-The Penguins made quite a few changes to their lines at today's morning skate but we wouldn't etch those in stone. We would fully expect to see quit a few changes as the game progresses and the situation dictates. That said, something had to be done. Given the meager production of the Penguins' offense in recent weeks, there was no justification to keep the Penguins' lines intact. This isn't change for the sake of change. This is change for the sake of need.
-We're intrigued by Beau Bennett's promotion to the first line on Sidney Crosby's right wing. He has all the skill in the world and can create scoring plays for Crosby and Chris Kunitz, but can he play at the pace Crosby does?
-Pascal Dupuis seems like a natural fit on Evgeni Malkin's line. He can serve as the "Kunitz" of that line in that he can get in deep as the forechecking F1 forward and dig out pucks to set up chances for Malkin and James Neal. Dupuis can play either win and can do the "dirty work" which will allow Malkin and Neal to do the "pretty work."
-Jussi Jokinen hasn't really done much to deserve a demotion but his move to the third line was more out of necessity for the sake of that line and specifically, Brandon Sutter. The third line has generated very little this season. Jokinen and Sutter have some history as linemates in Carolina. Teamed with Brian GIbbons, who was racking up points in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, this line could get a boost tonight.
-We'd be lying if we knew much about Gibbons. We haven't seen him play beyond highlights online. But he has racked up a ton of assists. He's rather small (5-foot-8, 170 pounds) but he's not afraid to battle on the end board and get busy on the cycle.
-We're not sure what to make out of the fourth line which was used this morning with Tanner Glass, Joe Vitale and Craig Adams. We wouldn't be surprised to see Zach Sill be the center. And even then, we would expect to see Glass and Adams with Sutter at some point to face the Ducks' top line of Dustin Penner, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
-Teemu Selanne will be making what is presumed to be his final appearance in Pittsburgh. We've been told there will be a brief video tribute to him during the first commercial stoppage. If you have a ticket to tonight's game, give him an applause. Short of Jaromir Jagr, you probably won't see a player reach the levels he has in terms of career points ever again unless some major rule changes occur.
-Selanne broke into the NHL in 1992-93 and scored 76 goals ... as a rookie. In that season, he scored 132 points and finished fifth in the scoring race. There were 21 100-point scorers in the NHL that season thanks in part to three first or second-year expansion teams, the Lightning, Senators and Sharks, being around to pad some stats. Jagr, Selanne and Ray Whitney all participated in that crazy season, the last truly great offensive season in the NHL in our opinion. The fact that all three are still playing and still contributing to their teams is amazing.
-Selanne is a quality human in addition to being a quality hockey player. People just gravitate to him. He's always smiling and always willing talk. He has some great stories. He seems to understand his place in the game as an icon, particularly in Finland, but he doesn't flaunt it. He's flamboyant but humble at the same time.
-Speaking of quality humans, We caught up with Ben Lovejoy yesterday. In the brief time we've been covering this sport, he is easily in the top five of genuine good humans we've encountered. One of the first time we asked him a question, he extended his hand and said 'Hi, my name is Ben," without solicitation. He's the only athlete we've encountered ever do that to us. We're excited to see the level of happiness he's found with the Ducks and Anaheim.
-The Ducks will be starting Viktor Fasth tonight in net. He's been dealing with injuries most of the season but had a pretty strong first game back from a rehabilitation assignment in the AHL Friday in Carolina. His numbers aren't strong this season but he will certainly be a challenge for the Penguins. He's capable of being an all-star in this league.
-We chatted with Bruce Boudreau today. The former Capitals coach went to the Steelers game yesterday along with the rest of the Ducks. Boudreau, who won the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field joked "Everytime I go to that [darn] place, it rains." Boudreau also pointed out the advantage of coming to Pittsburgh a day early. His team practiced at Consol Energy Center yesterday morning and got a feel for the ice and the boards. Instead of coming in here with a lack familiarity as a non-conference foe, they got a feel for the building and how it might impact their play.
