-Beau Bennett is scheduled to be out of the lineup tonight as a healthy scratch. This doesn't appear to be about him deserving this. Clearly, he hasn't been playing well as of late but the Penguins aren't a better team with Mark Arcobello in the lineup in place of Bennett.
-As he approaches restricted free agency this summer, Bennett still figures to be a piece of the team's future. Even if he wasn't drafted by Jim Rutherford, he's still a former first-round pick with considerable upside. Rutherford and staff realize that. Giving him a game off not only serves as a kick in the butt but also as allows Bennett a chance to reset mentally.
-If Dan Bylsma was still coach, tonight's scratch would probably be a matter of simply not trusting him to help the Penguins beat the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 30. Mike Johnston seems to be better at recognizing the value of a player's future than his immediate impact. His decision to scratch Bennett has much more to do with Bennett's future than his present.
-Bylsma would scratch Bennett because he trusted Brian Gibbons more. Johnston is scratching Bennett because he wants him to be a better player for Sunday's game against the the Predators.
-Christian Ehrhoff is out after suffering a head injury against the Capitals Wednesday. He was injured on this collision with Alex Ovechkin:
-There was a scrum afterwards with a number of the Penguins going after Ovechkin. Regardless, that was a clean "hit." Ehrhoff's own momentum seemed to take his feet out from underneath him and cause his head to make contact with the ice. Nothing malicious happened (aside from the scrum). It was just unfortunate.
-We didn't notice this at the moment but take a look at the Penguins' bench when that scrum started. Simon Despres was on the bench and appeared to attempt to get involved but was restrained by Letang who grabbed him by the collar and pulled him back. First, Despres can't be that stupid. That would have led to some sort of supplemental discipline. Second, what a heads-up moment by Letang to save Despres from himself.
-Not to feed the beast of the recent Jaromir Jagr trade rumors, but if you recall on July 1, 2011, the first day of free agency in that offseason, after Jagr ultimately signed with Flyers, Ray Shero had a press conference at Consol Energy Center and insulated himself from Jagr. He stressed:
"For me, I don't know Jaromir Jagr so I'm not bitter at all. This is business for me. ... I don't have any feelings. I don't know him."
-Not so coincidentally, Shero signed Steve Sullivan, a player he worked with in Nashville instead of Jagr. Shero placed only so much value on Jagr as an NHL player at that stage of his career and it clearly wasn't enough for Jagr's demands.
-Nearly four years later, Shero is out of a job and Rutherford is now general manager. Rutherford, if nothing else, has not been shy about making moves at the behest of management. Ask James Neal about that.
-Make no mistake, even after Jagr used the Penguins in order to leverage other teams for more money in 2011, upper management, particularly the man who used to center him, want closure with Jagr and his Penguins career. The potential for him to return to the Penguins under Rutherford is much greater than it was was under Shero.
-This is just exclusive to the possibility of a trade this season. Keep in mind, Jagr is a free agent this upcoming offseason.
-According to the team's Web site, the Penguins' lines and defensive pairings are:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - David Perron
Nick Spaling - Brandon Sutter Patric Hornqvist
Mark Arcobello - Maxim Lapierre - Steve Downie
Zach Sill - Andrew Ebbett - Craig Adams
Simon Despres - Kris Letang
Rob Scuderi - Paul Martin
Scott Harrington - Robert Bortuzzo
-The Despres-Letang pairing is intriguing. It's been used in the past under Bylsma and had some good moments.
-We would anticipate a better game out of Lapierre now that he's a little more acclimated with his new environment. He said as much following today's morning skate.
-Having done a little more searching, Lapierre and Downie have cross paths a few times during their NHL careers:
-The Penguins starters are Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, David Perron, Simon Despres, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Beau Bennett and Christian Ehrhoff.
-The Devils' starters are Patrik Elias, Martin Havlat, Travis Zajac, Andy Greene, Adam Larsson and Cory Schneider.
-Their scratches are Eric Gelinas and Michael Ryder.
18:42: Jagr appears to have a chance on the left wing off a drop pass by Adam Henrique but a nice back check by Lapierre breaks it up.
18:19: Crosby lifts a wrister from in tight in the left circle but is denied by Schneider.
