Posted on: October 24, 2011 1:27 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 1:37 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Sooner or later all of these injuries for the Penguins have to stop, right? Head coach Dan Bylsma announced on Monday that defenseman Zbynek Michalek will be sidelined between four-to-six weeks due to a broken finger that he suffered while blocking a shot during their 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.
Michalek signed a five-year, $20 million contract with the Penguins prior to last season and has been a steady presence on their blue line ever since. He's been one of the best shot-blockers in the NHL throughout his career, and along with the addition of Paul Martin, was a big factor in helping the Penguins reduce their goals against average by nearly half a goal per game during the 2010-11 season.
His injury is simply the latest one for a Penguins team that's been dealing with them all season, and it comes just two games after Brooks Orpik, perhaps their best defensive-defenseman, made his season debut last week. Orpik missed the first eight games of the season while he recovered from offseason surgery. The Penguins have also been playing without their captain and best player, Sidney Crosby, as he attempts to return from his concussion, while Evgeni Malkin, their second best player, and Tyler Kennedy have also missed significant time this season with injuries. Kennedy is out indefinitely with a concussion, while Malkin is still day-to-day.
With Michalek sidelined that likely means Ben Lovejoy will have an opportunity to return to the lineup, as he was the odd man out once Orpik made his debut and Kris Letang returned from his recent two-game suspension.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 10:41 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 6:43 am
When Sidney Crosby took to the ice with his Penguins teammates on Thursday for their morning skate, something stood out. His helmet was the same black color as his teammates, meaning he has been cleared for contact. The change in helmet color was sign enough, but then Crosby confirmed it himself after the skate.
"I'm cleared for full contact, he said. "I've been good since around camp. Everything has gone really smooth."
This is a huge step in his recovery and now means we aren't that far from seeing him return to games -- relatively speaking. He has been taking part in team practices wearing a white helmet to signify no contact as he has been on a long road to recovery from a concussion suffered last January.
"When you've waited this long, you want to make sure you do everything right," Crosby said when asked if it is tough being patient. "It's exciting if anything. I don't think it's hard to be patient at this point. I'm getting closer and just want to make sure I respond to everything well here in the next however long it is."
Now, we still likely won't get a timetable for a return to playing. The Penguins will continue to do what they have been, and that's using patience and extreme caution. But I don't think there is any question that being cleared to hit and be hit was the biggest hurdle for him to clear physically.
"I thinks it's up to how I respond to getting hit, so I guess it's up to me," Crosby said. "We'll just have to see at that point.
"Its a big step but we'll see how things go. I've got to get hit in practice. Today wasn't hitting so it didn't feel any different. I've got to get hit here at some point during practice, but we're playing so much it's hard to get hit right now."
So who will be the first one to actually hit him? Your guess is as good as mine. I can't imagine any player will want to hit the star for fear of setting him back again. But coach Dan Bylsma thinks it won't be long before Crosby makes somebody want to hit him.
"Sid's the type of player that he instigates contact," Bylsma said. "He'll do something that will warrant that from a player. He'll go out and do something. ... I think every training camp when Sid's been healthy he's always ended up in some kind of jostling where the ire's gotten up on both guys and that'll happen again because of the way Sidney competes."
While his teammates have done their best to protect their captain during practice, Crosby has admitted to some jostling at times with no recurrence of the symptoms that have sidelined him since taking head shots in consecutive games in early January.
Bylsma says he may try to find some extra practice time for Crosby to help get him acclimated but added Crosby's participation in nearly every drill during training camp means Crosby might not have that much further to go.
"He's been with the line, he's been in drills, he's covered some drills that have contacted," Bylsma said. "He was wearing a different color helmet but he's been in those situations."
Sorry Jeremy Roenick, but expect to hear a lot more about Crosby after this development.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Posted on: October 13, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 11:05 am
By: Adam Gretz
Set to become an unrestricted free agent following this season, it was announced on Thursday morning that Chris Kunitz has signed a two-year contract extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The deal is worth $3.275 million per season according to the team, which is a salary cap hit that is identical to the that came with his previous contract.
Since being acquired by the Penguins, along with Eric Tangradi, from Anaheim in 2009 in exchange for defenseman Ryan Whitney, Kunitz has scored 43 goals in 140 regular season games, typically playing on a line with Sidney Crosby when both have been in the lineup.
He's not the flashiest player on the Penguins roster, but over an 82-game season he maintains a 50-60 point pace and seems to play the type of physical, aggressive game head coach Dan Bylsma likes, while also having a willingness to go to the front of the net and do the dirty work around the crease. He's been a good fit within their system. The only downside to his play the past couple of years is that he's had to miss 48 games due to injury over the past two seasons.
