Posted on: November 21, 2011 1:02 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 1:05 pm
By: Adam Gretz
With veteran goalies Evgeni Nabokov and Al Montoya sidelined with injuries at the present time, and Rick DiPietro coming off a bad performance against the Boston Bruins that saw him allow three goals in the first period on Saturday, Islanders head coach has decided to start rookie Anders Nilsson between the pipes when his team takes on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night.
That's a tall task for the 21-year-old rookie in what will surely be a crazed atmosphere in Pittsburgh.
Nilsson has appeared in just one NHL game, and that was on Saturday in relief of DiPietro. He allowed three goals on 17 shots.
He was called up from the Islanders AHL team in Bridgeport over the weekend following the injuries to Nabokov and Montoya. In seven games in the minor leagues this season he posted a 5-2 record to go with a .908 save percentage. Nilsson was a third-round pick by the Islanders back in 2009, and prior to this season had spent the past four year playing professionally in Sweden for Lulea HF.
In 33 career games against the Islanders Crosby has recorded 62 points (18 goals, 44 assists). The only other team that he's recorded that many points against is the Philadelphia Flyers (62) in three more games.
Posted on: November 21, 2011 11:34 am
Edited on: November 21, 2011 11:43 am
By: Adam Gretz
When Sidney Crosby was at the top of his game in recent seasons it wasn't uncommon to see the Penguins send him out on the ice for well over 21, 22 or even 23 minutes per game. Seeing as how he hasn't played in a game since Feb. 5 of last season, and is coming back from a rather significant concussion, he's probably not going to be counted on for that sort of workload on Monday when he returns to the ice against the New York Islanders.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was asked on Sunday evening whether or not Crosby's ice-time would be limited in his first game back, and as expected, it will definitely be monitored.
"In talking with players that are returning there's always a period of getting back to where your game is at," said Bylsma. "I think Sidney's adrenaline is going to be going so high tomorrow, I think he's going to be tired out a little bit quicker than he normally would. He thinks maybe he's only going to be able to play 12 minutes, and I laugh because when Sidney Crosby gets to 12 minutes, he's certainly going to want the 13th minute. I'm not sure what that number might be, but we're certainly not rushing back to 20 minutes like we did before."
Bylsma also added that depending on what happens during the game, such as the number of minutes the Penguins spend on the power play, there are situations that could result in his playing time being a bit higher than expected. He also added on Monday following the Penguins' morning skate that there isn't a predetermined number of minutes, and that the game will dictate the number of minutes he plays.
Crosby's return is, obviously, being greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm in Pittsburgh and around the NHL, and expectations are already through the roof. There's even been some discussion as to whether or not he can still compete for the NHL's scoring title this season despite being nearly 20 games behind the rest of the league. Just to put a number on that, if we assume that the NHL scoring lead will fall somewhere in the area of 105 points, he would need to average nearly 1.69 points per game. He was averaging 1.61 last season, which was the highest mark of his career, before being sidelined.
Expecting that level of play right off the start is expecting too much.
He hasn't played in nearly a full calendar year and is coming off a significant injury. And for as talented as he is, you have to think there's going to be an adjustment period. Try and forget about scoring titles and point totals for right now and just try to take it one game at a time in the beginning.
Posted on: November 20, 2011 7:10 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 11:35 am
By: Adam Gretz
After months of guessing and speculation, Sidney Crosby will finally make his return on Monday night when the Penguins host the New York Islanders at the Consol Energy Center.
The big winners, aside from the Penguins who are getting their captain and best player back after missing nearly a full year of action, are looking to be the folks that enjoy making an extra buck or two on the second-hand ticket market.
Penguins tickets have been a hot item for several years now as the team is currently riding a consecutive sellout streak of well over 200 games, and as should be expected the prices for Monday's game on the team's official Ticket Exchange, as well as websites like StubHub, have seen a sudden spike following Sunday afternoon's announcement.
As of this posting on Sunday evening at 7 PM ET, the cheapest ticket for Monday's game on the Penguins Ticket Exchange is over $143 for second level tickets. And they quickly go up. The most expensive? Some opportunistic fan that is offering his seats in section 205 (just inside the blue line of the end the Penguins shoot at twice) for $690.00 ... each. Tickets in that section have a face value range of between $60 (Standing Room Only) and $100.
Good luck with that.
Most seats are north of $200 and $300.
The cheapest seats on StubHub, again, as of Sunday night, range from $115 to $345.
Just as a comparison, tickets for Wednesday's game against the St. Louis Blues range from $69.86 to $115 on the team's Ticket Exchange, before going up to a mininum of $86.25 on Friday to a maximum of $400 for Friday's game against the Ottawa Senators.
It's a good bet that those numbers will continue to rise leading up to faceoff on Monday evening.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: November 20, 2011 3:05 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 11:34 am
And the hockey world cheered.
"He's excited and anxious," coach Dan Bylsma said on a conference call Sunday. "I think the building's going to be going crazy."
But don't expect too much from him in Game 1. Byslma said Crosby told him that he'll likely only be able to play 12 minutes, prompting Bylsma to laugh.
"Sidney's adrenaline will be going so high," Bylsma said. "When Sidney Crosby gets to 12 minutes, he's certainly going to want the 13th minute."
You'll be able to watch the game on Versus (or CBC for our Canadian friends) as the American network has swapped from Canadiens-Bruins to the return of Sid.
Crosby has been out of the lineup since January 5 when he suffered a second concussion in as many games. Since then, it has been a long and twisting road to his return with the hockey world waiting with bated breath for the return of arguably the NHL's top player. The wait is over.
It's a development that's exciting to everybody in the NHL. The fans of the game (and the Penguins, of course) are thrilled to have Crosby back on the ice. The rest of the people like Jeremy Roenick are happy the speculating and anticipating is done with.
Crosby was cleared for contact on Oct. 13 and has since been going through the normal rigors of practices with his teammates as well as traveling with the team in recent weeks. For the past two or three weeks Crosby has more or less been day-to-day and for their part, the Penguins have been very good keeping everybody up to date, announcing the day before the game if Crosby would be playing or not.
Pittsburgh will obviously welcome Crosby back with open arms, but it's not as if the team has struggled in his absence. They are still in first place of the Atlantic Division (tied with Philadelphia) with Crosby out. Assuming Crosby returns to his old form -- and there is no reason to believe he won't -- the Penguins are the favorite to win the East, something many people already considered them to be.
Before he went down with the concussions last season, Crosby played exactly have a season -- 41 games -- and had 32 goals plus 34 assists. So now the question becomes how many points will Crosby score this season?
Pittsburgh has 62 games left on its schedule. So assuming Crosby will play in most if not all of those games, I'm going to cautiously set the over/under at 65 points. Under normal circumstances, most everybody would take the over on that, but there remains some uncertainty on how Crosby will perform when he comes back on the ice.
Considering how careful the Penguins were with Crosby throughout his entire recovery, it's difficult to imagine that he won't becoming back near 100 percent physically. He's been practicing for a long time with the team, so perhaps there won't be a lot of rust to shake off. The most interesting part will be seeing how he reacts to playing by the boards and after taking his first couple of hits.
"We know what he means to this team, this city," defenseman Kris Letang said. "He's a special player."
And what he means to the NHL. Like him or not, this is great news for the league.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: November 10, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 3:24 pm
The world was waiting for Sidney Crosby's return to come this weekend. The media flocked to Pittsburgh for the long-awaited day to come. Eye On Hockey blogger Adam Gretz was on stand-by (he'll still be at the game on Friday).
Yes, the home game on Friday Nov. 11 was the one everybody was predicting for his return. Signs were pointing to it. GM Ray Shero said in an interview before the Penguins went on a long road trip that he wanted Crosby to return on home ice. He had been practicing and reportedly doing well with the contact he was receiving. Pens beatwriter Josh Yohe put the odds at 2/1 Crosby would return for this game.
So if Crosby is out (which he is, coach Dan Bylsma announced as much on Thursday) the question everybody moves onto next is when? Well, a quick glance of the schedule shows a home game on Nov. 15 against the Avalanche. After that the Penguins don't play at home again until the week of the Thanksgiving when they have a three-game homestand.
Judging by the way Bylsma is still not putting a timetable on Crosby's return and insists it's up until the doctors clear him, my guess is that the Tuesday game is a no-go, too. My best bet would be the three-game homestand starting on Nov. 21 with the Islanders. But with Crosby being essentially day to day after this long struggle with post-concussions symptoms, it will be a guessing game every day.
