The Penguins opened the regular season with a 3-0 loss to Dallas Thursday night at the American Airlines Center.
*** Stars goalie Antti Niemi made 37 saves and picked up two assists, something only one other goalie in franchise history – former Penguin Johan Hedberg – had managed. Niemi is the first goalie in NHL history to record two assists while earning a shutout.
*** The Penguins lost the special-teams battle in a big way, going 0-for-3 on the power play and giving up two goals in five shorthanded situations. “Obviously, special teams, as we know, are really important, and we gave up a lot on the penalty-kill,” center Sidney Crosby said.
*** Dallas rookie center Mattias Janmark scored the game-winning goal at 1:39 of the opening period, on his first shot in the NHL.
*** Stars winger Jamie Benn scored his team’s final goal, giving him five in his past six games against the Penguins.
*** Penguins coach Mike Johnston felt his players did not do enough to make Niemi’s job difficult. “Anytime you’re playing against a goaltender who’s in a zone like that, you have to get a screen,” he said. “You have to have hard screens right around the goal area.”
*** The Penguins’ No. 1 line, which has Crosby between Chris Kunitz and Phil Kessel, accounted for nine of the Penguins’ shot, six of them by Kessel. “[That line] generated, that’s for sure,” Johnston said.
*** The loss ended a run of four consecutive victories in season-openers for the Penguins.
*** Crosby, Nick Bonino, Bobby Farnham and David Perron were the only Penguins skaters who failed to record a shot.
*** Penguins rookie winger Daniel Sprong recorded one shot in his NHL debut. “As each period went on, I felt better and more comfortable,” Sprong said. “I was pretty nervous in the beginning. The nerves kicked in at the beginning of the game. I just have to learn from this game.”
*** The Penguins will conclude their two-game road trip Saturday night at Arizona.
The Penguins will open the regular season tonight at 8:38 against Dallas at the American Airlines Center.
Some news and notes, numbers and quotes heading into that game:
*** Penguins winger David Perron will be appearing in his 500th NHL game.
*** The Penguins are 40-17-4 in October in the past five seasons and have won four season-openers in a row.
*** Center Sidney Crosby said he and right winger Phil Kessel have been developing chemistry, although it remains a work-in-progress. “We’re getting there,” Crosby said. “I think we’ve gotten more used to each other with time. It will be an adjustment and we’ll talk things out a lot, but I think the main thing is that you’re seeing improvement and you feel more comfortable out there. I think we’ll be at the point pretty soon where there shouldn’t be too much that we have to discuss, as far as where guys are going to be and things like that. We should have that down pretty quickly, I think.”
*** The Penguins have won a league-high 230 games over the past five regular seasons.
*** Defenseman Olli Maatta will be playing in a game for the first time since last Dec. 6. He conceded that he is “absolutely” nervous after being sidelined for so long after undergoing shoulder surgery.
*** Penguins winger Daniel Sprong is one of six 2015 draft choices who will begin the season in the NHL and will make his NHL debut this evening. “Sprong has his gear on, I think, 20 minutes before the morning skate,” Crosby said. “It’s fun to see that, as a teammate. We’ve all been there.”
*** Dallas has won three of its past four games against the Penguins and is 9-2-3 against them in Texas since the franchise relocated from Minnesota.
*** Dallas scored 257 goals, second-most in the NHL, last season, and added skilled winger Patrick Sharp during the offseason. “They are exceptionally dangerous when we’re carrying the puck through the neutral zone and they’re able to turn it over and go the other way,” Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. “They have so much speed and offensive talent that if we’re careless with the puck, they’re going to turn it the other way and finish all the time.”
*** Crosby noted that Dallas tends to start well at home, and said the Penguins can’t afford to be passive. “You can’t wait for things to happen out there,” he said. “We’re going to try to be on the attack and put them on their heels. Both teams want to play a fast game. It’s just a matter of who’s going to do it better.”
*** Four of the Penguins’ eight defensemen are 24 or younger.
*** Penguins coach Mike Johnston said, “I don’t anticipate there are going to be a lot of challenges” by coaches this season, even though they can request video reviews this season.
*** Sharp, on Kessel: “I’m a fan of Phil Kessel. I think he’s a great player. He’s fun to watch.” He added that Crosby and Kessel playing on the same line “will be pretty special to watch.”
*** The Stars are 14-3-4 in home openers since moving to Texas.
*** Stars coach Lindy Ruff: “The Penguins have a little different look with Kessel. They have another weapon that you have to be aware of.”
The Penguins assigned defenseman Olli Maatta to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League and recalled center Oskar Sundqvist from the Baby Penguins today.
Taken at face value, the moves -- especially the demotion of Maatta, one of the Penguins’ best defensemen -- were stunning, but they were just part of the team’s salary-cap maneuvering as the 5 p.m. deadline for regular-season rosters approached.
The Penguins were trying to get as close as possible to the salary-cap ceiling of $71.4 million so that they can get maximum relief when they place one or more players on the Long-Term Injured list, after the season begins.
Forwards Eric Fehr, Pascal Dupuis and Tom Kuhnhackl are candidates for LTI.
Maatta will be present when the Penguins open the regular season in Dallas Thursday and Sundqvist is expected to be back in Wilkes-Barre by then.