With Kunitz now in the mix for the next two years the Penguins have just about every core player on the roster signed signed through at least next season, including Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek and Marc-Andre Fleury. Many of them are signed for at least the next two years, with the exception of Crosby and Staal, who would be eligible for unrestricted free agency following next season.
As it stands now, the Penguins have roughly $54 million in salary cap committments to 17 players for the 2012-13 season, via Capgeek, which would leave them with somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million in cap space (assuming there are no changes to the cap).
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: September 16, 2011 12:54 pm
“I’m cleared to practice without contact. That’s good news for me. I’m excited to get going,” Crosby said Crosby on Friday. “Whatever symptoms I’ve had have been pretty minimal. To be able to get cleared to do this is good.”
I can hear what most of you are saying, "Oh great, another Crosby update" but this one has real merit. It's so tantalizing, it has some people wondering if Crosby will be back in time for the start of the season. While I won't even think of going that far, this would qualify as moving on to the next phase. But to state the obvious, hockey is kind of tough. Until he is given a green light on contact can we even begin to speculate when he might be back playing games.
From the Penguins official team site:
“I think camp will be a pretty good indication. It’s going to be pretty intense,” Crosby said. “Even without contact, I’m sure it’s going to be a pretty good pace. I’ll see how things go then.
“But I feel like I’ve done pretty good tests of exertion at different points and responded pretty well. I think the main thing is that I feel pretty comfortable and confident with where I’m at heading into camp here.”
This isn't the first time that Crosby has been cleared to resume hockey activities sans contact. At the end of March he was given the OK to join the team skates with the possibility of a return by the playoffs lingering. But things were shut down when Crosby began suffering post-concussion symptoms again.
So for now, Sid will just worry about things, day by day.
“You don’t want to be evaluating yourself every minute out there,” he said. “You want to go out there and try to do the things you normally do and see how things go. That being said, if everything is going well, you’ve got to use that time to get ready and get back in shape and timing and all of that stuff. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out there with a group and it’s been intense, so I’m just looking forward to getting out there and doing that.”
All this time, the Penguins have been very cautious with Crosby, insisting on not pushing him back too soon, coach Dan Bylsma included. But that doesn't mean it doesn't get him excited to see his superstar back training with the team, even if in a diminished role.
“In terms of seeing Sidney Crosby on the ice in that jersey and participating in practice, it’s always good to see that,” Bylsma said. “He’ll be out there with his teammates and participating.
“A lot of what he’s doing will be what he is comfortable with. He’ll be at the same pace and tempo as the other guys. Some of the contact drills he may not participate in.”
But right now it's a massive step that there are drills he will be participating in.
Just in case you need a reminder, Crosby is, oh, kind of good. He played in exactly half of the games last season yet still led the Penguins in points by 16, scoring 32 goals and adding 34 assists.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: August 29, 2011 9:43 am
Edited on: August 29, 2011 9:46 am
NATIONAL DREAM Dan Byslma isn't on any sort of hot seat as the Penguins coach, but he is looking for his next job. That's because Disco Dan has indicated he's interested in coaching the U.S. men's national team (via Sporting News) when the 2014 Olympics come around. ""I'd be more than willing to be a part of a staff, but my goal isn't just to be a part of a staff," the Michigan native said. "At least, the written goal is not just to be part of the staff."
CONCUSSION TALK CONTINUES: In the two-day Molson Export Quebec Hockey Summit in Quebec, the primary point of conversation surrounded the ongoing concussion talk (via Globe and Mail) and what some would call an epidemic in the NHL. With the possibility of Sidney Crosby missing more time, executives are perhaps looking at this issue even more seriously. Not that they weren't before, but Crosby's possible further absence seems to have spurred talks with one goal in mind: reducing concussions. Here's what Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier had to say: "“There are kids who suffer two or three concussions in a year and are pushed to keep playing. I can tell you that if one of my sons gets a concussion, his season is over.”
CAN KESSEL GET OVER THE HILL?: Obviously the Maple Leafs gave up a lot for Phil Kessel, so there expecting a lot from him. He's been an all-star since he came to Toronto, but the fans there are waiting to see more from their top player. That leads us to Maple Leafs Host Stove's burning question ... can Kessel score more than 40 this season? They take a stab at answering that question.