17:09: Off a neutral zone turnover, Despres taps a puck up to Ebbett who hustles into the offensive zone and lifts a wrister on net from the left circle. Schneider kicks it out.
16:32: Zajac flicks a backhander from the left wing off the side of the cage.
15:57: Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Martin whips a wrister from the right point. Schneider denies it.
15:44: After Arcobello forces a turnover behind the net, Downie whacks a quick shot from the left of the cage on net. Schneider smothers it.
15:21: Off a feed by Crosby, Perron rips a wrister which is blocked by Larsson. The rebound bounces to Letang who banks it off a skate and on net. Schneider kicks it out.
14:38: Marek Zidlicky has a slapper from the right point blocked by Sill.
13:21: Peter Harrold makes a mad das off the right wing towards the crease but loses the puck as he apporaches the net. There's a scramble for the puck but play is blown dead. Jacob Josefson shoots the puck after the whistle. Downie slashes Josefson on the leg in response. Downie is called for roughing while Lapierre is called for charging. The Devils will get a five-on-three power play. Yeesh. Sutter, Martin and Scuderi take the ice.
12:58: Zidlicky whacks a slapper from the right point. Fleury fights it off despite traffic.
12:27: Jagr takes a feed in the low slot and whips a one-timer. Martin is able to get a stick on is and deflects the puck out of play. Wow.
12:21: Elias whips a wrister from the right circle. Fleury kicks it out.
12:14: Zidlicky cranks a slapper from the right point. Fleury snags it with a flashy glove hand.
11:58: Stealing a puck behind his own net, Letang whips it down ice for a clear.
11:18: As the Downie and Lapierre minors expire, Letang steals a puck off Elias along the end boards and taps it to Adams who gets it out of the defensive zone.
11:06: Lapierre rips a wrister off the right wing. Schneider fights it off with his left shoulder and smothers the rebound.
10:40: Kunitz snaps off a wrister from the left wing. Greene blocks it out of play.
10:29: Hornqvist rips a wrister from the right right wing wide of the cage.
9:37: Sutter snaps off a screened wrister from the right point which Schneider eats up.
8:50: Off a backhanded feed by Crosby from below the goal line, Kunitz whacks a one-timer from the high slot. Schneider kicks it out.
8:37: Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Jon Merrill fire a wrister from the left point which hits a body or two and deflects just wide.
7:45: Off a defensive zone steal, Downie races up the right wing and rips a wrister high and wide of the cage.
7:06: Mark Fraser whips a wrister from the left point which Fleury fights off.
6:27: Forcing a turnover by Zidlicky at the Penguins' right point, Sutter chases down a loose puck on the left wing. He claims it, enters the defensive zone and attacks the net on a breakaway. His forehand shot is denied by Schneider. Hornqvist follows up on the rebound but no dice.
5:53: Fraser is called for interference against Hornqvist following the rebound chance. Crosby, Kunitz, Hornqvist, Perron and Letang take the ice. Kunitz is back on the varsity power play after two games with the J.V.
4:01: Despres rips a wrister from the right point which Schneider kicks out.
3:53: Two minutes later, the Penguins' power play expires with minimal threat.
3:39: Off a feed by Martin, Sutter whacks a one-timer from the right point. Schneider fights it off.
3:31: Downie fires a wrister out of a collection of bodies in the slot. Schneider's right leg kicks it out.
1:08: Despres whips a one-timer from the right point which Schneider fends off.
1:01: Letang whacks a shot from the right point which is blocked.
0:00: End of period. Devils 0, Penguins 0.
-Even if they stink, the Devils still play the same way, especially against the Penguins. They didn't give up many chances and didn't take many.
-That said, Schneider was pretty tuned in during that period. The few quality chances the Penguins did have, he was strong on.
-The power play looked pretty stale with its one chance.
-Granted, the Devils' power play isn't all that great but the Penguins' penalty kill came up huge on that five-on-three.
-Lapierre looked more comfortable in that period than he did Wednesday.
-Despres and Letang looked very comfortable together.
-The Penguins lead in shots, 14-4.
-The Penguins have a 19-11 lead in attempted shots.
-Sutter and Downie each lead the game with three shots.
-None of the Devils have more than one shot.
-The Devils lead in faceoffs, 12-6 (67 percent).
-Zajac is 6 for 7 (86 percent).
-Lapierre is 4 for 5 (80 percent).
-Sutter and Larsson each lead the game with two blocked shots.
18:45: Kunitz drives a slapper from the left wing wide of the cage.
17:59: A wrister by Harrington from the left point is blocked.
17:11: After blocking a shot at the Penguins' right point, Sill pushes a puck up the left wing and fires a slapper off the mark.
16:15: Kunitz moves up the right wing and lifts a backhander wide on the near side.
16:09: Crosby lifts a backhander from the slot. Schneider fights it off.
14:43: Harrold whips a wrister from the right point. Fleury snags it.
12:53: Off an offensive zone steal by Havlat, Elias lifts a wrister from the right circle. Fleury dives to his left and fight it off.
12:47: Crosby tries to skate the rebound up ice but has it stolen in the slot. Havlat snaps it on net. Fleury snags it.
12:36: Spaling snaps off a wrister from the left wing. Schneider smothers it.
12:32: Off the ensuing offensive zone faceoff win, Martin rips a wrister from center point. It gets blocked and deflects wide.
11:20: Despres tries to play a puck out of his right wing corner and is held up by Zubrus who wrapped his arm around him like he were preforming a Heimlich maneuver. That's two minutes. Crosby, Kunitz, Perron, Letang and Hornqvist take the ice.
10:48: Letang whacks a one-timer from the left circle. Schneider makes the save. Hornqvist is right in his grill and chops the rebound wide.
10:25: Letang fires a one-tier from center point. It hit something and deflects to the right of the crease. Crosby and Hornqvist each have chances in tight but can't beat Schneider. Replay show Crosby putting a backhander off the far post.
9:29: Despres fires a slapper from the right point which is blocked.
9:20: The Zubrus minor is killed. The Penguins looked a lot more dangerous on that power play.
7:48: Corralling a puck at the left point, Scuderi whacks it on net. It gets blocked.
7:23: Scuderi chucks a wrister from the left point wide of the cage.
7:04: Crosby rips a wrister from the left circle which Schneider stops with his blocker. Schneider is able to smother the rebound despite traffic.
3:53: After a few stagnant minutes, play is halted as Havlat crashes into the Penguins' net and dislodges it.
3:25: Sutter fires a wrister from the left circle which is blocked.
1:22: Off a rush, Larsson rips a wrister from above the right circle juuust wide to the far side.
0:56: Ebbett backhands a puck from the left circle to the slot. Adams is there but their timing is off and he fails to connect with the puck.
0:03: Taking a pass at the right wing, Zidlicky booms a slapper which Fleury snags. Afterwards, Letang gives Zubrus a cross check. Zubrus returns the favor. A scrum ensues. Officials break it up. Letang and Zubrus each get cross checking minors. Play will be four-on-four for two minutes.
0:00: End of period. Devils 0, Penguins 0.
-This is a Penguins-Devils game straight out of 1998. The only things missing are Tyler Wright, Sergei Brylin and that terrible "Meet Virginia" song.
-The Penguins lead in shots, 20-7.
-The Penguins lead in attempted shots, 31-16.
-Sutter, Downie and Letang each lead the game with three shots.
-Harrold and Elias each lead the Devils with two shots.
-Letang leads the game with 17:40 of ice time.
-Zidlicky leads the Devils with 16:16 of ice time.
-The Devils lead in faceoffs, 19-15 (56 percent).
-Zajac is 8 for 12 (67 percent).
-Lapierre is 6 for 9 (67 percent).
-Greene and Sutter each lead the game with two blocked shots.
20:00: There will be 1:57 of four-on-four play on fresh ice.
19:12: Off a feed by Crosby, Scuderi whips a wrister from center point. Schneider snags it.
19:01: Despres is in deep on the left wing and plays a puck to the crease. Hornqvist is there but can't beat Schneider.
18:47: Zidlicky pushes the puck on the right wing and deals a pass towards the net. Havlat drives the slot and tips the puck wide.
18:39: Despres lifts a wrister from the right wing. Schneider fights it off but allows a rebound. Kunitz and Hornqvist are each there for the rebound but can't bury it.
18:27: A wrister by Havlat from the right cirlce is denied by Fleury.
18:22: Larsson pounds a one-timer from the right circle. Fleury makes the save but allows a rebound in the slot. Despres is able to clear the puck from the crease before Elias can get a stick on it.
18:03: Letang and Zubrus return to the ice.
18:01: A one-timer by Gomez in the left circle is blocked by Scott Gomez.
17:45: Arcobello lifts a spinning wrister from the left circle which is blocked by Fraser.
17:08: Crosby tries to jam in a backhand wraparound from the left of the crease. No dice.
16:52: Arcobello booms a slapper fro the right point which misses the net.
16:26: Hornqvist booms a slapper from a bad angle the right wing. Schneider fights it off.
16:01: Larsson fires a slapper from the right point. It gets blocked. Gomez settles the rebound and lifts a wrister which Fleury gets a piece of.
15:49: Off a feed from Jagr, Gomez rips a one-time from the high slot wide of the cage.
15:32: Racing in off the left wing, Ebbett wides up and blasts a slapper from the left circle. Schneider eats it up.
14:15: Bortuzzo settles a puck at the right point and golfs a slapper on net. Schneider eats it up despite traffic.
13:52: The Devils break through. Bortuzzo turns the puck over in the neutral zone. Bernier takes it over and pushes it up the right wing. Bortuzzo tries to backtrack and takes a tumble. Bernier fends him off, goes behind the net and tucks a forehand wraparound by the right skate of Fleury. What an effort by Bernier. Put that on Bortuzzo though. Devils 1-0.
13:33: Lapierre pushes a puck up the left wing and flips a backhander on net. Schneider eats it up.
12:35: Letang whips a wrister from the right point wide of the cage.
12:17: A slapper by Letang from the right point is blocked.
12:07: A wrister by Perron from the left wing is fought off by Schneider.
10:48: Despres booms a slapper from the left point wide of the cage.
10:29: HUGE save! Perron pushes a puck up the right wing and snaps off a pass to the slot. Crosby drives to the cage and taps its on net. Schneider does a snow angel in his crease and kicks it out. Wow!
9:44: Spaling rips a wrister from the slot. Schneider kicks it out.
9:04: Ebbett snaps off a wrister from the left half wall. Schneider eats it up despite having Hornqvist in the crease.
7:53: After scuderi takes a tumble in his own right circle, he turns the puck over to Havlat who lifts a backhander over the cage.
7:04: Off a feed by Hornqvist, Letang cranks a slapper from the right circle. It clanks off a post.
6:29: A slapper by Despres from the right point is kicked out by Schneider.
6:20: A wrister by Lapierre from above the right circle is blocked. Letang corrals the rebound to the right of the cage but has his wrister blocked by Zidlicky.
6:09: A slapper by Lapierre from the right point is blocked by Gomez.
6:03: After Downie gets away with a trip on Jagr in the Devils' left circle, Letang rips a wrister which Schneider kicks out.
5:51: Pushing a puck up ice to get his team a much-needed line change, Gomez rips a wrister from the center point. Fleury eats it up.
4:59: A one-timer by Gomez from above he left circle is fought off by Fleury.
3:39: Despres snaps off a wrister from the right half wall which is blocked.
3:29: The Penguins get a late break as Harrold is called for high sticking Downie above the Devils' crease. Letang, Perron, Kunitz, Crosby and Hornqvist take the ice.
3:19: Off a feed by Letang, Perron chops a one-timer from the left circle. Schneider kicks it out.
3:11: The power play comes through when it's needed the most. From center point, Letang distributes a pass to Crosby at the right dot. Crosby hammers a one-timer which Schneider fights off. Kunitz is able to jab the rebound by the blocker of Schneider to tie the game. That's a big goal for the Penguins' power play and Kunitz. Crosby and Letang get assists. Devils 1, Penguins 1.
2:28: Zidlicky whacks a slapper from the right point. Fleury eats it up.
2:20: Henrique flips a backhander from the right corner. Jagr barges and and tries to chop it by Fleury. No dice.
1:30: A slapper by Green from the right point is deflected wide by Elias.
0:48: Spaling lifts a backhander from the right circle. Schneider backhands it away.
0:00: End of period. Devils 1, Penguins 1.
-The Penguins have a 40-14 lead in shots. Yeesh.
4:45: Kunitz rips a wrister from the left wing. Schneider eats it up.
4:02: Letang chops a slapper from the right point wide to the far side.
2:50: Off a steal by Despres, Sutter has a chance in the left circle but blasts a one-timer wide.
2:39: Simon Despres comes through. Sutter takes a feed from Letang in the slot. Sutter taps it to Despres at the right point and Despres lobs it at the cage. It sails by the glove hand of Schneider, clinks off the post and into the cage. Kunitz had a great screen set up with Zidlicky to obscure Schneider's vision. The Penguins mob Despres. The get a rare win in New Jersey. Letang and Sutter get assists. Penguins 2, Devils 1.
-That was a great ending. The third period opened up quite a bit and the Penguins were pretty dominant in overtime. But that was an awful, awful game to watch. Ouch.
-The Devils just couldn't keep up with the four-on-four situation in overtime. They were able to bog things down with five-on-five play but with so much open ice in overtime, the Penguins ripped them up.
-Chris Kunitz certainly came up big after being relegated to the junior varsity power play the past two games and even being moved to the second line Wednesday. Tonight, he scored the game-tying goal by cleaning up a rebound and allowed Despres to score by setting up a screen with Marek Zidlicky. He needed a game like that.
-The Penguins did get a little help from officials. Trailing 1-0, Steve Downie got away with a leg sweep on Jagr in the offensive zone. Not much longer after that, Peter Harrold was called for high sticking Downie and the Penguins scored on the ensuing power play.
-Maxim Lapierre seemed a lot more comfortable in his second game with his new team. He got involved on the forecheck, threw a few hits and ended being the Penguins' best faceoff guy tonight.
-The Despres-Kris Letang defensive pairing was outstanding. They seemed so comfortable with each other. Regardless of the other defensemen's health, the coaches should consider using this duo more often.
-Not that the Devils are some great offensive dynamo but the Penguins' penalty kill came up huge early by killing the Devils' five on three power play in the first period. Rob Scuderi and Paul Martin really buttoned things down on that shift.
-Andrew Ebbett had a fairly decent game. He was involved in a few offensive chances.
-Mark Arcobello had limited impact in his first game back after a few healthy scratches.
-Scott Harrington had a fairly quiet game paired with Scuderi in five-on-five play. That's probably a good thing.
-The Devils seemed as interested in pressing a sustained offensive attack as a cat does in swimming... in lava.They just sat back and waited for the Penguins to make a mistake. Robert Bortuzzo had a neutral zone turnover in the third period which led to Steve Bernier scoring the game's first goal.
-This was as "Devils" as Devils hockey gets. Lou Lamoriello has them getting back to their roots in a big way.
-Cory Schneider was pretty good. The Penguins really poured it on late and he turned away just about every thing they threw at him. He deserved a better fate.
-The Penguins led in shots on net, 43-14.
The Penguins led in attempted shots, 63-26. Yeesh.
-Sidney Crosby, Despres and Letang each led the game with five shots.
-Marek Zidlicky, Martin Havlat, Peter Harrold, Scott Gomez, Patrik Elias and Jaromir Jagr each led the Devils with two shots.
-Letang led the game with 28:51 of ice time.
-Greene led the Devils with 25:17 of ice time.
-The Penguins rebound in the faceoff circle after being stomped by the Capitals Wednesday. They had a 30-29 edge tonight (51 percent).
-Lapierre was 12 for 17 (71 percent).
-Travis Zajac was 11 for 18 (61 percent).
-Sutter, Gomez, Adam Larsson and Mark Fraser each led the game with two blocked shots.
-Despres scored his first career game-winning goal.
-Despres scored the first overtime goal by a Penguins defenseman since Letang scored in a 4-3 win at Montreal, Nov. 26, 2011:
-You may remember that game more for when Letang was struck in the head by Montreal's Max Pacioretty.
-Kunitz played in his 700th career game.