From listening and watching the past few games I’ve picked up on a bunch of things about this Pittsburgh Penguins team.
In a week that made many Pens fans sick, I’m trying to look at the positives. The Pens went 1-3-0 last week, beating only the second worst team in the NHL: the New York Islanders. Of the three losses, two came against Atlantic Division opponents.
First lets start with injuries.
Marc-Andre Fleury. He has now re-joined the team and will likely start against Atlanta on Thursday.
As a fan, it is so hard this season, not knowing how long players are out, what their injuries are and when they will return. I hope that next season the league changes the policy and forces teams to specify injuries and whatnot.
What would we all have done last season when Sidney Crosby and Fleury went out? If we waited for months on a “lower body” injury — not knowing what exactly it was — people would have been fed up. I am and hope the league sees how it is negative from a fan perspective … you know, those people they are desperately trying to gain.
Ryan Whitney. Another bright spot is that it appears that Ryan Whitney is about two weeks from getting back in to the lineup. The more I have read the more I’m hearing Christmas as the target date. Maybe his return will come against Montreal on Dec. 27 — a game he will sorely be needed in.
The two combined will bring a lot of leadership and experience back in to the lineup, something that has become rather evident that it’s needed. That need is more evident on defense considering the amount of youth and in-experience manning the blue line these days.
I also learned a bit about some of the Penguins’ players in WBS.
I learned this week that Ben Lovejoy is no joke. This kid could be a mainstay in the defensive corps in a year or two.
He always seems to make the right decisions with the puck — the safe ones. Lovejoy has yet to make glaring mistakes while providing another much-needed helping hand on defense.
Along with Lovejoy, goaltender John Curry proved he also has the potential to be a solid player in the NHL in the future. He just might be the guy to back up Fleury next year.
Dany Sabourin will likely be gone since he is having a Ty Conlkin-esque season. In three appearances Curry posted a 2.40 GAA and .913 SV%.
Also recently called up, Jeff Taffe can huck it. By that I mean he is a solid player.
I’m hoping he will earn his way up with the team and get more NHL time. He provided bonus offense for the team this year and has 29 points in 24 games down at WBS.
He has since been re-assigned. Such a move makes sense since Mike Zigomanis has been upgraded to day-to-day. I’d be surprised if Zigomanis isn’t in the lineup on Thursday.
The Penguins now have time to practice. They now have time to rest. They now have time to regroup.
The next four games are against teams below the Pens in the Eastern Conference standings. They are all very winnable and are just what Pittsburgh needs to get its confidence back and get ready for the stretch run over the holidays.
I think the team needs to look at the schedule in blocks. These four games are huge because they need to be swept.
After this the Penguins play four games against New Jersey, Montreal and twice against Boston. Without a winning record in these next four Pens fans should start to worry.