Gameday #42: @ Florida Panthers



BB&T Center, 7:30 PM, Root Sports

Amazingly enough the Panthers aren’t eliminated from playoff contention, at least not mathematically. If they can win all of their remaining games and every other non-playoff team and the 8th seeded Rangers lose all of their remaining games, then the Cats are in. There’s less than zero percent chance this happens, but still, Cat fans shouldn’t give up yet.

Its hard not to feel at least a little bad for the Panthers, seldom in the history of professional hockey has a team had to go without so many star players. And by that I mean there are certain teams that deal with this problem every year. And yet they remain relevant every season.

A serious question for the Penguins is at what point should they consider resting some of their players, with 8 games still to go there doesn’t seem to be much incentive to rest them now, but it’s a tough question. The Penguins need to allow their new players to gel and mesh with the existing players, but especially in the case of Iginla and Morrow, it’s been a long time since either played in the post season, and they aren’t the freshest daisies in the garden. Does HCDB give them the last couple games off or not?

The lineup should probably be unchanged although maybe the Pens could be brave and give Simon Despres a chance to play. Fleury will undoubtedly be in the cage.

Good teams beat teams they’re better than. Go Pens.


Gameday #20: @ Florida Panthers




BB&T Center, 7:30 PM, Root Sports

Don’t really know what to say about an away game against the Florida Panthers. The Panthers haven’t been very good this year and if not for the Phoenix Coyotes the Panther fan base may be the worst in all of North American professional sports. If anything there are two interesting storylines that we’ll be looking for in this game.

If you talk to fans or have heard any of the local Pittsburgh sports talk it’s hard to not look past this game. Friday the Pens finally play their first game against Jordan Staal and Sunday could very well see the Pens battle the Canadiens for sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. This is a game against one of this year’s (surprisingly) worst team in an incredibly apathetic arena. Nonetheless, the surest key to success in professional sports is to beat the teams you are supposed to beat and we’ll be interested to see if that’s what the Pens can do tonight. If not for letting off the gas against Toronto and Winnipeg early in the season the Pens would be miles ahead of the rest of the east, it’s time to see if they’ve learned anything.

It will be interesting to see how Tomas Vokoun (who is expected to start) will do against his former team. There’s no denying he was horrible against the Flyers last week, but it also isn’t that hard to remember his incredibly poised shutout against the Rangers early in the year. Vokoun should be energized to face his former team, and to use a horrible sports cliche, he’s a veteran and as a veteran he knows that he needs to elevate his game.

According to Seth Rorabaugh’s line projections, after scoring his fantastic first NHL goal, Beau Bennett has effectively been demoted to the third line with Dustin Jeffrey and Tyler Kennedy. In some ways this makes sense though, Jeffrey shows flashes of real playmaking ability and TK is, well, um, younger than Pascal Dupuis. I think the Pens want solid puck protection and zone time from the second line, and they’ll get that from a Cooke-Sutter-Dupuis line.


If you haven’t heard, former Penguin and Cup winner Mark Eaton has been signed to a one year deal. We’ll write about it someday, especially if he ever actually plays. Eaton was perhaps the greatest 6th defenseman in the world during the back-to-back Cup runs, but after he left town he could never stay healthy, no idea what his game is like now.

I’m allergic to cats. Go Pens.

Gameday #18: v. Florida Panthers



Consol Energy Center, 7:00PM, Root Sports

Another team that the Pens haven’t played this year. Another game where I forgot to make a header for the pregame.

The biggest storyline running for tonight’s game, at least in Pittsburgh, is that last night the Panthers annihilated the Flyers at the Flyers’ home rink 5-2. If you actually watched the Flyers play the Pens on Wednesday this would not come as a surprise, the Flyers are really not a good team, they’re just so far inside the collective skulls of the Pens that the Pens ended up scoring three goals on themselves.

Coming into tonight’s game the Panthers are 5-7-4, 4th in the Southeast Division. They’re led by a rookie, Jonathan Huberdeau, who has 13 points this year, 4 of which came yesterday. Otherwise a lot of the guys who made the Cats so successful last year–Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg, and Stephen Weiss–have failed to continue the trend. If they weren’t playing in such a porous division they might be one of the worst teams in the league.

The Pens are expected to roll with Fleury in net. We would bet diamonds to dollars that had Vokoun played well on Wednesday he would have played tonight. The Panthers are the team where he has the longest history and it would have been nice to see him get the nod here, but then again, he doesn’t deserve the start tonight. According to Seth Rorabaugh, Simon Despres and Dustin Jeffrey took the majority of the shifts in practice this morning and are expected to be in the lineup in favor of Joe Vitale and Robert Bortuzzo.

A couple of the Pens players have responded to Mike Milbury’s “crack addicts” comments about Sid and Geno, they’re actually pretty good. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Milbury’s time as the General Manager of the New York Islanders:

However, Milbury has also been criticized for the many decisions he made in which payroll or orders from upper management were not factors. Many young players and prospects that Milbury traded away went on to have distinguished careers, often eclipsing those of the players he received in return. He has traded away defensemen Zdeno CharaWade ReddenBryan BerardEric BrewerDarius Kasparaitis, and Bryan McCabe; goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Tommy Salo; as well as forwards Olli JokinenTodd BertuzziTim Connolly, and Raffi Torres. Milbury has also come under fire for his draft day decisions such as choosing Rick DiPietro first overall in2000 over Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik, as well as his decision to include the 2001 second overall draft pick (Jason Spezza) as part of the Alexei Yashin trade.

Right this ship. Go Pens.