-Tonight's hat giveaway:
-There are plenty of Ducks fans here. Cam Fowler:
-Two members of the 2006-07 Stanley Cup champions, Chris Kunitz and Ryan Getzlaf:
-Samuel Pahlsson and Corey Perry:
-Another California hockey legend, Luc Robitaille:
-Jerseys of the Night: Who else?
-Three officials from Team Russia are here to scout including ex-NHLers Alexei Kasatonov and Igor Kravchuk.
-Assuming Gibbons play, he will be the third player to ear No. 49 for the Penguins. He would join Greg Andrusak and Matt Hussey.
-The Penguins' starters are Beau Bennett, Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Matt D'Agostini and Zach Sill.
-The Ducks' starters are Andrew Cogliano, Devante Smith-Pelly, Daniel Winnik, Cam Fowler, Ben Lovejoy and Viktor Fasth.
-Their scratches are Mark Fistric and Patrick Maroon.
-The flamboyant Jeff Jimerson does what he does best:
18:59: Getzlaf floats a pass from above the left circle for Corey Perry streaking down the slot. Perry has clean look at the net but Brooks Orpik poke checks the puck away. Very heady play by Orpik.
18:27: Luca Siba floats a wrister from center point on net through traffic. Fleury fights it off.
18:09: The Ducks are controlling things early. Mathieu Perrault zips a shot from the high slot. Fleury kicks it out.
17:08: Hustling through the neutral zone, the great Joe Vitale gains the offensive zone on the left wing, gets a step on Francois Beauchemin and lifts a backhander which Fasth fights off.
16:50: Vitale gives Sbisa a good thump into the left wing wall of the Penguins' zone. Sbisa takes exception and gives some grief to Vitale. Nothing comes of it.
14:14: Jokinen loses a puck in the left circle of the offensive zone. The puck slides to xxx above the left circle. Niskanen steps up and one-times it wide to the far side.
12:45: Smith-Pelley pushes the puck up the right wing in the neutral zone. Orpik steps up to defend. Smith-Pelly loses the puck but braces for a collision and slam Orpik to the ice.
12:29: Battling for a puck behind the Penguins' net, Perry puts a stiff reverse hit on Orpik behind the cage. that was sneaky.
12:05: Getlzaf lifts a rising, heavy wrister from the right wing. Fleury fights it off.
10:09: Perreault flicks a little backhander from low in the right circle on net. Fleury fights it off.
9:33: With the first commercial stoppage, the Penguins have not recorded an official shot on net as of yet.A brief video tribute to Selanne is played on the video board. It prompts a lukewarm, partial standing ovation.
9:14: Lovejoy chucks a wrister on net from the right point. Fleury boots it out.
8:30: Adams and Glass are flanking Sutter at center.They are skating against the top Ducks line with Getzlaf, Perry and Penner.
6:01: Maatta takes a pass above the left circle and pumps a slapper at the cage. it hits a body in front and is blocked. The penguins still have no shots.
4:11: Sbisa chops a slapper from the right half wall. Winnik is in front and deflects it down toward the cage. Fleury fights it off.
3:31: From the left of the cage Crosby backhands a pass to the blue paint. Bennett is there but fails to get an official shot on net. The Penguins still have no shots.
2:02: From the left wing, Crosby backhand flings a feed to the slot for Bennett. The puck hops up a bit on Bennett who has to go a bit wide with it. He tries to jam in a backhander but Fasth fights it off. That was the Penguins' first official shot.
1:54: Deryk Engelland pumps a slapper from the right point. Fasth finds it through traffic and fight sit off.
1:15: Kunitz is skating with Neal and Malkin. Kunitz gians the offenive zone and zips a cross-ice pass to Nealin the left circle. Neal snaps off a wrister on net. Fasth fights it off.
0:50: Martin swipes a slapper from the right point. It gets blocked in front.
0:00: End of period. Ducks 0, Penguins 0.