Meanwhile, I hope this doesn't deter fans from tuning into the game anyway. This will be one of the best matchups of the weekend as the top teams in each conference face off. And for those media members still around for the game, there's always James Neal vs. Dallas.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: November 8, 2011 7:50 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 8:29 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The Pittsburgh Penguins announced on Tuesday evening that they have traded center Mark Letestu to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick. Given that Letestu is a center, and the Penguins made two other roster transactions on Tuesday by sending forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Steve MacIntyre to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on conditioning assignments, it's only sure to increase the speculation and discussion as to whether or not captain Sidney Crosby is getting closer to making his season debut, even if the two events aren't related.
In 11 games this season Letestu has yet to score a goal and has recorded just one assist as his production has dropped significantly from a strong 2010-11 season that saw him score 14 goals and record 13 assists in 64 games. It was a strong rookie season that saw him play a strong all-around game and excel in the faceoff circle, finishing 16th in the NHL by winning over 55 percent of his draws.
The 26-year-old was signed by the Penguins as an undrafted free agent back in March, 2007. He's currently in the first year of a two-year contract that pays him an average annual salary of $625,000.
Based on how much they've struggled in the early part of the season, currently owning the worst record in the NHL, it was only a matter of time until the Blue Jackets did something in an effort to reverse their fortune, but the addition of Letestu, another center, is an interesting addition given that it's probably one of the deepest positions on the roster.
General manager Scott Howson told Blue Jackets beat writer Aaron Portzline, via Twitter, "We like the player. It does not fill an immediate need, but you can never have too many centers. We think he's a top-9 talent."
Letestu's ability to win faceoffs, however, should be a welcome addition for a team that's currently 17th in the NHL when it comes to success in the circle.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 1:31 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 11:04 am
The refurbished Madison Square Garden finally hosted a Rangers game on Thursday night, and it wasn't enough like old times for the fans. And I'm not talking about the $9.50 domestic beers.
No, the fans in attendance were longing for the old MSG, where Sean Avery delighted them on the ice. OK, maybe they were just longing for Avery.
There was also a banner hanging from the upper level earlier in the game in support of Avery. Mysteriously, it was gone later in the game. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the fan didn't have a change of heart midway through the game and took it down him/herself.
The case of Avery is an odd one. He is a player that all the teams in the NHL apparently don't want to touch with a 10-foot pole, including the Rangers, who sent him to the AHL's Connecticut Whale. If you ask 100 people to describe Avery the player in one word, the most flattering response you would receive is "agitator."
He's like a member of the Rangers family. Johnny Ranger fan can insult him all day long, just like I can call my brother a jerk (hypothetically, of course). But don't you even dare to call my brother a jerk. It's in the same vain. Avery might just be an ineffective player whose only role it seems is to piss opponents off, but he's THEIR ineffective player whose only role it seems is to piss opponents off. He's a fan favorite. His antics have gone over well in New York, clearly.
But honestly, this wouldn't be that big of a deal if the Rangers were playing better, specifically Avery's replacement, Kris Newbury. Sure, they are 3-3-2, but it has been less-than inspiring. This is a team that had a lot of hype after an offseason that saw them catch the biggest fish swimming in the free-agent lake. The combination of Brad Richards with Marian Gaborik would be gold, I tell you, gold. The Blueshirts would finally be able to give Henrik Lundqvist the kind of scoring support to show he is a Vezina-quality goaltender.
Well, it hasn't happened yet -- the scoring, not Lundqvist showing he is Vezina-quality. The Rangers offense has scored 16 goals in eight games. Even the mathematically challenged should easily recognize that as two goals per game, not very impressive.
“I’ve known [Gaborik] for a month now,” Richards said. “It would be great if we’d come in here and click perfectly. Realistically, we have some work to do, and we’ve got to get to know each other on the ice. We’re both used to having the puck. That’s a work in progress, for sure.”
This has coach John Tortorella tweaking the lines, trying to find the right combinations. The pairing of Gaborik and Richards just hasn't produced yet the way they hoped. Gaborik was practicing on Friday with Wotjek Wolski and Erik Christensen on one line while Richards was with Brandon Dubinsky and Callahan on another.
