-The big news of the day is obviously the absence of Evgeni Malkin. He will sit out tonight's game due to a "lower-body" injury apparently suffered at today's morning skate. If we were calling the shots, we'd slide Jussi Jokinen from left wing to center on the second line and move in Chuck Kobasew, who was removed from injured reserve today, on to the left wing in place of Jokinen. Jokinen is very capable of playing center, especially when it comes to taking faceoffs. And Kobasew can play either wing.
-The "Chris Kunitz for Team Canada" has swung into full gear as of late. Beyond Kunitz's outstanding numbers, the most common argument for him to make the team is that he has a ton of chemistry with Sidney Crosby. He certainly knows how to play with Crosby as evidenced by the success they've displayed in the past five seasons. And given the fact that there is little to no practice time available for the Olympic teams, it might just be a matter of practicality to bring multiple NHL teammates to Sochi.
-That brings us to Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry of Anaheim. They were members of the 2010 Canadian Olympic team which won gold and played a lot in a bottom six role for that team. They were also members of the Ducks 2007 Stanley Cup winning team and played primarily on a line with Kunitz. What says Kunitz couldn't be their linemate in Sochi? Could you imagine that trio as a third line in a defensive rule? THey would hit anything that didn't have a Maple Leaf on its chest.
-For many years, the Penguins were lauded for having the "big three" at center, Malkin, Crosby and Jordan Staal. With Staal off to the Piedmont of North Carolina, the Sharks now have the "big three" at center. Their depth at the position is astounding with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. All three are all-star caliber players and will likely be playing in the Olympics for the stacked North American teams.
-We were involved in a media scrum with fellow members of the Pittsburgh media yesterday at Consol Energy Center. It felt like we were talking to a completely different person. Yesterday, Kennedy was very jovial and open. During most of his time with the Penguins, Kennedy was curt and somewhat withdrawn with his comments. He wasn't a jerk by any means while he played in Pittsburgh but he was hardly a "go-to" guy for a quote. The Sharks, led by the somewhat goofy Thornton, seem to be a somewhat fun and loose team. It seems to have rubbed off on Kennedy.
-We chatted briefly with Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl, a Czech who is still learning English. Though the language barrier, he was able to profess his love for the Penguins and Jaromir Jagr.
-During pregame warm ups, the team's lines and defensive pairings appeared to be:
14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 9 Pascal Dupuis
59 Jayson Megna - 36 Jussi Jokinen - 18 James Neal
25 Andrew Ebbett - 16 Brandon Sutter - 23 Chris Conner
12 Chuck Kobasew - 46 Joe Vitale - 27 Craig Adams
3 Olli Maata - 58 Kris Letang
44 Brooks Orpik - 5 Deryk Engelland
2 Matt Niskanen - 47 Simon Despres
-Considering Kobasew is coming off a leg injury of some sort which limited his time skating, it might be a good idea to limit his minutes with a fourth-line role in his first game back. That said we full expect these lines to be mixed and matched as the game goes on.
-It's hard to offer a better start to our pregame photos than a Dick Tarnstrom jersey:
-Two Andy Bathgate jerseys:
-Two Peter Nedved jerseys:
-Fans entering the barn:
-There are plenty of Sharks fans here. Ryane Clowe:
-A few former Penguins/Sharks. Bill Guerin:
-Of course, Tyler Kennedy:
-Jersey of the Night: Former Sharks captain, Bob Errey:
-There aren't many bodies in the seats for warm-ups. The rainy weather appears to have gummed up traffic.
-The Penguins' starters are Chris Conner, Andrew Ebbett, Brandon Sutter, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Evgeni Malkin and Robert Bortuzzo.
-The SHarks' starters are Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Tommy Wingels, Justin Braun, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Antti Niemi.
-Their scratches are Mike Brown, Matt Irwin and Matt Pelech.
19:43: Stuart takes a pass form Dan Boyle at the left point and fires a slapper from the wide to the far side.
18:48: After Crosy steaks a puck on the right wing of the offensive zone, he deals a pass to Dupuis who cranks a one-timer wide to the left of the cage.