-That was a pretty one-sided period. That said, the Ducks didn't really do anything to control it. It was mostly the Penguins' doing. They were sloppy with the puck. They didnt' really penetrate the offensive zone a great deal until late. They were just flat.
-Whatever the Penguins hoped to accomplish with the new lines, there was little evidence of it working. There wasn't a ton of chemistry.
-Crosby and Bennett displayed a little chemistry with a few passes but that was about it.
-The fourth line looked exactly the same. A lot of hustling and a lot of hitting.
-The great Joe Vitale was a (presumed) healthy scratch Saturday. Tonight, he looked like he was shot out of a cannon with an early scoring chance and a nice hit in the defensive zone. He has a track record of allowing his play to drop off if he's int he lineup for too long. If he gets a healthy scratch, he usually responds with a motivated effort.
-Gibbons looked okay in his debut. He brought some speed and a willingness to work down low. He had 3:37 of ice time on fives shifts.
-Fleury was great that period. And he had to be. He kicked out a lot of big but safe rebounds.
-The Ducks have a 12-3 lead in shots on net.
-The Ducks hae a 17-10 lead in attempted shots.
-Mathieu Perreault leas the game with three shots.
-None of the Penguins has more than one shot.
-Martin leads the game with 8:03 of ice time.
-Sbisa leads the Ducks with 7:53.
-The Penguins have a 7-5 lead in faceoffs (58 percent).
-Malkin is 3 for 4 (75 percent).
-Getzlaf is 3 for 5 (60 percent).
-Beauchemin leads the game with two blocked shots.
-Kunitz is on the cover of ice time:
19:25: Maatta collects a loose puck on the left wing and flings a wrister at the cage. Fasth eats it up.
18:37: Off a drop feed by Perry, Getzlaf swipes a one-timer from the left circle. Fleury eats it up.
17:42: Off a cycle by Dupuis and Neal, Dupuis deals a pass to Malkin streaking through the right circle. Malkin kneels down a bit and taps the puck wide to the far side.
17:29: Maatta air-mails a wrister from the red line. Fasth makes the save but kicks out a terrible rebound. Adams is all over it and jabs it back on net. Fasth eats it up.
15:59: Orpik chips a wrister from the left point. It hits a body in front.
15:51: Crosby gets a chance in the slot and whacks a puck which Lovejoy appears to get a piece of. Fire Ray Shero.
15:03: Andrew Coglian takes a pass at the Penguins' blue line, gets a step on Letang and lifts a wrister which Fleury fights off and covers.
14:35: Sbisa flings a wrister from the right point which hits a cluster of bodies.
14:15: A puck bounces to center point of the Ducks' zone. Niskanen steps up and smacks it wide of the cage.
13:56: There is a scramble for a puck in the Ducks' crease. Fasth eventually covers it. As that happens, Neal gives Winnik a cross-check to the ice away from the puck. No call.
13:14: Orpik chops a loose puck from the left point which hits a body in front.
12:35: Maatta pumps a slapper from the left point. It hits a body and deflects wide.
12:27: Letang lifts a wrister fromt eh right point. Fasth gloves it.
11:51: Selanne has the makings of a breakaway as he collect a loose puck on the right wing of the Penguins zone. Maatta make a nice recovery and isable to fend off Selanne and prevents him from getting a shot off.
10:50: Kunitz is out with Malkin and Neal. Malkin has a partially clean look from the slot and deals a pass to Kunitz which is a bit off the mark. The Penguins fail to even attempt a shot.
9:43: A wrister by Maatta from the left pointed is re-directed wide by Adams.
9:27: While falling, Engelland is able to chuck a wrister at the net from the right point. Glass is battling for position in front and appears to deflects it on net. Fasth knocks it dead and covers to freeze play. The fourth line just wrapped up a strong shift.
9:07: Neal is on with Jokinen and Dupuis. Neal lifts a wrister from the right point. Fasth fights it off and gives up a bad rebound. Jokinen pokes it wide.
8:30: The lines are all over the place. Malkin is on with Sutter and Crosby.
7:24: Beleskey has a wrister from the slot blocked by Engelland.