It's under that backdrop that the Rangers welcome the Ottawa Senators to new-look MSG on Saturday. You know the Senators, the team most everybody saw as being the worst in the Eastern Conference this year but has surprised the masses by winning four games in a row? The plus side is that the Senators could be the team to jumpstart the typically sluggish Rangers offense. Ottawa has surrendered a league-high 39 goals in 10 games.
Let's look at that game as a second chance to make a first impression at home.
Speaking of that Rangers season debut at MSG, it was the Toronto Maple Leafs who spoiled the party with a 4-2 win in New York. With the victory they remained one of the surprising starters of the season, improving to 6-2-1.
But I pose this question: What's more surprising, Toronto starting so well thanks to Phil Kessel's nine goals, or Penguins forward James Neal being tied with Kessel for the league lead in goals scored? We'll have a chance to see them at the same time on Saturday when the Penguins visit the Leafs.
Normally, hearing that a Pittsburgh Penguins player leads the league in scoring doesn't come as a surprise. Rather, it is expected. But that's expected from guys named Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, not James Neal.
Which brings me to that trade from last February when the Penguins acquired Neal. Talk about one of those trades where both sides win. Well, let me rephrase; a trade where it looks like both sides came out well. I caution against calling winner and losers in a trade so soon. But Neal has obviously been producing for Pittsburgh as he seems capable of not only reaching his career-high 27 goals he had in 2009-10, but surpassing it. On the other end, Matt Niskanen and Alex Goligoski, while having very cool surnames, have both been good fits in Pittsburgh and Dallas.
As for the Leafs' sharpshooter Kessel? Well this is what they hoped for when Brian Burke made that trade a couple of years ago. Just for fun, I'd like to point out that Kessel is on pace for an 81-goal, 144-point season and a plus-45 at this time.
Big Z, Max meet ... again
Chara has already been back to Habs Town since his hit on Max Pacioretty late last season, the Bruins had to go through the Habs on their way to the Stanley Cup. But it will mark the first time Chara has faced Pacioretty in Montreal. OK, OK, we're stretching a bit. The Canadiens just beat the B's Thursday in Boston, so let's just say this one is about the game, shall we?
These are two struggling teams. Montreal got off to such a bad start, it was their worst in 70 years! It led to the firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn and since then, the Habs have reeled off two in a row, including one over the Bruins. Not that that had much if anything to do with Pearn's dismissal, but at least the Habs are showing signs of getting out of the early season doldrums.
For Boston, they have struggled too, although much more quietly. Interesting considering they are the defending champs and all. In a way this might have been expected. You hear all the time about the dreaded hangover, and that might be in play here. Either way, the Bruins are struggling to score.
The game is just like any other in an 82-game season, but this will quietly be an important one. These teams both want to get on track and in the Boston's case, a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the hated Habs wouldn't help in that regard. But for Montreal, it could help forgive much of the early struggles.
Best games, on paper
Entering the season, these two games appeared to be monster October showdowns: The Sharks visiting the Red Wings on Friday then the Capitals taking on the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday. If you had to pick five preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup, there's a good chance three or maybe all four of these teams would make that list.
The Sharks have been somewhat slow to start themselves, but seem to have flipped the switch and won three games in a row, all on the road. The Red Wings, on the other hand, began like gangbusters, but have since lost two games to the Caps and previously winless Blue Jackets. However these two are still titans and will be in the Western hunt all year and just might have another playoff battle lined up. (You might remember they played a great seven-game series last season.)
As for Capitals-Canucks? Well one team has played like a Cup contender and the other, well, the Cup contention seems like a long time ago now. Washington finally took its first loss in Edmonton on Thursday night after getting off to a franchise-record 7-0-0 start. Tomas Vokoun has been spectacular. If there has been anything to complain about up to this point, it's nitpicking.
Vancouver meanwhile has a hot mess of a goaltending situation at the moment. Starter Roberto Luongo is more than a hot topic in the city, a lot of the fans want him gone and would like to see Cory Schneider play. A victory over the Capitals, while not incredibly symbolic at this time of the season, would perhaps satisfy the fan base with the notion that things will be OK. Serenity now!
Somebody get him a compass
Ilya Bryzgalov, who is admittedly "lost in the woods" right now and appears to be a broken goalie, is slated to start Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. He better find his way out of the woods in a hurry.