18:12: Kennedy drops Orpik in the left wing corner with a solid hit into the boards.
17:47: Taking a pass from Jokinen behind the cage, Neal sneaks a backhanded pass to Megna above the blue paint. Megna jabs a little shot on net from just below the left circle. Niemi's right leg kicks it out.
16:53: Justin Braun chucks a wrister from the right point on net. Fleury gloves it.
16:35: Vlasic rips a wrister from the left point. It hits a body. Wingels tries to settle the puck and whacks a shot which hops up over the cage.
14:55: Matt Niskanen rips a wrister from the right point. It hits a body in front. Megna is above the crease and tries to jam in a forehand shot which Niemi fights off.
14:06: Letang weaves his way into the offensive zone and from the right half wall, he whips a wrister on net. NIemi fights it off.
14:02: The Penguins will get the first power play of the game as John McCarthy is called for hooking Letang. Crosby, Kunitz, Letang, Niskanen and Neal take the ice. Niskanen mans the left point while Letang takes the right.
13:18: Niskanen takes a pass in the left circle and whips a wrister off the near post.
13:04: Letang whacks a slapper from center point which Braun blocks.
12:07: Ebbett whacks a slap/pass from the left half wall to the slot. Kobasew re-directs it on net and Niemi fights it off.
12:02: The McCarth minor is killed. The Penguins generated a few decent chances. there.
10:45: During the first television stoppage, a video tribute for Kennedy complete with the WWE "KENNEDDEEEEE!" clip is played. That prompts a quick standing ovation.
9:54: Hertl has a chance in tight off a pass from Thornton but can't settle the puck enough to beat Fleury's right leg.
7:36: Couture whips a wrister from the slot. Fleury boots it out.
6:06: Orpik lights up Andrew Desjardins with a big hit in the neutral zone. Oof.
5:17: Letang chips a puck on net from deep on the right wing. Niemi smothers.
5:03: Off some strong cycle work in the left wing corner, Marleau whips a quick wrister from the left circle and and wide to the far side.
3:56: Desjardin works off a check from Engelland and whips a wrister from the right of the cage wide to the far side.
2:36: Letang takes a pass at the left point and shows a slapper. Marleau pressures him and Letang pulls down his stick and makes an befuddling pass to ... Tommy Wingels. Wingels accepts the puck and pushes it out of the defensive zone.
0:56: Off a rush into the offensive zone, Pavelski lifts a backhander from the left circle. Fleury gloves it.
0:33: Off a nice feed from Crosby, Engelland lifts a wrister which Niemi fights off.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 0, Sharks 0.
-There was a pretty good flow to that period. Each team was up and down the ice and exchange a few shots. The goaltender came through with a few tough saves. That said, neither team sustained much offensive pressure.
-So far so good for the Megna-Jokinen-Neal line. Megna kept things simple and went to the net. He also served as the F1 forechecking forward.
-The Sharks seemed like they were laying in the weeks that period. They look like they have another level they can reach with some of their offensive play.
-Niemi came through with a few solid saves. He was tested a little bit that period.
-Fleury had an easier opening period.
-The Penguins have a 12-7 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 25-18 lead in attempted shots.
-Neal leads the game with three shots.
-Couture leads the Sharks with two shots.
-Stuart leads the game with 7:36 of ice time.
-Engelland leads the Penguins with 7:32.
-The Sharks control faceoffs, 10-12 (83 percent).
-Couture is 5 for 7 (71 percent).
-Sutter is 1 for 2 (50 percent).
-Orpik leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Jason Demers leads the Sharks with two blocked shots.
-Pascal Dupuis is on the cover of IceTime:
19:33: The slump is over. Orpik swipes a shot from the left point. It sails towards the net and is redirected by something behind Niemi and into the cage. Dupuis celebrates as if it's his goal. He is given credit. It ends a 10-game goalless slump. Orpik and Crosby each get assists. The "Hey Song" is never in a slump. Penguins 1, Sharks 0.