'CANES QUESTION: The Hurricanes was a middle-of-the-pack team as far as scoring last season, so it's not as if there was a drought in Carolina. But with one of the team's three 20-plus goal scorers from last season (Erik Cole) out of town, Chip Patterson at the News Observer wonders who will do the scoring for the 'Canes this season outside of Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner?
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Yes, the season is getting closer. Much closer. Just take a look at what's going on in Columbus' Nationwide Arena ... the ice is coming back (from @ddawley twitpic).
Posted on: August 17, 2011 10:01 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 10:09 pm
Day 1 of the NHL Research and Development Camp, or Camp Shanny as everybody likes to call it, is in the books. It's a time testing, tweaking and experimentation while general managers also get an up-close look at some of next year's draft prospects -- where GMs came away impressed with the defensemen.
Brendan Shanahan, getting settled into his new role as the NHL's next master disciplinarian, is running the show again this year as the league tries out a few ideas, some that will hit, some that will miss.
"This is research and development, it's what many companies do, what many corporations do," Shanahan said after the session. "It's what we do. It's not a knee-jerk reaction to anything we feel is wrong with the game.
"One of the things, maybe a misconception, was that we had to go out and test 30 new things. Quite honestly there were about 20 things that were repeating because we needed to get more information, more data. We love the way the game is being played by our players. We think the game is an entertaining game for the fans and we think it's a great time to study it. If for any reason, a year, two years, three years, four years down the road we see some trend that we don't like, we're going to have many of information to back it up."
Perhaps the most talked-about testing item after the first day was the suggestion to the overtime rules. It's no secret that the shootout debate has divided fans, with many feeling it ruins the game while others enjoy games having a clear winner and loser. To try and alleviate the argument of shootouts, one proposal is to lengthen overtime to seven minutes, going to 3-on-3 after four minutes.
"A couple of years ago we thought too many games were being undecided in overtime," Shanahan said. "Without changing many of the rules, that seemed to straighten itself out last year. This isn't about any sort of knee-jerk reaction, this is about being pro-active."
"I think it's certainly interesting to get to the 3-on-3," Blues GM Doug Armstrong told NHL.com. "I think if we want less games ending in the shootout, it's certainly an avenue we should explore, going right to the 3-on-3 and eliminate the 4-on-4."
But Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was singing a different tune.
"I prefer 4-on-4," Yzerman told NHL.com. "I'd like to keep 4-on-4. If we're going to extend it, keep it at 4-on-4. Three-on-three is not enough players on the ice, in my opinion."
The other big-discussion piece involved the removal of icing during man-down situations. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, on the bench, decided to take that as an opportunity to explore.
Knowing the other team couldn't launch the puck the length of the ice, he pulled his own goalie to create a 6-on-4 situation. I can't imagine you would see that during the season (unless it's late in the game) as the danger of the opposing team getting the puck out of the zone is at least slim. But in Camp Shanny? Why not?
Wouldn't you know it, Bylsma's team did surrender a goal at that time when a player fell down, allowing the other squad, coached by Phoenix Coyotes head man Dave Tippett, to score.
"I was really interested in this session that when a team is short-handed they can't ice the puck," Shanahan said. "I'd like to see more of that ... the coaches were curious about and wanted to play around with. That was a good one."
This is one of the proposed rules I am not a big fan of. I understand the concept of the penalty being something a team should suffer for, but I think it handicaps them too much. I would expect power play numbers to increase significantly and my feeling it's too strong of a change. But that's why they test it.
Finally, one of the other items under examination is the reduced goal and the use of a green line to detect if the puck completely crossed the goal line. Dan Craig takes a closer look at the smaller net in this video.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: August 9, 2011 9:43 pm
Edited on: August 10, 2011 1:40 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The NHL will be holding its Research, Development and Orientation camp in Ontario next week, an event that helps the league test potential rule changes. They will be using 30 prospects, as well as head coaches Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh) and Dave Tippett (Phoenix) to test the potential changes, ranging from no-touch icing, hybrid icing and no line changes for a team guilty of being offside, among many, many others.
Dan Rosen at NHL.com has a complete rundown of everything that will be tested (and there's a ton of stuff going on), as well as a schedule for each day.
A couple of the proposals that will be tested that stand out to me:
1) REMOVAL OF THE TRAPEZOID Yes. A thousand times yes. Implemented after the lockout as part of the effort to increase goal scoring across the league, it put a restriction on goaltenders leaving their crease and going into the corners to play the puck, limiting players that had spent years improving their puckhandling ability (guys like Martin Brodeur, Marty Turco, etc.). When I spoke with Phoenix's Mike Smith a couple of weeks ago, a goaltender that's regarded to be a strong puckhandler, we talked about this briefly and you can probably count him as somebody else that's probaby in favor of giving goaltenders more freedom. Limiting the movement of players on the ice (which this rule does) just seems to go against what the game is all about. And if your goaltender can't handle the puck effectively, well, he either needs to improve that aspect of his game or your team needs to find a goaltender that's capable of doing it.