Since his first two starts of the season when he was stellar, Bryzgalov has been a mess, never worse than Thursday's five-goals-on-10-shots showing in "reprieve" of Sergei Bobrovsky. His best showing since those first two was when he gave up three goals to the Kings in an overtime loss. His numbers right now? Ugggly. Try an .870 save percentage and 3.45 GAA. Ouch.
So Peter Laviolette might have decided that what better way to get a goalie's broken confidence going once again than start him the next time out?
Either that or Lavy didn't want to put Bobrovsky back out there either.
Pregame trash talk
One of the great things about Twitter is the ability for players to interact with fans and other players for thousands to see. Ever wonder what players talk about before the puck is dropped in the faceoff circle? Twitter has helped give fans an idea.
Carcillo (@CarBombBoom13) got it started with this: Goin 2 Carolina to throw a beat down on the Hurricanes and on@EhStew13 Just like in bantam when I'd drop u in buckets b4 pracy #indafaaace
Here was the response from Stewart (@EhStew13): You remembered u got Tko'd, keep the Bus in the Windy City, these 2 points aren't for sale #meh.
The short back-and-forth concluded with Carcillo: @EhStew13 we aren't lookin to buy #5fingerdiscount and I recall me havin to double shift in practice bc some1 had post concussion syndromes.
Good stuff. Guys having some playful smack (I'm assuming its playful) for all to see is good fun.
As to the game itself between the 'Hawks and 'Canes in Carolina? Well Chicago is looking for its first win in Raleigh since 1998. Granted there is unbalanced scheduling, but still, that's a long time. Also, Eric Staal needs to improve and that league-worst minus-9 he's sporting at the moment. Ouch.
Back to Vancouver ...
There will be no Green Men sitting by the opponent's box to torment Alex Ovechkin and crew. Vancouver's most famous fans will instead be ... in Bakersfield, Calif.?
Well look at that, the Green Men have turned their antics into appearances at hockey arenas. The Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL (originally from the WCHL) will have the spandex-wearing fans at their game on Friday night. Then Saturday will be Star Wars night.
I don't know about you all, but I'd rather see Star Wars night. Either way, these promotions are two big reasons why minor-league hockey is so awesome.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Alex Goligoski, Anthony Stewart, Bakersfield Condors, Boston Bruins, Brad Richards, Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Burke, Brian Stubits, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Daniel Carcillo, Detroit Red Wings, ECHL, Eric Staal, Erik Christensen, Evgeni Malkin, Green Men, Henrik Lundqvist, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jacques Martin, James Neal, John Tortorella, Kris Newbury, Madison Square Garden, Marian Gaborik, Matt Niskanen, Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Perry Pearn, Peter Laviolette, Phil Kessel, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Callahan, San Jose Sharks, Sean Avery, Sergei Bobrovsky, Sidney Crosby, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Weekend Preview, Wotjek Wolski, Zdeno Chara
Posted on: October 27, 2011 3:33 pm
It's getting so close, you can smell it.
In an interview on Sportsnet's 590 The Fan in Toronto, Shero talked about the progress of Crosby, who has been quiet since he was cleared for contact. The first order of business: Has anybody hit Crosby in practice so far?
Hosts Darren Millard and Doug MacLean also asked Shero if the team had been trying to expedite Crosby's recovery recently. Considering the team hasn't rushed him at any point of his recovery, I don't see why they would now, and Shero confirmed that.
But maybe the juiciest part was saved for the end. Straight up: Will Crosby play Saturday in Toronto against the Maple Leafs?
You can read through that a little and get the impression that Crosby is almost up to day-to-day status.
The Penguins are at Consol Energy Center on Thursday night to take on the Islanders, but after that they venture on a road trip that keeps them out of Pittsburgh until Nov. 11. I don't think it will be long before odd are released by Bodog on Sidney's return date.
For what it's worth, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review put his own odds on Crosby's return earlier Thursday. "Nov 11 Dallas 2/1; Nov 3 San Jose 8/1; Nov 15 Colorado 10/1; After Nov 30 5/1; Oct 29 in Toronto 25/1."
If the GM is saying things are going well and a guy that covers the team on a daily basis thinks there is a 2-to-1 chance Crosby plays on Veteran's Day, then I can at least say we're getting close.
Now sorry to Jeremy Roenick and all like-minded individuals. Bash away ...
Photo: Getty Images