great Joe Vitale and Glass on the penalty kill however.
-Chuck Kobasew, a day removed from being put on waivers, got a handful of shifts with Crosby and Chris Kunitz and looked like he was shot out of a torpedo tube. He certainly appeared motivated.
-Simon Despres did not help his case with the coaching staff by taking another penalty. His ice time was evident of that. He had a respectable amount of shifts at 21 but he was limited to an average of 35 seconds per shift.
-For a guy who has been sidelined for several months, Pekka Rinne looked pretty good. He stole a few goals and did more than enough to help his team win.
-Shots on net were even, 19-19.
-Nashville has a 43-41 edge in attempted shots.
-Chris Kunitz led the game with seven shots.
-Gabriel Bourque led the Predators with three shots.
-Josi led the game with 26:37 of ice time.
-Niskanen led the Penguins with 23:36.
-The Predators had a 33-32 advantage in faceoffs (51 pecent).
-David Legwand was 9 for 13 (69 percent).
-Crosby was 12 for 22 (55 percent).
-Glass led the game with five blocked shots.
-Weber led the Predators with four shots.
-Niskanen increased his franchise record for defensemen for game-winning goals in a season to six. The NHL record for game-winning goals by a defenseman is seven and is shared by Boston's Ray Bourque, St. Louis' Al MacInnis, Colorado's Derek Morris and Calgary's Dion Phaneuf.
-Niskanen also set a new career-high for points in 37.