-When the Penguins acquired Brandon Sutter as the primary return in the trade which sent Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes, Sutter expressed some frustration with his role in Carolina. Said Sutter:
"I think where I was before, I liked my role there and I feel it’s going to be kind of similar here. I think at the same time, there was times where I didn’t get very much offensive opportunity at all. There was no power play, no nothing ever. Which is fine if you’re winning. But when you’re not winning, that can be kind of frustrating I guess. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Dan about that yet but I think it’s going to be clear what I’m going to be doing."
-He'll never get a better chance to fulfill those hopes than the next two to three weeks. With Evgeni Malkin out due to a foot injury, Sutter appears set to assume the No. 2 center job ... tonight at least. After playing with (in no particular order) Matt D'Agostini, Beau Bennett, Taylor Pyatt, Craig Adams, Brian Gibbons, Andrew Ebbett, Chris Conner, Dustin Jeffrey, the great Joe Vitale, Chuck Kobasew and Tanner Glass on his wings this season, he will have Jussi Jokinen, a player he has a history with from Carolina, on his left wing and James Neal, a one-time 40-goal scorer, on his right wing. One could argue, no other center on this team has a better set of centers.
-This is Sutter's time to step up. He hasn't been happy with being in a 3A/3B role for the third line center role with Marcel Goc. He will have no better time to show the coaching staff or management what he can offer this team. Sutter has shown flashes of brilliance in his two seasons with the Penguins. He has scored key goals at key moments including several game-winners but he's been largely underwhelming. He hasn't been an outright liability, but more was expected of him. Starting tonight, he has a chance to prove a lot of critics, inside and outside the organization wrong.
-We'll be interested to see how that line functions with a right-handed center between two left-handed wingers. With Malkin, all three forwards are left-handed.
-As with the injury which sidelined Chris Kunitz recently, we wonder if Malkin's injury would keep him out of the lineup if the Penguins were in a battle for their playoff lives or an actual playoff game. The Penguins have a luxury of being in "no-man's land" with their place int he standings. They are seven points behind the Bruins and 13 points ahead of the Rangers. While they still have to officially clinch the division, they don't really have much to gain in terms of the standings right now. They can afford to rest players for the postseason if they choose.
-We talked to Zbynek Michalek this afternoon at the Coyotes' hotel. You can read the transcript here. Michalek was always a pretty cooperative person in terms of dealing with the media while here in Pittsburgh. From a professional standpoint, we wish he was still here. He was always a good person to chat with on and off the record. While he was hesitant to get into too many details of his time with the Penguins today, he was cooperative once again today about subject matter which wasn't all that pleasant to deal with.
-Michalek is missing a number of his upper teeth as a result of a accident in the preseason. He has a bit of a lisp when he talked today. He said he plans to have them replaced in the upcoming offseason because it's difficult to fix that injury
-Coyotes forward and former Penguin Paul Bissonnette is back in Pittsburgh. He has become a bit of a cult hero for some hockey fans by simply being a goofball on Twitter. Bissonnette got his start as a professional with the Wheeling Nailers. A broadcaster with the Nailers caught up with him at the team's hotel and presented him with a Bissonnette bobblehead which was an upcoming giveaway for the Nailers:
-The Robert Morris' men's hockey team has made the NCAA tournament for the first time in franchise history. Their "reward" is a first-round meeting with powerhouse Minnesota, the top overall seed in the tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Among those who will be rooting for the Colonials is Matt Niskanen.
-A product of Minnesota-Duluth (a rival of Minnesota), Niskanen today simply said, "I hope they [Robert Morris] beat them [Minnesota] so bad."
-Some pregame sights. The barn:
-Darius Kasparaitis is popular in "Snoop Dogg" form:
-And "Dan Kesa" form:
-Brooks Orpik Team USA:
-A team with ties to Coyotes/Jets through the WHA. Ron Francis Whalers:
-A more contemporary Ron Francis fan:
-Marc-Andre Fleury Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:
-Fans entering the barn:
-There are a handful of Coyotes fans on hand. Radim Vrbata:
-Mario Lemieux All-Star:
-Former Coyotes assistant coach and Penguins defenseman Ulf Samuelsson:
-Jersey of the Night: Bissonnette:
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Lee Stempniak, Robert Bortuzzo, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Deryk Engelland, Evgeni Malkin and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Coyotes' starters are Mikkel Boedker, Shane Doan, Antoine Vermette, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Zybnek Michalek and Thomas Greiss.
