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Sidney Crosby, Brent Johnson power Penguins past Flyers; Could there be a goalie controversy in Pittsburgh?

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Is it too early to wonder if there might be a goalie controversy in Pittsburgh?

Probably, but that won’t stop many from wondering if Brent Johnson should be “the man” in net for the Penguins. The team’s dirt-cheap backup (he’ll register a $600K cap hit for the next two seasons) is now 3-0 in this young season while $5 million starter Marc-Andre Fleury is 0-3.

It’s overly simplistic to lay all the praise at Johnson’s feet and make Fleury the scapegoat for those losses, but Johnson has been outstanding. He stopped 81 out of 85 shots in his three appearances so far, allowing only four goals in three games. In a stark contrast, Fleury allowed 10 goals from only 68 shots, registering an abysmal 85.8 save percentage so far this season.

Yes, it’s beyond hasty for the Penguins to crown Johnson their new king in net. Yet in an 82-game season, there’s nothing wrong with riding the hot hand.

Pittsburgh 5, Philadelphia 1

While I’ve voiced my disapproval of the Penguins playing gifted but defensively suspect forward Evgeni Malkin on the point, it’ll look like Pittsburgh’s power play was dominant, going 2-for-7 thanks to two slap shot goals by Sidney Crosby. I’m not the only one to point this out, but the “Crosby sucks” chant in Philadelphia is taking on comical levels of desperation, as the Penguins forward now has 26 goals and 59 points in 33 career games (both in the regular season and playoffs) in the City of Brotherly Love.

Crosby also assisted on Chris Kunitz’s first goal, as the Penguins came back from a 1-0 deficit to score five unanswered goals and win this one to the frustration of their cross-state rivals. Mark Letestu continued his impressive start to the season in place of an injured Jordan Staal, scoring his third goal of the season (and what would stand as the game-winner) in the last minute of the second period. Matt Cooke poured a little salt in the Flyers’ wounds with an empty net goal.

One bright spot for Philadelphia was the play of Danny Briere. The small forward scored his fourth goal of the season in the first period and would have had another if Johnson hadn’t robbed him with two outstanding successive saves.

Despite going 1-3 at home so far this season, the Penguins will probably be tied with the New York Islanders for the Atlantic Division lead once tonight is over (the Islanders are up 4-1 against Colorado while the New Jersey Devils are down 4-1 against the Boston Bruins at the moment). Of course, the Islanders have played one less game – five to the Penguins’ six – so they’ll technically be ahead at the moment. Either way, the Penguins will take it.

The question is, could Johnson take Fleury’s job?

Blues, Capitals to play exhibition game in Kansas City

Pedestrians walk past the Sprint Center, Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo. The city was preparing for the third round of the NCAA college basketball tournament at the arena after the region received 6-10 inches of snow overnight. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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Kansas City is going to host another NHL exhibition game.

The St. Louis Blues announced today that they’ll take on the Washington Capitals on Oct. 5 at Sprint Center. Both Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Ovechkin will be there, at least according to the press release.

The Blues last played in K.C. a couple of years ago when they took on the Stars in exhibition play. In 2011, a sellout crowd watched the Penguins and Kings at Sprint Center.

A market once considered a candidate for expansion or relocation — particularly after Sprint Center opened in 2007 — the NHL-to-Kansas City buzz has since died down. Last year, there was no interest from Kansas City when the league called for expansion applications.

Sensing an opportunity to make their team a favorite of all Missourians, not just the ones in St. Louis, the Blues have said they’d like to cultivate their fan base across the state in Kansas City.

Report: Pens won’t make Fleury (talks too much) available to media

at Pepsi Center on December 9, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.
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Don’t expect many updates on Marc-Andre Fleury‘s health over the next little while.

Well — don’t expect them to come from Fleury, anyway.

Per TVA Sports, Fleury has been shut down from speaking with reporters until he’s fully recovered from the concussion that’s sidelined him since Apr. 2.

A translation of Renaud Lavioe’s piece for TVA, per PHT’s Joey Alfieri:

Fleury practiced with his teammates this morning at the Verizon Center.

What I can tell you is he’s feeling better, but the Penguins have decided not to make Fleury available to the media because he says too much.

The next time Fleury talks to the media, it’s because he’ll be ready to return.

Not to be mean, but Matt Murray has given up three goals or more in back-to-back games.

Earlier this week, Fleury told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that — despite participating in on-ice workouts — he’s still dealing with concussion symptoms.

“It’s one of the toughest things I’ve been through,” he explained. “Some good days, when you think you’re back, and some bad days, when you think it’s never going to get fixed.”

The Fleury situation seems to have rankled some within the Penguins organization — like head coach Mike Sullivan, who took issue with questions about the club’s handling of Fleury.

Here’s a related series of tweets from DKonPittsburghSports’ Josh Yohe:

Game 2 of the Pens-Caps series goes tomorrow from Verizon at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN). Matt Murray, who allowed four goals on 35 shots in the Game 1 loss, is expected to start in goal.

North Dakota loses another d-man as Kings sign LaDue

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 09:  Paul LaDue #6 of North Dakota skates against the Boston University Terriers during the second period of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship semifinals at TD Garden on April 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Keaton Thompson, Troy Stecher and now, Paul LaDue.

On Friday, the Kings announced that LaDue — the junior d-man that helped North Dakota win the Frozen Four — agreed to a one-year, entry-level deal, forgoing his senior season in the process.

LaDue, 23, was part of a talented UND blueline that also featured fellow juniors Troy Stecher — who since signed with Vancouver — and Thompson, who inked with the Ducks.

So yeah, bit of an exodus.

Thankfully for North Dakota, freshman scoring sensation Brock Boeser has already committed to returning for his sophomore campaign, while junior defenseman Gage Ausmus — a San Jose draftee — vowed to go back to school as well.

As for Frozen Four MOP Drake Caggiula — a senior that was already leaving school — he’s already begun his tour of interested NHL suitors.

Per TSN, Caggiula has shortlisted six clubs: Philadelphia, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Chicago and Buffalo.

Wilson fined for kneeing Sheary

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No suspension for Capitals forward Tom Wilson. Only a fine.

That’s what the NHL’s Department of Player Safety decided after Wilson kneed Pittsburgh’s Conor Sheary last night in Washington.

The fine of $2,403.67 is the maximum allowable under the CBA, and, at the very least, it puts Wilson on official notice.

Wilson was not penalized on the play, and Sheary was able to leave the ice under his own power and remain in the game.

“We’re just going to play hockey, and the refs are going to call it the way they see it,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told reporters afterwards. “Our guys are going to play.”

This morning, Capitals coach Barry Trotz reportedly said of the play, “It was OK, but it wasn’t I would say necessary.”