Even if he goes back, it’s possible the Penguins will recall a forward because they have only 12 healthy ones on the major-league roster at the moment.
There are two reasons Maatta and Sundqvist were the players involved in today’s transactions.
Both are on entry-level contracts and do not need waivers to move between the Penguins and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Also, moving Maatta’s $894,166 salary cap hit off the NHL roster and adding Sundqvist’s cap hit of $700,833 brought the Penguins within $32,917 of the cap ceiling.
The Penguins have made similar moves in in previous seasons and have even sent players to the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL for such purposes.
(Note: All financial totals are from GeneralFanager.com.)
The Penguins announced right winger Pascal Dupuis will be sidelined four to five weeks due to an undisclosed “lower-body” injury.
Dupuis suffered the injury late in practice Sunday at Consol Energy Center and has not participated in practices at the team’s workout facility in Cranberry the past two days.
“It was late in the practice on Sunday,“ said head coach Mike Johnston. ”Pretty well everyone was off the ice when it happened and he went right to the trainers. Most of us thought, 'Gee it doesn't look too bad.' Then on further examination we found out different. We'll see how he it is. But right now, it's frustrating for him but he'll be fine in a couple of days. You know he is. He's got lots of energy, lots of focus. He'll be determined to be back as soon as he can.“
Monday, Johnston said Dupuis was held out of practice for precautionary reasons and suggested he could resume practicing today.
“I saw him pull up there at practice the other day,” said center Sidney Crosby. “Whenever you see that, you're not sure what to think. It's tough to see that obviously. He's worked really hard for a long time to get back to this point. We're just going to have to wait a little bit longer.“
With today’s 5 p.m. deadline for NHL rosters to be compliant with the salary cap, the Penguins must figure out what to do with their roster which for the time being includes Dupuis as well as fellow injured forwards Eric Fehr (left elbow) and Tom Kuhnhackl (undisclosed).
The Penguins’ first two games are in Dallas and Arizona. With a western road trip, they may need to recall an extra forward from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League in case another forward is injured.
”We're going to look that with management today,“ Johnston said when asked if an extra forward would need recalled. ”I haven't had a chance to sit down with them today. We usually connect after practice with [general manager] Jim Rutherford and [associate general manager Jason Botterill] and assistant general manager Bill Guerin] just to see where everybody's at.“
One player who is here defenseman Tim Erixon. He cleared waivers at noon and remains on the NHL roster for the time being.
”We're going to keep eight defensemen right now,“ Johnston said. ”We like our depth for practice. For me, having four lines and four [defensive pairings] in practice is an advantage. As with defensemen that are here, if it turns out if they are here, if it turns out that they aren't playing a lot over the next little while, if one of the defensemen aren't, then we'd obviously like to get them playing time and we can easily move some people back and fourth [from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton]. But right now, that's the plan. He's had a good preseason and we want to see him develop here.“
Erixon, who has been moved around six different NHL teams since being drafted in the first round of 2009, is happy to have not joined a seventh team.
”Yeah, I am,” Erixon said. ”It feels like a really good fit for me here. I enjoy the way we play and I'm excited to be here. Just keep plugging away and working at it.“
It was the second time Erixon had gone through waivers in his career. Last season, the Blackhawks waived him and he was claimed by the Maple Leafs.
”The first time was in Chicago when [right winger Patrick Kane] went down there a couple days before [last season's trade deadline],“ said Erixon. ”That was even more nervous. I'd say this [time], I knew the reason. But it's weird right? For 24 hours, you don't really know what's going to happen. Like I said, I'm glad to be here. It's a good spot.“
Erixon declined to say if he would be assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton when asked if management had given him any indication on where he may end up once he cleared waivers.
”I don't know how much I'm allowed to talk about that stuff,“ Erixon said. ”You'll find out pretty soon. I know what's happening.“
The Penguins’ lines at practice today were identical to Monday’s practice.
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Phil Kessel
Sergei Plotnikov - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist
David Perron - Nick Bonino - Beau Bennett
Bobby Farnham - Matt Cullen - Daniel Sprong
Kris Letang - Ian Cole
Ben Lovejoy - Olli Maatta
Brian Dumoulin - Rob Scuderi
Adam Clendening - Tim Erixon
-The Penguins are scheduled to fly today to Texas in advance of their season opening game in Dallas Thursday.
Penguins right winger Pascal Dupuis will miss Thursday’s season-opening road game against the Stars Thursday due to an undisclosed injury he suffered in practice Sunday.
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford did not have a timeframe for his recovery but said Dupuis will definitely miss Thursday’s game.
Dupuis, who missed most of last season due to a blood clot in his lung, played in various roles during this preseason ranging from the first to the third lines, primarily on the left wing. His absence would appear to create some opportunities, even if just briefly, for the likes of forwards David Perron, Beau Bennett, Bobby Farnham or rookie Daniel Sprong.
At today’s practice in Cranberry, the team’s bottom two lines looked like this:
David Perron - Nick Bonino - Beau Bennett
Bobby Farnham - Matt Cullen - Daniel Sprong
Perron and Bennett have each been relagated to fourth-line roles at times during practices while Farnham and Sprong are both trying to prove they belong in the NHL on a full-time basis. Dupuis’ absence could help all four individually.