17:26: Jayson Megna. Sniper. Off a neutral zone turnover by the Sharks, Despres taps the puck up the left wing boards to Megna. Coasting up the left wing, he has an acre of ice to work with he simply picks a spot and rips a wrister by Niemi's blocker on the near side. What a pretty goal. What a subtle, composed play by Despres to set up Megna too. The "Hey Song" double shifts. Despres gets the only assist. Penguins 2-0.
17:14: Niskanen is called for interference against McCarthy. Sutter, Adams, Orpik and Letang take the ice.
15:14: Two minutes later, the Sharks accomplished little with that chance.
14:58: James Sheppard has a chance in tight but is denied by Fleury. Desjardins crashes in on the rebound but can't beat Fleury.
14:45: Letang rips a wrister from in tight on the left wing. Niemi fights it off.
14:33: The Penguins keep pouring it on. Crosby settles a puck in the left circle and snaps off a wrister which Niemi fights off. Kunitz is able collect the rebound from above the blue paint and sweeps it in to the cage with a backhander by the glove hand of Niemi. Cosby and Neal get assists. The "Hey Song" is winded. Penguins 3-0.
12:44: Another power play for the Penguins. McCarthy tripped Maatta. That's two minutes. Niskanen, Letang, Crosby Neal and Kunitz take the ice.
12:30: The route is on. Neal takes a pass down low on the right wing, moves in towards the net and attacks the cage. he loses the puck for a moment but it slide to Kunitz low in the left circle. Kunitz jumps all over it and lifts a wrister by Niemi's blocker. Talk about right place, right time. Neal and Kunitz get assists. The "Hey Song" will have an optional skate tomorrow. Penguins 4-0.
11:47: Sing-song "Niiiieeeemmmmiiii" chants begin.
11:20: Kobasew leads a rush up the right wing and puts a slapper on net.
10:33: The Sharks get one back. Orpik and Engelland fumble a puck retrieval behind their own net. Hertl ends up flinging a shot/pass from the right wing corner to the blue pain and it deflects through Fleury's legs into the cage. Put that one on Engelland and Orpik. Hertl is given credit. Thornton and Burns get assists. Penguins 4-1.
10:06: The Sharks get another chance with the power play. Neal is called for interference against Desjardins. Adams, Letang, Sutter and Orpik take the ice.
10:02: Off a faceoff wing, Pavelski booms a slapper from the left point wide of the cage.
9:12: Off a feed by Thornton Boyle pops a one-time from slot. Fleury fights it off. Couture is denied by Flueron the rebound. With Fleury out of place, Pavelski flings the rebound wide of the cage.
8:06: The Neal minor is killed.
7:23: Off a turnove rby the Shark sin their zone, the great Joe Vitale deals a pass to Crosby in the slot. Crosby jabs a shot wide.
6:34: A wrister by Despres from the right wing is fended off by Niemi.
6:28: A slapper by Stuart off the left wing is deflected out of play. Attendance is announced as 18,522. It is the team's 301st consecutive sellout.
6:01: Off a cross-ice feed by Kennedy, Havlat tries to tuck in a backhanded wraparound shot from the left of the cage. Fleury denies it.
5:25: The great Joe Vitale has taken a few shifts with Crosby.
4:04: Niskanen stands up Scott Hannan with a stiff hit at the blue line which sticks Hannan on his wallet.
4:02: Dupuis has not recorded as shift since there was 15:10 remaining in the period. Additionally, Megan just retreated to the dressing room with equipment manager Dana Heinze.
3:18: Maatta wires a slapper from the left point on net Niemi eats it up.
2:47: In deep on the left wing, Maatta takes a pass from Crosby and attacks the net on the backhand. Hit shot catches the cuff of Niemi's glove and bounces wide to the far side.
0:08: Stuart chops a bouncing puck fro the slot wide of the cage.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 4, Sharks 1.
-Talk about being opportunistic. The Sharks made a few mistakes and the Penguins jumped all over them. The result was a four-goal outburst.
-The Penguins had to shuffle their lines most of the period with Dupuis unavailable. There is no word on his status.
-The odd part of the period is the fact that the Sharks did put a lot of shots on net. Fleury was up to the challenge.
-Simon Despres continues to show a lot of composure. His play off the wall to set up Megna's goal was a perfect example of that.
-The Sharks are one of the few teams in the NHL which has the offense capable of making up a three-goal deficit in the third period.
-We'll be curious to see if the Penguins just try to trap this game the rest of the way.
-The Sharks have a 31-27 lead in shots on net.
-In the second period alone, they had a 24-15 lead in shots on net.
-The Sharks have a 50-43 lead in attempted shots.
-Neal, Marleau, Couture and Hertl each lead the game with four shots.
-Letang leads the game with 16:34 of ice time.
-Boyle leads the Sharks with 14:46.
-The Sharks have a 17-16 edge in faceoffs (52 percent).
-Braun leads teh game with four blocked shots.
-Orpik leads the Penguins with three blocked shots.
20:00: The Sharks have put in Alex Stalock in place of Niemi.
17:20: Desjardins has a chance in tight but can't beat Fleury. Niskanen washes him out hit a hit afterwards.
16:49: Demers strikes a slapper from the right half wall. Fleury boots it out.
16:30: Kris Letang breaks out of a funk. Taking a pass at the right on, he shots a slapper, pulls down his stick and chucks a wrister through traffic and by Stalock's glove hand on the near side. That was an odd shot. Stalock seemed completely confused by it. Maatta and the great Joe Vitale get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 5-1.
14:44: Another Sharks power play. Niskanen is called for holding Pavelski. Orpik, Letang, Sutter and Adams take the ice.
13:59: Demers pounds a slapper from the right point which Fleury kicks away.
13:39: Boyle pounds a slapper from above the left circle. Adams blocks it. Sutter sweeps the rebound down ice.
13:21: Havlat lifts a slapper from the left point. Fleury fights it off an smothers the rebound.
12:45: The Niskanen minor is killed.
11:45: A slapper by Niskanen from above the left circle is blocked.
11:07: A backhander by Hertl from the right circle is fought off by Fleury.
10:49: On a partial three-on-two rush up the right wing, Wingels flings a wrister on net. Fleury snags it.
9:30: Off a rush into the offensive zone, Sheppard snaps off a wrister from the slot. Fleury fights it off despite traffic.
8:56: Letang steals a pass by Demers on the right wing and tries to walk in on a partial breakaway. As he flips to the backhand, Hannan lifts his stick a bit and knocks the puck off his stick.
5:11: After several stagnant minutes, Desjardins whips a writer from the right wing on net. Fleury eats it up.
4:26: After icing the puck, the Penguins call a timeout to get a breather.
4:13: A wrister by Stuart from above the left circle is kicked out by Fleury.
3:30: Maatta wires s slapper from center point. It rises up and hits sometong. Stuart is on the ice in discomfort.
3:21: Stuart heads down the ramp way to the dressing room.
2:05: Boyle flings wrister from the right wing wide on the near side.
1:15: Late in a 5-1 blowout, Megna, Kobasew and Vitale are each forechecking hard. They want to stay in the lineup.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 5, Sharks 1.
-First things first, Dan Bylsma said Pascal Dupuis was dealing with a "lower-body" injury and will be evaluated further.
-Second, the Sharks had some curious comments regarding Marc-Andre Fleury after the game. Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski were each asked if the team ran into a hot goaltender. Couture said:
"No. We didn’t bear down on our chances. Stats aside, I don’t think that Fleury was that good. He gave up a lot of rebounds and on a lot of shots, he looked shaky on. We weren’t able to score on second chances."
"He was fighting it all night. It felt like we could have had five [goals]. … There were a could of second-chance opportunities. At times, we didn’t know how it didn’t go in. "
-Fleury was asked about Couture's comments after the game. He was confused by them at first then just sort of shrugged them off.
-We're not saying Couture or Pavelski don't have a point to a certain degree, but to suggest Fleury was "shaky" is ludicrous. Just ludicrous.
