-6 of 6 possible points without Sid and Geno again (mostly). A lot is made by media types and people like me about the Penguins lack of depth and skill on the wings. One thing goes without question: this group knows what it takes to grind out games and get wins. The key thing for the team long-term is for these role guys to continue to step up and take control of games as they have without the stars in the lineup. When they are in the lineup, there is too much of a tendency to watch them work and wait for them to save the day as opposed to taking control themselves.
-The PK unit killed 10 of 11 chances during this stretch. Ryan Callahan's PPG for the Rangers was the first goal given up by the PK in 22 chances.
-Even though it's not from this stretch, D Kris Letang had 2 goals in the All-Star Game. He also has a nickname in case you haven't heard: Cinco Ocho.
-The injury bug continues to rear its ugly head. Sid has now missed 12 games due to his concussion and has returned to his home province of Nova Scotia to work out with his trainer. Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup against Buffalo and went right back out in the second period after an awkward looking tweek of his leg/knee. An MRI is scheduled to see if anything is wrong. He was not on the ice for practice Saturday (Feb 5). Mark Letestu injured his knee at practice, has had surgery and will miss 4-6 weeks.Lastly, Arron Asham left the Ranger game with what is thought to be a shoulder injury.
EDIT: Coach Bylsma has confirmed that Evgeni tore his MCL and ACL in last night's game. Sorry to hear that. Best of luck in recovery.
-PP was 2 for 13 during this stretch. I'm thinking of just giving this feature a rest until the playoffs. Broken record...
-C Jordan Staal was kicked out of the Ranger game, after punching LW Brandon Prust. Prust had a fight earlier in the evening, looks to have taken a severe dive on this play. At first glance, it looked like this could be an ugly incident, possibly even the type that the NHL is trying to clamp down on.
When I stop and watch what happens during this sequence, it really makes me sick. Prust elbows Staal in the face as he approachs the scrum. Staal hits hit with a closed left fist with his glove on. The stick was not in the left hand. Prust reacts as if he was shot from a grassy knoll nearby, tumbling to the ice and waiting for the trainer. Jordo is sent to the box, and then sent to the locker room as it is determined that he committed a "match" penalty (intent to injure) and given a game misconduct.
The match penalty aspect is what disgusts me. Jordan Staal committed a penalty, possibly even a double minor worthy penalty if Prust gets 2 mins for roughing at the same time. There was speculation that Jordan received the match penalty because of the brace on his hand. That would be an incorrect assessment because the brace is on his right hand, and as mentioned before he did not use his stick as a brass knuckle type device to strengthen the punch. He also did not strike a player from behind, or blindly from the side. Prust drew the first contact, so I would have to assume that he was expecting a potential strike from Staal
Other have said that this was a blatant cheap shot, and a head shot. This is where I may come off as hypocritical, but I do not believe a punch to someones face a head shot or a cheap shot if delivered properly. If someone disagrees with that, it is time to remove scrums and espeically fighting from the game of hockey (which I do not support). Each fight would allow for a potential "intent to injure" and it would be irresponsible of a league, and us as fans, to support that. I do believe fighting has a place in hockey, though I also believe that it is not as important as many would claim.
On the subject of Prust's actions, I can only express disgust and sadness. Prust really tarnished his reputation with a severe dive and embellishment of a punch to the face. If you don't agree that this was a dive, ask yourself how you react if Sidney Crosby hit the ice in this manner (which you may feel he already has). Chances are if this was Sid, you'd still be talking about it during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Luckily, the league assessed the situation the next day and rescended the automatic 1 game suspension and match penalty from Staal's record. He was able to play against the Islanders and aside from some disgust with officiating, nobody was worse for the wear.
-Eric Goddard was in the lineup for the Ranger and Islanders games, returning from a facial fracture suffered in a fight against Ottawa. He logged 7:07 and 4:24 worth of ice time and was an even rating with 1 shot on goal.
-Dustin Jeffrey scored 2 goals in this stretch (3 in his last 5 games), and had the shootout winner against the Rangers. He figures to stick around for a bit due to the Letestu injury. This could be a defining period for DJ with Sid and Malkin out. Jeffrey has not looked out of place with anyone in the lineup, so seeing top 6 duty could be his chance to show where his long-term future is with this team.
-If you'd never watched a hockey game before the Buffalo game, you'd still come away with a pretty good sense of all things Matt Cooke. He was invloved in a game long battle with D Tyler Myers. There was a pretty long post-whistle match with F Tyler Ennis in which Cooke came away with a cut on his nose and it appeared that he was mouthing the words "you f'n bit me" to Ennis. After all this agitation of the Sabres, he then chipped in a goal...the game winner. The goal was Cooke's 10th of the season.
-I've Brooks Orpik delivered a shoulder to head of chief punk on that Rangers team, Sean Avery. This was a moment where I was torn, because I loathe Avery. At the end of the day, I say this was wrong. Even head shots against creeps are not acceptable in the NHL today.
-Zbynek Michalek was initially thought to have his 1st goal as Penguin in the Ranger game, but it was discovered that Chris Kunitz tipped it. Z will have to wait another few days before he scores his first with the team.
-Alex Goligoski had a terrible 1st period against the Sabres. There were multiple defensive zone turnovers, one which lead directly to a goal. I've talked about his upside and this clearly is his downside.
-Mark-Andre Fleury had 2 wins during this stretch. The Buffalo game started off rough, but the team bailed him out. He had 26 saves and a strong shootout performance in the Ranger win. He also mopped up the final 16 seconds of the Islander game.
-Brent Johnson was about to have a shutout against the Islanders, but he took exception to Rick DiPietro clotheslining F Matt Cooke and the other end. You likely know what happened, but in case you have been comatose for the past week, Johnny skated on down and engaged DiPi in a fight. A one punch fight. A one punch fight that ended up causing facial fractures and knee swelling in the oft-inured DiPietro, who will miss 4-6 weeks. As long as BJ doesn't do anything that directly costs the Penguins a Championship, his legacy in the city of Pittsburgh will be forever cemented: the badass goalie that turned the end of an unevenful game on a cold, windy night in February in to something that anyone that watched it will always remember. Nice work Johnny!
-New York Rangers
-C Artem Anisimov scored his 11th goal of the season by batting a puck out of mid-air a la a baseball player.
-Aside from scoring a 9.0 in the diving competition of the evening, Prust had a fight and a nice goal, his 8th of the season. That's what makes the dive all the more disturbing to me, there is no need for him to tarnish himself like that. He seems like a decent player that can handle him. Very puzzling.
-American born Ryan Callahan scored his 11th of the season.
-New York Islanders
-G Rick DiPietro has got to be disappointed in himself and frustrated. It's one thing to lose a fight, that happens. It's a completely separate issue for a goalie that has missed countless games since signing a giant contract to be injured in a fight. One also wonders what role his little post-shootout celebration in December played in this.
-C Zenon Konopka fought again. This time we went with F Mike Rupp.
-C Paul Gaustad scored his 6th goal of the season just 0:17 in to the 1st period.
-RW Mike Grier scored his 3rd goal of the season.
-D Mike Weber is from Cranberry Township. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft.