Should the Penguins bring back Petr Sykora?

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sykora.jpgThe most exciting moments of hockey off-seasons come when a team lands a big, expensive free agent. Yet, nine times out of ten in sports, splashy deals fail miserably (see: the Dan Snyder era with the Washington Redskins). Just look at last summer; while Jay Bouwmeester made headlines when he signed with the Calgary Flames, it turned out his former Florida Panthers teammate and backup goalie Craig Anderson ended up being the coup.

Now, sure, we’ll still be more fixated on the Ilya Kovalchuks and Evgeni Nabokovs of the world, but that doesn’t mean PHT will forget the smaller names entirely.

One of those guys you won’t hear a whole lot about in most circles is Czech winger Petr Sykora.

There’s a good reason why Sykora’s name will only come up in the most obscure free agent conversations. His one year with the Minnesota Wild was a borderline disaster, scoring three points in only 14 games played before he was waived in late January. He suffered from concussion problems and never made much of an impact. The fact that no one claimed him is obviously a bad sign, too.

While it’s quite possible that the wayward winger might retreat to the KHL, I wonder if the Pittsburgh Penguins should consider giving him a chance at retribution on the cheap. My guess is that Sykora would garner even less than the $1.6 million he received from the Minnesota Wild (although, again, the KHL could potentially overpay him). The forward and goalie ranks are filled, but the team needs to bolster its defense with Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski being the only experienced blueliners under contract.

Aside from that whole “career free-fall” thing, there might also be some residual bitterness festering from the Penguins scratching Sykora during the 2009 Stanley Cup run.

It might not be the most realistic option, then, but the salary cap (and Sykora’s lack of other choices) could make compromise at least feasible. There’s two simple reasons to make it work: Sykora is a natural goal scorer and he developed genuine chemistry with Evgeni Malkin. It’s too simplistic to say that Sykora was the difference between Malkin being an Art Ross winner and just a point-per-game guy, but he certainly benefited from having a 25-goal guy on his line.

He’s not a crash-and-bang hitter. He rarely leads his team in hustle points or defensive acumen. If Sykora isn’t scoring goals, he’s nearly useless.

Yet, despite all of those flaws, Sykora being back in black and gold could be a solid if unspectacular move. As long as he’s cheap and can accept the fact that he might be a healthy scratch every now and then.

Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.