-Did Fleury give up some rebounds. Yes. Did he fight the puck occasionally. Yes. Was he tested all night long? No. But he made several quality saves and ate up nearly every piece of rubber sent his way. If not for a turnover by Deryk Engelland and Brooks Orpik, he gets a shutout tonight.
-Sharks captain Joe Thornton was far more diplomatic in his assessment of Fleury. He said: "We had not enough quality scoring chances. When we did [Fleury] played great but not our best performance."
-Ultimately, the Penguins maximized their chances and squeezed the most out of a lineup which was missing some pretty important players while the Sharks underachieved with a relatively healthy and talented group of players. The Sharks are a much better team than they showed tonight.
-The Sharks put a ton of pucks on net but relatively few of them were quality. Sharks coach Todd McLelland put it best:
"I don’t think we should kid ourselves with many of those. Fleury made some really good saves. We had some chances in and around the blue paint, probably five or six legitimate ones. But let’s not get tricked by that number there. Their 28 or 30 or whatever they had, they made them count. The shot totals at the end of the night, they count them with the five and the one and we weren’t even close."
-The Penguins had to mix and match their lines (which were mixed and matched entering the game) after Dupuis' injury. The second and third line stayed the same for the most part while the first and fourth lines were jumbled.
-We liked what we saw from Jayson Menga on the second line tonight. He was the "Chris Kunitz" of that line. he did the dirty work and allowed Jussi Jokinen and James Neal to do the pretty work. He ended up with 13:20: of ice time on 19 shifts, a goal and two shots.
-Chuck Kobasew was a little less notable but played a fair game. He had 12:32 of ice time on 17 shifts and two shots.
-Just another "ho-hum" two goal effort by the real Chris Kunitz. He just keeps scoring goals. He knows where to be for the puck and finds the net. Very few of his goals are pretty but they count just the same.
-Dupuis also found the back of the net before leaving due to injury. That has to be bittersweet for him to breakout of a slump like that only to fall victim to an injury.
-The young guys on defense - Olli Maatta and Simon Despres - played some smooth, composed games. Despres play off the boards which set up Megna for a goal was a perfect example of that. How many players would just hurry a pass up ice and fail to connect? Despres is looking more and more like the player the Penguins have hoped for.
-The Penguins' third line was a little less notable than it has been in recent games.
-By his recent standards, Kris Letang played an okay game. He had an ugly turnover which didn't lead to anything but he was pretty composed for most of the night. He created a few things offensively and picked up a goal.
-The special teams were strong once again. The power play went 1 for 2 and the penalty kill was 2 for 2.
-If you want to describe a goaltender as "shaky," Antti Niemi is your guy. This was not his best effort. He is a much better goaltender than he showed tonight.
-Tyler Kennedy had a pretty uneventful night in his return to Pittsburgh. He had 13:12 of ice time on 19 shots and two shots. After the game, he was asked about the video tribute played for him during a television stoppage and the ensuing ovation. He said, "They’re a first-class organization. The fans are unbelievable. "
-This was our first chance to see Tomas Hertl in person. He looked legit. He was one of the few players for the Sharks who looked like a danger tonight.
-Andrew Desjardins, a fourth liner, was probable the Sharks' most consistent threat. He crashed the net quite a bit.
-The Sharks had a 45-30 lead in shots on net.
-The Sharks had a 75-52 lead in attempted shots.
-Hertl and Letang each led the game with six shots.
-Letang led the game with 23:15 of ice time.
-Dan Boyle led the Sharks with 21:48.
-The Penguins led in faceoffs, 31-24 (56 percent).
-Brandon Sutter was 13 for 20 (65 percent).
-Couture was 9 for 18 (50 percent).
-Justin Braun led the game with five blocked shots.
-Brooks Orpik and Craig Adams each led the game with three blocked shots.
-The Penguisn have won five consecutive games.
-Neal (142 points) moved past Keith McCreary (141) for 58th place on the Penguins' all-time scoring list.
-Crosby appeared in his 500th career game.