7:08: Engelland heads to the bench in some discomfort.
6:43: The Penguins will get the first power play of the game as Sbisa cross checked Sutter in the Ducks' left wing corner. Neal, Crosby, Letang, Malkin and Kuntiz take the ice.
6:04: From center point, Malkin pushes a feed to Letang in the left circle. Letang cranks a one-timer which Fasth fights off.
5:56: Letang sweeps a wrister from the left circle high over the cage.
4:47: Niskanen chops a slapper from center which Perry blocks.
4:44: As Sbisa's penalty is about to expires, Bennett fires a shot from the right half wall wide of the cage.
4:34: Lovejoy snaps off a pass from his own left circle to Sbias who is off on a partial breakaway. From the left cirle of the Penguins' zone Sbisa lifts a wrister over the cage.
2:03: Going wide on the right wing agains WInnik, Malkin leave a drop pass to the right of the cage for Kunitz. Kunits jabs the puck with a backhand off the side of Fasth. It bounces around a bit as Fasth swims in his crease but Neal and Malkin cant' get a stick on the rebound.
0:56: Dupus gets away with a trip of Penner at the Ducks' right point.
0:46: Perry responds by holding up Dupuis on the right half wall. That's two minutes for Perry. The Penguins got a break there. Crosby Letang, Malkin, Neal and Kunitz take the ice.
0:14: Malkin grips and risp a wrister from the left circle. Fasth punches it away.
0:00: End of period. Ducks 0, Penguins 0.
-That was a much better period for the Penguins. They controlled most of the play. They had the bulk of puck possession in the offensive zone and put tons of shot on net. But the end result was more of the same. A big, fat zero on the scoreboard.
-A lot of the Penguins' shots have been from the perimeter. They've done a slightly better job at creating a little traffic but still not good enough obviously.
-The Penguins' lines, with the exception of the fourth, are all over the place. The Penguins have been mixing and matching the top three lines most of the night.
-Kunitz is getting a lot of shifts with Neal and Kunitz. That trio has created afew things.
-The Glass, Vitale, Adams has been solid within its limits. They don't have all the skill in the world but they have controlled things down low and making life tough for the Ducks' defensemen.
-After a pretty dreadful game Saturday letang has really settled down tonight.
-Fasth really had to step up that period. And he did.
-The Ducks have a 17-15 edge in shots.
-The Penguins have a 38-22 lead in attempted shots.
-Cogliano and Getzlaf each lead the game with three shots.
-Maatta, Engelland, Neal, Adams, Gibbons and Letang each lead the Penguins with two shots.
-Beauchemin leads the game with 15:13 of ice time.
-Letang is right behind him with 15:07.
-The Penguins have a 17-13 lead in faceoffs (57 percent).
-Sutter is 6 for 7 (86 percent).
-Getzlaf is 7 for 11 (64 percent).
-Perry, Beauchemin, Hampus Lindholm, Engelland and Orpik each lead the game with two shots.
20:00: The Penguins will have 1:15 of power-play time on fresh ice. Malkin Crosby, Letang, Neal and
19:26: Malkin whacks a one-timer from the right point wide on the near side.
19:18: A puck hops up and catches Neal in the face. He's slow to recover to his skates and takes a few moments to collect himself.
18:58: Letang carry the puck out of his zone and loses it as he appears to be tripped up by Getzlaf. We're not sure Letang didn't try to buy a call there.
18:45: As the Perry minor expires, Crosby has a clean look at the net in the right circle and forces a cross-ice pass to Jokinen to the right of the cage. The pass doesn't connect cleanly and Jokinen fails to get a shot off.
17:53: Sutter lifts a wrister from the right wing. Fast fights it off and kcovers
17:32: Perry pumps a slapper from the right wing on net. Fleury punches it away with his blocker.