-Their scatches are Lauri Korpikoski, Derek Morris, Mike Ribeiro, David Schlemko and Mike Smith.
-Morris and Ribeiro are surprised. They apparently didn't have strong games last night against the Rangers last night.
-The Penguins presumably won't mind seeing Ribiero out of the lineup. He has 27 points in 22 career games against them.
-Jeff Jimerson handles business:
19:24: Jumping on a loose puck at the right half wall, Niskanen fires a wrister on net. Greiss steers it away.
19:17: Sutter gets an early chance. he whips a heavy wrister from the high slot. Greiss fights it off.
18:51: Off some furious forechecking by the second line, Neal deals a pass from the left circle to Maatta at the left point. Maatta chucks a wrister which is blocked.
18:27: Trying to settle a puck on his left half wall, Halpern is flattened by Simon Despres. Oof.
15:39: Taking a pass on the right wing, Sutter gallops up the ice, gains the offensive zone and releases a wrister. Fleury kicks it out.
15:19: After a turnover in the Penguins zone by Jokinen, Doan snaps off a wrister from deep in the right wing corner. Fleury holds it out.
14:48: Finishing off his shift, Neal whips a wrister from the right circle. Greiss snags it.
13:54: Skating out from behind the Penguins' net, David Moss turns and whips a wrister on net. Fleury boots it out.
11:53: Settling a puck a the right point, Despres chucks it wide to the near side.
11:19: After Sutter and Jokinen wrestle a puck free in the right circle, Neal whips a heavy wrister from the slot. Greiss fights it off with his blocker.
10:54: After a strong shift by the Penguins' second line, the Coyotes strike. And Niskanen combine to turnover a puck deep in the left wing corner. Martin Hanzal is all over it and feeds it to Moss who rips a wrister behind Fleury from point blank range. Where not sure who deserves the bulk of the blame for that turnover, but Niskanen and Maatta can each stake a claim. Hanzal and Brandon McMillan get assists. Coyotes 1-0.
9:32: The Penguins will get a power play as Chris Summers interfered with Taylor Pyatt while racing for a loose puck in Phoenix's left wing corner. That's two minutes. Crosby, Kunitz, Niskanen, Maatta and Neal.
8:13: Taking a pass at the right point, Niskanen shows slapper, pulls his stick down then whacks a shot/pass to Crosby to the right of the cage. It hits Crosby and bounces to his skates. He tries to jam it in but Greiss holds it out.
8:09: WOW! Off some touch passing in tight, Jokinen gets the puck to the right of the cage and rips a wrister. Greiss stretches to his left and appears to rob him with a glove. Jokinen appeared to celebrate for a moment but no dice.
7:32: The Summers minor is killed. The Penguins did not look all that comfortable there minus Malkin.
6:22: Craig Adams races up the right wing and chucks a wrister on net. Greiss steers it away.
6:00: Off a neutral zone steal by Megna, He races by Ekman-Larsson and whips a low wriste ron net. Greiss kicks it out. GIbbons chases down the rebound
5:34: With a stoppage, officials are finally able to look at the shot by Jokinen around the 8:00 mark. A replay shows it clearly bouncing off a camera in the net. Wow! That goal counts! It's a power play goal. All that time which has passed on the clock will revert back to 8:09. The game is tied. What a bizarre scene. Neal and Crosby get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Coyotes 1, Penguins 1.
7:45: After Despres chips a puck up the left wing boards of the neutral zone. Sutter puck it up and charges up ice. He approaches the net and tries to sneak a backhanded pass to Neal coming in from the right circle. McMillan makes a furious backcheck and dives to break up the pass.
7:09: Crosby tries to power the puck through the neural zone. As he approaches the net, Michalek chases him down and muscles him off t he puck. Nice play by Michalek.
6:36: Maatta gets caught pinching in and that leads to a breakaway by Martin Erat. Erat takes a pass in the neutral zone and walks in from the blue line. He tries to sneak in a cute backhander through the five hole but Fleury's stick denies.
6:15: Michael Stone chucks a wrister from the right point. Fleury denies.
6:00: Stone cranks a slapper from the right point wide to the far side.
5:53: The Coyotes will get a power play as Niskanen is called for cross checking. Adams, Marcel Goc, Rob Scuderi and Orpik take the ice.
5:13: The Coyotes strike. Doan takes a pass low to the right of the cage. he tries to send a feed to Vermette in the slot. Scuderi blocks the pass but Doan ends up with the rebound. He whips it immediately into Fleury . The puck bounces around before Vemette is able to poke it into cage. Vermette got to it before Orpik could. Doan and Boedker get assists. Coyotes 2-1.
5:01: Bortuzzo drops Moss with a solid hit in the Penguins' right wing corner.
3:38: Settling a puck at the right point, Keith Yandle whacks a one-timer from the right point. Fleury eats it up.
2:28: Summers chucks a wrister on net from the right point. Fleury bats it down with his glove and smothers it.
2:18: Rob Klinkhammer whips a wrister from the right half wall wide of the cage.
2:06: After a turnover by Despres from his won zone, Summers hammers a slapper from the right point wide to the far side.
1:05: Sutter gets loose on the right wing thank to a pass from Maatta and whips a rising wrister. Greiss snags it.
0:04: Taylor Pyatt to he rescue?!? Okay. Taking a pass at the right half wall, Scuderi tees up a last second slapper. It sails into a mass of bodies in front of Greiss. It hits something and deflects by him on the far side into the cage. Pyatt gets credit of the goal. Pyatt made a nice forecheck against Ekman-Larsson to even pry that puck loose. Scuderi and Despres get assists. Coyotes 2, Penguins 2.
0:00: End of period. Coyotes 2, Penguins 2.
-Even if you ignore the nearly three minutes of "free" hockey after Jokinen's goal, that was a strange period. Brandon Sutter was the Penguins' most consistent offensive threat. A goal by Taylor Pyatt (off a set up by Rob Scuderi no less) tied the game with four seconds left. To make things even stranger, the Coyotes appeared willing to engage in a run and gun affair thus far.
-Sutter looks energized. He's been using a few power moves off the wings with his new wingers and has been a threat to the Coyotes. He almost looks like Jordan Staal.
-In contrast, the Kunitz-Crosby-Stempniak line has been pretty quiet.
-Maatta's recent run of struggles continues. He was involved in the turnover which led to Phoenix's first goal then allowed Erat to sneak behind him for a brekaway.
-Even after giving up a combined four goals, each goaltender looked fairly sharp.
-The Coyotes have an 11-10 lead in shots on net.
-The Coyotes have an 18-15 lead in attempted shots.
-Moss leads the game with five shots.
-Sutter leads the Penguins with three shots.
-Brandon Gormley leads he game with 9:23 of ice time.
-Scuderi leads the Penguins with 8:17.
-The Coyotes have a 10-8 lead in faceoffs (56 percent).
-Goc is 4 for 6 (67 percent).
-Halpern is 4 for 5 (80 percent).
-Maatta leads the game with two blocked shots.
-Stempniak makes his Icetime debut:
19:26: Off some one-touch passing, Stempniak has a wrister in the slot blocked by Michalek.
17:04: Glass chucks a wrister from the left point at the cage. Greiss snags. Glass heads down the runway towards the dressing room. He took a thump into the glass after shooting the puck.
16:46: After Michalek fumbles a puck in his own right wing corner, Kunitz backhands a pass to Stempniak to the right of the cage. The timing is off and they fail to connect.
16:00: Stempniak jabs a one-timer from the right circle wide to the far side.
15:37: Off a feed by Sutter, Jokinen has a slapper from the left circle blocked.
15:01: McMillan chops a loose puck from the right circle on net. Fleury eats it up. Bissonnette and Despres exchange a few pleasantries. Nothing comes of it.
14:48: Glass returns to the ice.
14:28: After forcing a turnover behind the cage, Adams wheels around to the right circle and chips a backhander on net. Greiss fights it off. Adams jumps on the rebound and chops it over the cage.
