Gutsy, banged-up Pens to host Habs

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For the second time in three games, the Canadiens will face a team atop the NHL. But his one, the Penguins, is like the Canadiens — pretty banged up.

The teams face off on Thursday in Pittsburgh and the Pens are now in a four-way tie with Colorado, the Caps and the Stars with 10 points. They have the most goals in the league with 23, but they’ve surrendered 20. They’ve also played the most games, eight.

The Habs’ injuries, you know about, and you probably know about some of the Pens’ injuries as well. But here they are anyway:

Sidney Crosby is inching closer to returning from concussion, but all indications are he won’t be in the lineup for this one. Evgeni Malkin’s knee has kept him out of the last three games; the latest reports say he might be good to go against the Habs, but it may come down to a game-time decision. Defenceman Brooks Orpik has not played yet this season after complications from undergoing offseason hernia surgery; he’s skating but not ready yet.

Wait, there’s more: Winger Tyler Kennedy is out with a concussion and his return is uncertain. Centre Dustin Jeffery suffered a torn ACL late last season and has yet to play, but he is skating and close to return.

In addition, top defenceman Kris Letang will serve the second of a two-game league suspension for a boarding call on Sunday and the guy they called up from the AHL to replace him on Tuesday, Brian Stait, left in the second period with what looked like a hand or wrist injury.

That’s a lot of missing talent. Without Crosby, Malkin, Kennedy, Letang and Orpik, they’re missing two world-class centres, the team’s top goal-scorer in the second half of last season in Kennedy, and the top defensive pairing in Letang and Orpik, not to mention Letang’s team high six assists and seven points.

“Ever since I’ve been here, guys have been going down,” winger James Neal told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “That’s the way guys play here. They leave it all out on the ice.”

But the Pens somehow keep on winning, as they did last season, helping coach Dan Bylsma earn the Jack Adams Award for Coach of the Year. “You can always find excuses,” Bylsma said. “This is about guys playing the right way.”

“It’s the commitment in this room,” Penguins forward Matt Cooke said last week. “We play a certain way no matter who is in the lineup, and that’s the strength of our team. We have a good enough team that if guys can’t play, we can hold the fort.”

Their effort Tuesday against Minnesota was pretty inspiring, coming a night after a loss in Winnipeg. They skated hard, had the puck a great deal, used the stretch pass expertly on the breakout to spread out the Wild’s defence, then jumped into the holes. They blocked shots, established a good forecheck, won lots of puck battles and forced turnovers, three of which turned into goals. After the game (video), Blysma praised Jordan Staal for his effort and singled out his other penalty killers, Cooke, Craig Adams, Pacal Dupuis, and defencemen Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek for the tough minutes they played a man down. They killed off all five penalties and Dupuis scored a big shorthanded goal.

“It was key for us to be able to play that way, especially back-to-back nights and (considering) a lot of the hockey we’ve played, but a lot of the guys gutted this one out. It was a great team win.”

Still, the Pens could be fatigued. They’ve played five games in eight days. Thursday will make it six in 10. They’ve played in four different time zones already this season, and five of their eight games have been on the road. Being home, however, could energize them.

One of the quieter big stories for Pittsburgh has been the play of Neal, who is second in league goal scoring with six. Acquired from Dallas last February to be Crosby’s winger, Neal did little down the stretch and in the postseason. But he’s adjusted to his new surroundings and when Crosby comes back, Neal could really explode. He’s a legit power forward who has scored at least 20 goals in each of his three NHL seasons without anyone like Crosby setting him up. And he’s only 24.

Brent Johnson was in goal for the Pens against Minnesota, giving Marc-Andre Fleury a rest. Fleury will be back in goal to face the Habs.

While it will be a big night for the Habs Hall Gill, an ex-Pen playing his 1,000th career game, former Hab Aaron Asham will play his 700th while skating for the Penguins.

Here’s how the Penguins will probably line up on Thursday in Pittsburgh:

Steve Sullivan, Mark Letestu,James Neal
Chris Kunitz, Jordan Staal, Arron Asham
Matt Cooke, Joe Vitale, Pascal Dupuis
Steve MacIntyre, Richard Park, Craig Adams

Brian Strait, Deryk Engelland
Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen, Ben Lovejoy

27 Comments

  1. Goderichab says:

    Trading for Luongo, Good God lets hope that never happens…See where Cam Ward had “words” with Chara?
    He really
    is beginning to think he’s untouchable.. Why wasn’t he penalized for third man in?
    Agree, the Habs are facing a must win situation to mute the nay sayers.
    Never has the Gods favored them so well with such an opportunity in Pitts.
    Fingers crossed and hoping Price comes to play!

    I remember the dynasties…

    • Tony McLean says:

      Chara should have been suspended, he ran in and suckered Harrison, who impressed in the fisticuffs against the beast.

      Chara then inexplicably went after Ward (as usual), deplorable behaviour. When #33 Satanic Jerome the Giraffe loses it, it’s ugly. The NHL refuses to punish him time and again. He’s even allowed to mishandle officials with impunity. Disgraceful.

  2. club_de_hockey says:

    Price for Luongo is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Lou is not clutch, whereas Price is all upside. Are you kidding me? Next question.

  3. Mats Naslund says:

    Anyone can beat anyone in the NHL.. You need bounces to go your way – but tonight is one of those games where the Habs could help themselves out huge by picking up 2 points. The media will always be crazy, but they have tone wondering what else they could do after Colorado and Buffalo.

  4. HabsPEI31 says:

    Asham looks like he’s in a police line-up.

    “Only a goalie can appreciate what a goalie goes through.” – Jacques Plante

  5. HabinBurlington says:

    Obviously this Penguins team is way too small. How else can all those injuries be explained.

  6. slamtherimtim says:

    well if they dont win tonight , i am sure they will play well ,

  7. SeriousFan09 says:

    No excuses tonight, Pens are missing big chunks of their lineup. Time to pounce, hopefully that will include noted Penguin-killer Mike Cammalleri who has valet parking in Fleury’s head.

  8. Bah Humbug, Easy Win tonight….aren’t they all?

    Shane Oliver
    http://www.Sholi2000.com
    Brandon, MB,Canada
    R7B 2R7
    hockey@sholi2000.com
    Ph- 204 724 8418

  9. rousseman says:

    well so far it’s been rough, I liked the way we played against Buffalo….if it wasn’t for Miller we would of won that game. I don’t like the way Cole is playing, he looks really out of place. The 3rd line played the best with DD eller and Patch…..I love Price….but man oh man….he needs to step it up.

  10. LatheDog says:

    How many people here would make a straight up trade, Price for Luongo???

    You would be trading a B.C. native for a Montreal native.

    I have nothing against Price at all. But I think the trade would benefit both goaltenders and make a huge, positive impact for both teams.

    Not everyone in Vancouver is happy with Luongo but Montreal may be the place where he would thrive the most………maybe.

    Same for Price, I think he would shine the most in Vancouver. Of coarse it does help that their team is solid to begin with.

    I would be tempted to risk it, despite the age difference between the goaltenders.

    What do you guys think?? Am I crazy?

    • rousseman says:

      yes I do think your crazy…..Price is going to be a top notch goalie….he just doesn’t have the defence to back him up…..I’ll admit he could be playing way better right now, and it looks like he’s lacking confidence. He will get it back……and it would never happen…lol

      • G-Man says:

        Price has to play better- he has yet to be “top notch” in the playoffs. Thus far, he’s an over-hyped thoroughbred.

        • Tony McLean says:

          He should have spent at least one full season in the AHL before being given the keys to the city. He would have learned the mental toughness and concentration he has lacked so far. “Hype” is right. I don’t understand the unquestioning cult-like devotion from some, he’s delivered nothing. One good regular season is nothing. It’s the Stanley Cup or nothing. This is the Montreal Canadiens not the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    • Bob_Sacamano says:

      1. No one I hope.
      2. Do you know what a cap hit is? Look it up and check the cap hit of both goalies and while at it:
      3. Check how old they are…

    • VancouverHab says:

      Absolutely Nurse-Ratched crazy. Totally nuts. Trading Luongo for Price would be trading Elizabeth May for Ken Dryden.

      You need to get back on your meds. Right fricken’ now.

    • G-Man says:

      Luongo =Gomez cap hit= insane.
      Price = 3rd liner salary= good deal.

    • HabinBurlington says:

      I have 3 answers to that question, NO, No, and no.

    • Bill J says:

      While Price may make the Canucks better. I don’t see Luongo getting better in Montreal. That’s without touching the fact that Luongo HATES Montreal, he was a die hard Oilers fan as a kid.

      At least CP wore the Habs colours as a kid.


      If you want to add an avatar here, read this and follow the steps

      Go Habs Go!

    • habbernack says:

      Luongo is the most overrated goalie in the nhl. I don’t think he could deal with the pressure in MTL

      ability is what you’re capable of doing.
      attitude determines how you do it

  11. Marc10 says:

    Hey any game is a tough game for the Habs these days… but Asham on the second line? No Crosby, no Malkin, no Letang…

    There’s never been an easier game in Pittsburg since Crosby came on the scene… No excuses. If they can’t win this one for Skillsie, we are in deep s…

    Messenger Boy: The Thessalonian you’re fighting… he’s the biggest man I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t want to fight him.

    Achilles: That’s why no one will remember your name.

  12. Tony McLean says:

    Amen, king of the chokers.

    —————————————————–
    Carey Price’s favourite Greek philosopher is Mediocrates.


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