16:08: The new lines strike. Malkin circles the offensive zone with the puck on his on his backhand. As Winnik gives chase. Malkin is able to sneak a backhanded pass to Gibbons in the slot. Gibbons leads down and lifts a wriste by the blocker of Fasth. What an individual effort by Malkin. Malkin and Glass get assists. The "Hey Song" is unleashed. Penguins 1-0.
15:06: Traffic in front of the net creates another goal. Corralling a puck at the left point. Maatta chucks a wrister from the left point at the cage. It sails towards the net. Sutter is position in front of the blue paint and redirects it by the blocker of Fasth. What a pretty goal. Sutter went to he cage without a challenge and cashed in. Maatta and Gibbons get assists. The "Hey Song" double shifts. Penguins 2-0.
14:40: All of a sudden, this thing is wide open. Sneaking up , Perry snaps off a pass to the slot. Getls if position all aline and rips a wrister by the lgo had of an out of place Fleury. Fleury did not play that well at all as he slid totally out of the way while trying to defend that. It's a one-goal game. Lovejoy and Perry get assists. Penguins 2-1.
14:26: The Ducks will get a chance to tie the game as the great Joe Vitale is nabbed for interference against Perreault in the Penguins' right wing corner. Adams Sutter, Orpik and Martin take the ice.
13:34: Digging a puck out from the left wing, Perry rips wrister which bounces in on net. Fleury smothers it.
13:24: off a pass from Bonino, Penner has all day to shoot above the blue paint with Fleury swimming but fails to get a true shot off.
12:52: Beauchemin rips a wrister from the right cirlce which Fleury fights off.
12:26: The Vitale minor is killed. The Ducks put plenty of rubber on net.
12:04: The Penguins strike again. Crosby controls a bouncing puck and veers towards the right wing. From above the right circle, he lifts a wobbly wrister to the far side. It sails through traffic and blows by Fasth's blocker. Fasth was completely screened there. The Penguins have gotten three goals on the blocker side here with bodies in front. Malkin and the great Joe Vitale get assists. The "Hey Song" is winded. Penguins 3-1.
9:40: Adams is taking a shift with Kunitz and Crosby.
9:03: Palmieri rips a wrister from the right circle wide and high to the far side.
7:09: Malkin challenges Lovejoy one-on-one down he Ducks' slot. Lovejoy holds his ground and knocks the puck off Malkin's stick
6:49: Wow. Just wow. Perry pushes the puck up the right wing on a two-one one with Cogliano against Martin. Perry is able to deal a pass to Cogliano. Cogliano lifts a wrister on the near side. Fleury is able to stretch to his right and fight it off with a blocker. What a save!
6:19: Crosby sneaks a wrist from the rith crlce on et. off the near post.
5:59: Adams rattles Allen with a hit into the right wing boards of the Anaheim zone.
4:58: Attendance is announced as 18,614. It is the team's 298th consecutive sellout.
4:22: Orpik upends Perry in the right wing corner of the Penguins' zone.
3:44: Perreault puts a heavy wriste ron net from the left wing. Fleury boots it out.
3:07: Off a feed by Dupuis, Sutter gets some space in the right circle and lifts a wrister which Fasth gloves down.
2:26: Hoprik chps a puck from his own zone and down to the other end of the ice. Hybrid icing is called. Dan Bylsma calls timeout to get organized.
2:19: off a faceoff win, Beauchemin punches a loose puck from the left circle which is blocked.
1:51: Winning a puck battle in the right wing corner of the Ducks' zone against Beachemin, Crosby deals a pass to Kunitz in the slot. Kunitz lifts a bouncing wrister over Fasth's glove hand and off the cross bar.
1:42: This should ice the game. Penner is called for holding. Neal, Malkin, Crosby, Martin and Letang take the ice.
0:43: Crosby misfires on a one-timer from the right circle and puts it wide to the far side.
0:00: End of game. Mike Lange informs us of Elvis' whereabouts. The "Woo-Hoo!" song is played. Penguins 3, Ducks 1.
-This was a weird game to digest. There were three very different periods. The Ducks dominated the first. The Penguins controlled the second. And all heck broke loose in the third.