13:08: Michalek takes a puck at the right point and chucks a wrister into a bass of bodies and his blocked.
12:53: Maatta takes a pass ont he right wing, pinches in deep and lifts a wrister over the cage.
11:31: Orpik then Kunitz each have wristers in the attacking zone blocked.
11:27: Attendance is announced as 18,631. It is the team's 321st consecutive sellout.
11:04: Ekman-Larsson corrals a puck at the right point and chucks it on net. Fleury eats it up despite traffic.
10:20: Stone chucks a wrister from the right point wide to the far side.
8:42: Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Jokinen battles for a puck deep in the attacking zone and is knocked over twice by Vermette. As play returns up ice, he gets up and slashes Vermette in the legs. Vermette takes a tumble. A referee is no more than six feet away from Jokinen and immediately puts his hand up. Jokinen get's a well-deserved slashing minor. Gibbons, Goc, Martin and Orpik take the ice.
8:22: Yandle tries to wheel around his own right wing corner away from Goc but takes a tumble. Goc jumsp on the puck and tries to jam it in from the right of the cage. Greiss holds it out.
6:42: Just as the Jokinen minor expires, the Coyote Strike. Stone chucks a wrister from the right point. It hits a body or two in front. Orpik battle Doan for the rebound but allows Boedker to sneak in from the right wing corner. He collects the puck and swipes it by Fleury's left shoulder on the near side. Put that one on Jokinen for being selfish. Doan and Stone get assists. Coyotes 3-2.
4:35: Neal sneaks up the right wing and chucks a wrister on net. Greiss snags it.
3:53: Settling a puck at the right point, Maatta chops a slapper from the right point. It hits a body in front.
3:35: Goc and Pyatt each have slappers in the offensive zone blocked.
3:14: After he Coyote turn the puck over deep in the offensive zone, Stempinak glides up the right wing and fires a wrister. Greiss fights off his first offer. Stempniak chops at the rebound and Greiss eats it up. A scrum develops with Crosby and Vermette in the middle of it. Nothing comes of it.
2:45: Despres turns the puck over in the left circle of his own zone. Boedker picks it up and snaps off a wrister which Fleury holds out.
2:32: Ekman-Larsson chucks a wrister from the center point. It catches the lid of Fleury who snags the rebound with his glove hand.
1:24: Moss chucks a wrister from the left half wall. Fleury snags it.
0:06: Jokinen, on a line with Goc and Megna, swipes a wrister from the left point. Greiss steers it away.
0:00: End of period. Coyotes 3, Penguins 2.
-The way that period went, we wish the officials would take away three minutes off the end of the game to get this cruddy contest over with a little faster. That was a pretty boring period and more importantly, a bad period for the Penguins. They're luck they're only down a goal after that.
-The odd things was the Penguins' first line was a lot better that period while the second line was pretty ineffective. It was the reverse of the first period.
-The Coyotes have done a pretty good job of getting the Ekman-Larsson and Michalek pairing up against the Penguins' top line. In fairness, the Coyotes seem to be using that duo quite a bit regardless of the matchup.
-Greiss has been solid. He is kicking out a lot of safe rebound.
-Fleury has been okay. Nothing great.
-Maatta settled down after a shaky first period.
-Scuderi and Orpik were no the ice for that third goal which was essentially (but not officially) a power power play goal. That's two for them tonight.
-The Coyotes have a 19-17 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 34-33 lead in attempted shots.
-Moss leads the game with six shots.
-Sutter, Neal and Stempniak each lead the Penguins with three shots.
-Ekman-Larsson leads the game with 15:59 of ice time.
-Niskanen leads the game with 14:58.
-The Penguins have a 22-21 lead in faceoffs (51 percent).
-Halpern is 8 for 13 (62 percent).
-Goc is 7 for 11 (64 percent).
-Yandle leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Maatta leads the Penguins with two blocked shots.
19:39: Off an offensive zone faceoff win in the right circle by Sutter, Bortuzzo chucks a wrister from the right circle. Greiss fights it off with his blocker. Neal settles the rebound on the right wing and whips it on net. Greiss eats it up.
18:44: Niskanen swipes a wrister from the right point. Greiss fight it off and swats away the rebound.
18:18: The Penguins must kill of a penalty as Crosby is called for high sticking Boedker. Goc, Orpik, Glass and Scuderi take the ice. A goal by the Coyotes could ice this game. Play was stopped on an icing by the Coyotes so the faceoff will be in the neutral zone.
17:24: Yandle tees up a slapper from the center point. It hits something and deflects over the cage.
16:45: Off some perimeter passing, Yandle fires a one-timer from center point. Fleury eats it up.
16:18: The Crosby minor is killed. That was big for the Penguins for a variety of reasons.
15:57: Despres has another turnover as he loses the puck behind the Penguins' net. McMillan chucks it on net. Fleury bails Despres out and snags the puck.
13:47: After Fleury turns the puck over from behind his own net, Doan steals and distributes to the left point for Yandle who fires a one-timer. Fleury kicks it out.
12:56: A wrister by Goc from the right cirle is blocked by Hanzal.
12:26: Crosby is out with Megna and Adams.
11:54: Glass wakes up a slumbering crowd by plowing over Michalek in the Coyotes' left wing corner as Michalek tried to settle the puck. What a hit!
11:46: A slapper by Maatta from the right point deflects out of play. Doan skates over to give Glass a little grief but nothings comes of it.
11:30: Goc takes a faceoff in the attacking zone with Neal and Jokinen on his wings.
11:03: Battling for a puck behind the Penguins' net, Bortuzzo hooks up Hanzal. Bortuzzo appears to plead to the official that Hanzal held his stick. Either way, the Penguins need to kill off another penalty. Sutter, Scuderi, Orpik and Brian Gibbons take the ice.
10:51: After Ekman-Larsson has a wrister blocked in the Penguins zone, Gibbons steaks the puck and races after it into the neutral zone. He's hooked up near the Phoenix blue line. No call.
9:43: Stone uncorks a heavy slapper from the right point. Fleury kicks it out. Vermette slides the rebound on net with a backhander. Fleury smothers it.
9:29: Vermette rips a wrister from the right circle. Fleury snags it.
9:03: The Bortuzzo minor is killed. That was another important kill for the Penguins.
7:08: Sutter, back on with Neal and Jokinen, chucks a wrister from the center point at the cage. It hits a body or two. Jokinen hits the deck battling for position but is still able to backhand a pass to Neal in the right circle. Neal rips a wrister which Greiss snags.
6:33: Off a feed by Crosby, Stempniak snaps off a wrister from the right circle which Ekman-Larsson blocks.
5:14: Off some "hot potato" passing, Jokinen swipes a one-timer from the right half wall. Greiss gloves it.
4:02: Vrbata chops a slapper from the right half wall. Fleury snags it.
3:49: Doan whips a wrister from the left wing wide to the far side.
3:11: Crosby pushes the puck up the right wing, gains the offensive zone and whips a cross-ice feed which is intercepted.
2:50: After Neal swipes a wrister from the right half wall, Greiss kicks out a rebound. Gorc steals it in the left circle and pounds a one-timer wide of the cage. That might have been the Penguins' last best chance.
1:39: After icing the puck, the Coyotes call a time out to get a breather.
1:37: Off a faceoff win in the Coyotes' left circle, Kunitz rips a wrister which Summers blocks.
1:22: With Fleury pulled, Crosby taps a bouncing puck in the right circle to Neal in the left circle. Neal snips awrister. Stone gets a piece of it. Greiss smothers the rebound.
0:45: Game. Set. Match. Neal is called for slashing Michalek's stick in half on the Coyotes' left half wall. That's an easy two minutes. Fleury is back in net. Maatta, Kunitz, Crosby and Niskanen take the ice. The Penguins call a time out.
0:40: With the penguins pushing the puck up ice, Fleury is pulled again.
0:22: Goc chucks a wrister from the right half wall. Greiss fight it off.
0:13: Doan chases down a puck in the Penguins' slot. Maatta races back to poke the puck away.
0:00: End of game. Coyotes 3, Penguins 2.
-This was a broken, incomplete and discombobulated effort by the Penguins. Yes, losing Evgeni Malkin, a former Hart Trophy winner, is a killer. But that wasn't the reason the Penguins lost tonight. They looked disorganized, undisciplined and even a bit disinterested tonight. As sharp as they looked in a loss to the Blues Sunday, they had the look of a team with little concentrated focus tonight.
-In contrast, the Coyotes had an extremely organized and disciplined approach tonight. They rarely strayed from their approach. Once they got their their third lead of the game, they made it difficult for the Penguins to do anything in the neutral zone.
-We're not sure the defensive pairing of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Zbynek Michalek ever left the ice. Sidney Crosby might wonder that too.
-Here's why. Via the wonderful ShiftCart.com Web site, here's how the Coyotes, as the road team mind you, used Ekman-Larsson and Michalek against Crosby's line with Lee Stempniak and Chris Kunitz:
-Click here for a larger resolution.
-What makes that even more maddening is that during his press conference following the morning skate, Dan Bylsma lauded Ekman-Larsson as a candidate for the Norris Trophy. Despite that considerable respect for Ekman-Larsson's abilities, the Penguins' coaching staff saw fit to put the top line, the one which still has its center available and healthy, out on the ice against this pairing shift after shift.
-There's something to be said for a player of Crosby's stature being able to succeed regardless of the competition. An all-time great player should excel in any circumstances. But there's also something to be said for putting those players in positions to succeed. The Penguins coaching staff failed Crosby in this regard tonight.
-All six of the Penguins' defensemen had rough moments tonight. Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta combined on a turnover which led to Phoenix's first goal. Maatta had a bad pinch which led to a breakaway. Rob Scuderi failed to cleanly clear a puck away from Shane Doan and that led to the Coyotes' second goal. Brooks Orpik was a step late on the Coyotes' second and third goals. Robert Bortuzzo took a late penalty behind the Penguins' net while Simon Despres had troubles even holding onto the puck. Deryk Engelland, a healthy scratch, may have been the Penguins' best defenseman tonight.
-Neither team limped into this game completely healthy. But the Coyotes willingly scratched two of their more established players for this game. Derek Morris and Mike Ribeiro, a Penguin killer throughout his career, watched this game in suits and ties. They had poor games last night against the Rangers and Coyotes coach Dave Tippett felt necessary to make changes. Those changes relayed a message which was clearly received by the team. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned there for Bylsma.
-This game started out with such promise for the new second line. Brandon Sutter seemed energized by skating with two legit top-six scoring wingers in Jussi Jokinen and James Neal. He was aggressive with the puck and showed off some power moves from the wings. By the time the second period rolled around, that energy dissipated and Sutter reverted back to being another player.
-This was a moment he needed to step up. With Crosby bottled in for the most part by Ekman-Larsson and Michalek, Sutter presumably got some better matchups. He failed to capitalize.
-Speaking of Jokinen, his penalty against Antoine Vermette was selfish and it ended up being the difference in the game. He slashed Vermette right in front of a referee. While the Penguins officially killed the penalty, the Coyotes scored immediately after Jokinen's minor had expired. It was a selfish moment and it hurt the team.
-Oddly enough, the Penguins lost a game where they finally got some secondary scoring from the likes of Taylor Pyatt. Brian Gibbons, Marcel Goc and Jayson Megna each had a few sporadic offensive chances. For once, the bottom six was at the very least, average.
-Marc-Andre Fleury was adequate. Could have stolen a goal? Sure. But this was not on him.
-Thomas Greiss was very good. The Penguins did generate a more than a few quality chance. Greiss spit out a lot of safe rebounds and seemed pretty confident most of the night.
-From an entertainment standpoint, this was not a very enthralling game. It was pretty choppy and had more than few stoppages. There wasn't too much flow.
-The Coyotes led in shots on net, 29-25.
-The Penguins led in attempted shots, 52-50.
-James Neal and David Moss each lead the game with six shots.
-Ekman-Larsson led the game with 27:02 of ice time.
-Crosby led the Penguins with 23:23.
-The Penguins led in faceoffs, 35-33.
-Goc was 14 for 20 (70 percent).
-Jeff Halpern was 11 for 18 (61 percent).
-Gibbons, Maatta and Michalek each led the game with three blocked shots.
-Fire Ray Shero.
-Odd Stat of the Night: The Penguins had a winning streak of 16 games without Malkin in the lineup snapped.