2) NO ICING PERMITTED WHILE SHORTHANDED Now here's a way to potentially increase scoring, at least as far as the power play is concerned. By calling icing in shorthanded situations (you're currently allowed to ice the puck while on the penalty kill, which is the only advantage the shorthanded team has) you're going to increase the number of offensive zone faceoffs for teams on the power play, which is bad news for teams that are down a man. The dangers of defensive zone faceoffs are obvious -- the closer a team starts to the net it's trying to score on, the better chance it has of getting a shot on goal and scoring if it can win the faceoff (you can read more about the dangers of Defensive Zone Faceoffs by clicking here). And this is true in even-strength situations, let alone power play/penalty kill situations. Not a huge fan of this one as it gives teams on the power play yet another sizable advantange. Playing a man up (or two) is enough. A couple of years the NHL made it so every power play starts in the offensive zone, regardless of where the offending team gained control the puck to draw the whistle on a delayed penalty call.
3) OVERTIME VARIATIONS The current tiebreaking procedure in the NHL consists of five minutes of four-on-four sudden death overtime, followed by a shootout if the tie is not broken. The shootout has been a polarizing addition to the league, and last year the NHL took a small step toward reducing its impact by not including shootout wins as part of the tiebreaking procedure in the standings.
Another way to help reduce its impact (and the number of shootouts) is to give teams more overtime to play with, including several minutes with fewer players on the ice.
One idea that will be tested will be to switch ends, play four minutes of four-on-four hockey and then, if the tie is still not broken, switch ends again and play three minutes of three-on-three hockey. After seven minutes of four-on-four and three-on-three hockey it stands to reason that, given the amount of talent that will be on the ice and the additional room that will be out there, somebody will manage to get a goal and break the tie before a shootout is required. I like this idea quite a bit and would like to see it get some serious consideration, if for no other reason than the potential to see some of the three-on-three lineups teams like Pittsburgh, Detroit, Washington, Vancouver or Chicago could throw out there, and the type of back-and-forth hockey that would follow.
Just because these are being tested doesn't mean the rules will be changed or added to the league, it's simply a way to see them in action and take a test drive.
Photo: Getty Images
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Posted on: June 27, 2011 2:14 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2011 3:37 pm
Everything seems to be on track in Pittsburgh for injured superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, coach Dan Bylsma said Monday.
Speaking to the media, Bylsma noted that Crosby still has a long recovery to go but, as of now, things are going as planned.
"He's been working out two times a day and progressing along his normal road of summer activity," the coach said. "That’s what Sid has been doing. He's got another two and a half months ahead of doing that."
Crosby was knocked out of the lineup in early January with a concussion after big hits in the Winter Classic against the Capitals and the next game vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Penguins were very cautious with Crosby, in no hurry to try and rush him along so he could play in the playoffs against the Lightning. But Crosby has since admitted he began feeling residual effects, causing a minor setback and keeping him off the ice.
Before the injury, Crosby was having perhaps his most prolific season so far, scoring 32 goals with 34 assists in 41 games. He finished as the team's leading goal-scorer and points-earner despite playing half its schedule.
As for Malkin, his return from ACL and MCL tears has been "going extremely well," Bylsma said. If Pittsburgh had closed out Tampa Bay and advanced to the second round, it was a strong possibility Malkin would have returned.
"We have heard through Sergei Gonchar, actually, that he's never seen Geno working this hard and looking this good and this motivated at this time of the summer," Bylsma said. "So I expect a real motivated, a real focused guy and a guy who is ready to go for training camp -- is probably already ready to go. I think he'll be at full go coming into training camp and really motivated."
Finally, Byslma addressed the Jaromir Jagr speculation and how the 39-year-old would fit into Pittsburgh's picture.
“I’ve been on record a few times with the media about what the attributes of Jaromir Jagr are still really good," Bylsma said. "I think [a reporter] used the word 'hypothetical,' and we've kind of run with that word. There are things that I think he could add to our team.
"In terms of where he fits in structurally, contract-wise, that's another issue as well. Those are all things that are part of that equation and that we've talked about and will continue to talk about over the next few days."
-- Brian Stubits
Photo: Getty Images