The Penguins made some major moves today, trimming the roster to 25 following the team’s final exhibition game in Carolina last night. The most notable of them all? Rookie Daniel Sprong is still on the roster, and has not been sent to his junior team yet.
The team also released veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar from his pro tryout, and sent Derrick Pouliot to the farm team after an unimpressive preseason.
- The club also reassigned forwards Bryan Rust and Jean-Sebastien Dea and waived defenseman David Warsofsky and center Kevin Porter, both of whom will be sent to the Baby Pens if they clear.
The remaining 25:
- Includes Eric Fehr, likely to start the season on Long-Term injured reserve and Tom Kuhnhackl, also a candidate for the same designation.
- The Gonchar and Pouliot moves clear spots for both Adam Clendening and Tim Erixon, but it sounded like Pouliot could be on the next bus back to Pittsburgh when he gets his game in order.
- Sending Rust and Dea down, means forward Bobby Farnham has also managed to stick for now.
Rutherford offered Gonchar an off-ice position, and declined to get into specifics about it because it’s unclear if Gonchar plans to pursue playing with another team.
Many in the organization really like Gonchar, and he was given every opportunity to earn a spot.
“It’s hard at this stage of anybody’s career to get their game going right away,” said Rutherford. “I did see improvement in each game, but it makes it hard when you really only have three weeks…I hope he stays with the organization.”
The Penguins lost 7-2 to the Red Wings tonight, their final home game of the exhibition schedule.
One bright spot was Daniel Sprong, who continues to make a case for himself. He drew significant praise from assistant coach Rick Tocchet who filled in for Coach Mike Johnston at the podium after the game.
“For me, since development camp every day he’s gotten better. He’s gaining inches. As you guys saw he was probably our best forward tonight,” said Tocchet. “He’s a talented guy. Asks a lot of questions, and his details away from the puck that he probably wasn’t at NHL level yet, he’s getting better…They’re evaluating. He’s in the mix.”
10:20 p.m.: The Penguins trimmed the roster by four more players after tonight’s game. Forwards Oskar Sundqvist, Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson, and goalie Matt Murray were all sent to the team’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The Penguins scored their only two goals on the power play, a pretty one by Sprong who charged up the right wing and banked a shot off a defenseman at 17:01 of the second period. Beau Bennett, who is having a nice camp, deflected in a power play goal at 1:49 of the third.
Sidney Crosby said they have evaluated it, but with so many different lineups so far it hasn’t been easy.
"You know what? It's hard to evaluate it,“ said Crosby. ”We've had different combinations and I think depending on who's out there – guys are in different spots, that kind of thing – it's easy to say have a shooting mentality and do certain things. But when guys are in different spots, you do look to get the puck to guys in certain areas probably a little bit more than you would when you're simplifying things and have the normal unit. I think we just got to find a way to keep that same mentality no matter who's out there in what spot. That will be a challenge all year for our power play, not just because of the different combinations. We want to still make sure we're shooting the puck. That's still kind of got to be our mentality throughout regardless of combinations."
Perron gets top line shot
In addition to getting a chance to play on the left wing of the team's top line with Crosby and right winger Phil Kessel, David Perron saw some time on the first power play unit.
Perron was positioned in the slot with the man advantage while Kessel was in the left circle and Crosby was in the right half wall. Additionally, defenseman Kris Letang was at center point while Nick Bonino was a net-front presence.
Perron sees the slot role as having greater importance than in previous seasons.
“I think in the past, the guy that was there was kind of standing still not getting a lot of pucks,” Perron said. “It's almost like you have the guy [at] net front, you have the guy in the slot. If he doesn't move, that's three guys on the outside against four guys. So you're on the power play but you're not really at the same time.”
“I think for me, I talk with [assistant coach] Rick Tocchet [who coordinates the power play] and I want him to be on me a lot, to make sure I'm moving, that I pop down low, that I come high, almost as high as a defenseman. Then I think he's got to make sure guys use that position because it creates a lot of relief for a guy like [Crosby]. He's got a lot of pressure from both sides, one defenseman, one forward. If he [passes] it to me, I can go to [Kessel] or I can go right back to him and give him an extra second. That's the way we're going to approach it for this year.
Johnstown game was “pretty cool”
Crosby said he was able to watch the Penguins-Lightning game in Johnstown on television Tuesday night, and deduced it was a “pretty cool” scene.
“It was a great event, looked like everyone had really nice time,” said Crosby. “Obviously it’s pretty cool to have a small town like that get a game. You see the turnout, not just the game, I saw some pictures outside the rink. It was a pretty cool thing. Sounds like they did a great job of hosting it.”
Johnston had said after the game it was his call to keep Crosby out of the lineup.
The Penguins, who are expected to pare their training-camp roster significantly before the end of the day, have placed five players on waivers.
They are defensemen Steve Oleksy, Reid McNeill and Will O'Neill and forwards Dominik Uher and Kael Mouillierat.
All presumably will be assigned to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre if they go unclaimed by noon tomorrow.
JOHNSTOWN -- It’s raining and foggy here in the fictional home of the Charlestown Chiefs, but the Cambria War Memorial was packed for morning skate. Players said there were swarms of fans outside to greet them when the bus pulled in around 10 a.m.
Not much news from the post-skate media availability. Gary Agnew filled in for head coach Mike Johnston, who got in late from Montreal and is expected to drive out with Rick Tocchett to coach tonight’s game.
Lines at morning skate:
Center Sidney Crosby will not be in the lineup when the Penguins face Tampa Bay in a nationally televised preseason game in Johnstown Tuesday evening.
He will, however, play when the Penguins face Detroit in an exhibition game Wednesday at 7:08 p.m. at Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins’ lineups for the next two games will be chosen from these players:
Goalies -- Matt Murray, Jeff Zatkoff.
Defensemen -- Adam Clendening, Olli Maatta, Brian Dumoulin, Ben Lovejoy, Will O’Neill, Ian Cole, Reid McNeill, Barry Goers, Steve Oleksy.
Forwards -- Matt Cullen, Kevin Porter, Chris Kunitz, Kael Mouillierat, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Conor Sheary, Josh Archibald, Dominik Uher, Tmo Sestito, Anton Zlobin, Sergei Plotnikov, Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist.
Goalies -- Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Murray.
Defensemen -- Rob Scuderi, David Warsofsky, Ben Lovejoy, Niclas Andersen, Tim Erixon, Derrick Pouliot, Sergei Gonchar.
Forwards -- Pascal Dupuis, Kevin Porter, Nick Bonino, Bryan Rust, Beau Bennett, Scott Wilson, Oskar Sundqvist, Daniel Sprong, Tyler Biggs, Tom Sestito, Dominik Simon, David Perron, Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby.