OUT OF THE GATES: December to remember

When the 2009-10 schedule was released, this stretch leading up to the holiday break stuck out to me as a time where the Penguins would prove themselves.

They haven’t disappointed.

After dropping back to back home games against Chicago and Carolina, the Penguins have strung together five straight wins. Most recently they took care of Philadelphia — which is always difficult given the rivalry — in a home and home series and then traveled to Buffalo and won in a shootout, 2-1.

In one week the Penguins have proven they are every bit as good as last year, if not better. And with games against New Jersey tonight and Ottawa on Wednesday, the Penguins can enter the three-day holiday break playing their strongest hockey of the year.

What’s scary is Pittsburgh has shown they still have a lot of improving to do.

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Talbot sits for physical play

After what happened in the first round of last year’s Eastern Conference playoffs, it’s a little different seeing Craig Adams fighting Daniel Carcillo and not Max Talbot.

Pittsburgh Penguins (23-10-1, 47 pts.) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (15-16-1, 31 pts.)

However, coach Dan Bylsma had a decision to make and decided to sit Talbot for Eric Godard and his physical style of play. The gamble of sitting out one of the most popular players in the locker room paid off as the Penguins won, 6-1.

There undoubtedly were other candidates, but Talbot has struggled to find a groove since returning to the lineup from shoulder surgery. Talbot has appeared in 12 games since coming back from injury, registering just one goal and two assists.

“I don’t think it’s fair to assume he’s gonna be at the level that he was,” Bylsma said. “I don’t know the number of games that he’s played totally. Speaking from similar circumstances — other players, my career — it’s difficult getting set in in the middle of the season.”

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Pens bully back, beat Flyers

It’s hard to imagine a more positive result for the Penguins than their 6-1 beatdown of the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night.

Flyers 1 — Penguins 6

Pittsburgh’s struggling power play looked stellar, while the penalty killing unit put two goals on the board. The Penguins controlled play from start to finish, visibly frustrating the Flyers, and several of Pittsburgh’s top goal scorers got on the board.

More importantly,  the Penguins earned another two points against a division rival and moved back in to first place in the Atlantic Division. And for at least a few hours, moved back in to first place in the Eastern Conference as well.

And all the while they matched Philadelphia’s intensity, proving that physicality isn’t lacking in Pittsburgh.

“I loved the response from our team,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “…I loved the fact our guys hung in there, answered the bell. It’s not a surprise with the rivalry, the two teams and the situation both teams are in. It felt close to a playoff intensity. There was a lot of intensity, a lot of jam in that first period.”

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Roster Outlook

Say thanks to Billy Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Craig Adams.

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But don’t just say it because they came back.  Sure, we’re grateful for that.  However, all three took pay cuts to stay with the team.

It allows for more cap room in an NHL economy that isn’t so great.  There’s also the comfort of having chemistry as the top three lines are under contract.

The way things look right now look pretty similar to last year.  It’s not a bad image to build upon.

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Guerin and Adams signed, others on the way out

The most obvious answers stick out.

For one, you get a veteran leader and linemate for Sidney Crosby.  The other, a solid fourth-line center.

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These moves mean a whole lot more, though.  They both were signed at low prices, allowing for other players from the Stanley Cup winning squad to be signed.

However, it also means that center Mike Zigomanis will not be re-signed, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  So much has gone down in the last 24 hours, with possibly more going on today — the last day the Penguins have exclusive negotiating rights with the free agents from last year’s team.

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Pens sign Craig Adams

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed Craig Adams to a two-year deal.  His contract will pay him $550,000 each year for two years, which is a decrease from his $600,000 salary of this past season.

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That’s great news for the Penguins as far as signing other guys goes.  We figured he could earn around $750,000 to $1 million.

Adams scored 3 goals and added two assists in the playoff run.  He’s a solid fourth-line center that we were hoping would get re-signed.  His signing means the Penguins are all set down the middle, with each line’s center under contract — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Adams.

Chicago placed Adams on waivers and the Pens picked him up.  Maybe the Blackhawks should have kept the guy, considering they were knocked out in Western Conference Finals.  Solid player, solid guy.

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Scuderi on Shero’s list

UPDATE @ 6/23 5:30 p.m. — Other sources are reporting that the $2.5 million listed below is the most the Penguins will be able to offer Scuderi.  Chances are that he’ll get higher offers from other teams.  It looks like it will just be a matter of if he wants to stay or not.  If you were Scuds, would you be upset that the most your offered is $2.5 million while Orpik got $3.75 last offseason?

If anyone was worried about the price of Rob Scuderi, let it be calmed a tad by Penguins’ GM Ray Shero.

As reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Shero has been in talks with several of the free agents on the team.  Once of them has been Scuderi.  The salary for Scuderi is expected to be around the $2.5 million figure.

That’s lower than I expected.  It would be great to get him for a number like that.  It would allow for room for guys like Ruslan Fedotenko and Bill Guerin to be signed.

Shero spoke about those players as well.

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