-It feels a little off to say the Penguins' offense broke loose given their inability to score in the first two periods (or even get a shot on net in the first). But for how cold their offense has been in recent games, three goals for this team might as well make them the 1984-85 Oilers.
-The formula for their offensive outburst was pretty simple. They got bodies in front of the net. On all three goals, Fasth was screen, and the screens were right in front of him.
-On the Brian Gibbons goal, Tanner Glass was right in front of Fasth. We're not sure how much Glass blocked Fasth view of the play as it developed, but it certainly didn't help.
-Brandon Sutter's goal was a beautiful re-direction resulting from his own screen on Fasth.
-And on Sidney Crosby goal, there were approximately 492 bodies in front of Fasth. We think.
-We're not sure what to make out of the line changes. They stuck with their lines from today's morning skate for most of the first period then kind of just started mixing and matching. It seemed like just about everyone got a few shifts with one another. The results were mixed in terms of generating quality chances.
-We have a hard time really trying to dissect how each line preformed. There were so many combinations.
-Evgeni Malkin continues to create scoring chances while not finishing his own. Seeing him get a goal here or there would be nice but he has still been carrying this team's offense, as meager as it has been recently, for handful of games.
-The Penguins did get a bit lucky in the third period. The Ducks had a prime scoring chance with a power play in the third period. Dustin Penner had Marc-Andre Fleury dead to rights and could have tied the game, 2-2. But he biffed on the shot and failed to capitalize. As Penner tersely described it, "It opened up in the third [period]. Both teams had chances. They capitalized on theirs."
-Don't discount Marc-Andre Fleury's effort in this game. If not for him, this game was over in the first period. He was outstanding. He has probably been this team's most stable player during this recent skid. He kicked out a lot of safe rebounds. Yes, he made a terrible play on the goal by Ryan Getzlaf, but that was his lone mistake tonight.
-The Penguins defense was pretty solid. The Brooks Orpik-Paul Martin was rock solid. They saw plenty of shifts against the Corey Perry-Getlzaf-Penner line and held it in check.
-Kris Letang rebound after a bad game Saturday. He played a much more conservative game and cut down on his errors.
-Olli Maatta had his best game in a few weeks. He seemed to have a little extra jump. Perhaps playing Teemu Selanne sparked him.
-The Matt Niskanen-Deryk Engelland pairing was very quiet... and that's probably a good thing for a third defensive pairing.
-So far so good for Gibbons. He got a goal and an assist in his debut. He used his speed quite a bit and displayed a willingness to got to high traffic areas. Gibbons had 10:11 of ice time on 14 shifts and one shot.
-Beau Bennett didn't exactly blow the world away in his handful of shifts on Crosby's line. He had two scoring chance early but disappeared after that.
-The Penguins' power play was hardly impressive as it went 0 for 3. The third power play should be disregarded as the Penguins were defending a lead late but the first two chances were pretty stale.
-Luca Sbisa had a pretty up and down game for the most part. he wasn't afraid to shoot the puck or mix it up physically. He did take a bad penalty which led to a Penguins power play.
-The officials let A LOT go. There was a ton of interference, hooking and holding by both teams. This was like a 1995-1996 game between the Devils and Panthers.
-The Ducks led in shots on net, 28-27.
-The Penguins led in attempted shots, 53-46.
-Mathieu Perreault led the game with five shots.
-Sutter, Malkin, Crosby and Pascal Dupuis each led the Penguins with three shots.
-The Penguins had a 29-20 lead in faceoffs (59 percent).
-The Penguins were 9-17 in offensive zone faceoffs (52.9 percent).
-Sutter was 10 for 13 (77 percent).
-Getzlaf was 9 for 18 (50 percent).
-Francois Beauchemin led the game with three blocked shots.
-Engelland and Orpik each led the Penguins with two blocked shots.
-Gibbons became the 466th player to score a regular season goal for the Penguins.
-Selanne failed to score a point for the first time in 12 career trips in Pittsburgh. We probably jinxed him.