Even without Sidney Crosby in the lineup, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the more successful teams in the league this season. With the announcement that Crosby will return the ice on Monday against the Islanders (yes, on Versus), the next challenge for head coach Dan Bylsma will be to get his team to play with the same kind of intensity and desperation they’ve played over the last 11 months.
Who knew that one of the best players in the world returning to the lineup could pose problems.
Bylsma talked about how the Penguins have played with desperation without Crosby. “We believe that’s been a big part of our team, a big part of how we play,” Bylsma said about his team. “We think that’s how we play as a team. I know our players are proud of that. They believe in that. That’s part of what we bring to the rink every day. I think its part of the expectations for the players in that room, from each other. That expectation is going to be there when Sidney Crosby gets back there as well. Are there concerns? As a coach, we don’t want to be in a situation where we just stand around and get caught up in watching Sidney Crosby play. I think have seen him in practice, we’ve seen him do some pretty crazy things and we’ve seen him at a high pace. But I think it’s not going to be the first time we’ve seen him. We do have to engage and we do have to get to our game and we do have to be ready to play like our team can.”
Pittsburgh will need to avoid a possible letdown over the next handful of games. Even though he’ll have plenty of adrenaline flowing through his veins on Monday night, it’s always the second, third, and/or fourth games that reveal rust from a player that has missed an extended period of time. The Penguins will need to play the same brand of hockey that has put them atop of the Eastern Conference until Crosby works himself into game shape. If they can stay the course, they’ll be that much better later in the season.
For the time being, the Penguins plan on bringing Crosby along slowly. The superstar captain has already said he expects to play around 12 minutes in his first game back, but Bylsma was quick to add that any ice time limitations would just be guidelines. Regardless, he’ll be out on the ice with wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis—probably in a third line role. Luckily for the Pens, they’ll still have the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal to fill the top two center roles for awhile until Crosby fully feels comfortable.
One thing we know is that he’s ready to get back on the ice. Bylsma continued, “The only thing I can really say is that is that I would liken it to the sound you hear in the voice of a player that’s going to go play in their first National Hockey League game,” he said about Crosby’s excitement. “He’s excited. He’s anxious. He’s been wanting to play hockey for a long time.”
Fans are excited as well.
There was no miracle comeback this time for the Winnipeg Jets. No heroics from highly touted rookie Patrik Laine.
Puck drop at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field was delayed due to glare from the sun. When the game did begin, the Jets couldn’t get anything going, falling behind in the second period against the visiting Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers leave Winnipeg with a 3-0 victory.
It started with Mark Letestu opening the scoring with a short-handed goal after a mistake from Dustin Byfuglien at the Edmonton blue line.
The Oilers continued to ruin the party with a goal from Darnell Nurse — in the box when Letestu scored — just 1:46 later. And Zack Kassian made it that much more difficult for the Jets to come back with another second-period goal for Edmonton. Three goals in just about eight minutes and it was game over.
The Jets’ record falls to 2-3 — a slow start that puts them at the bottom of a very difficult Central Division.
And their schedule likely won’t do them any favors, either, with home-and-home sets against Dallas and Washington, not to mention some back-to-back games on the road.
Meanwhile, the Oilers have had a completely different start to their season.
A week ago, head coach Todd McLellan blistered his team for a brutal performance on home ice against the Buffalo Sabres. Goalie Cam Talbot wasn’t good at all, allowing a goal from center ice.
A distant memory, it seems. Talbot stopped all 31 shots he faced for the shut out Sunday.
The message from that effort versus Buffalo — the lone blemish on Edmonton’s schedule so far — seems to have been received from the Oilers.
They went on to beat Carolina and St. Louis, and then they took control of Sunday’s contest in the middle period and didn’t give Winnipeg anything from there.
With a power play in the second period, the Winnipeg Jets had a good opportunity to take the lead on home ice in the Heritage Classic.
But instead, it was the Edmonton Oilers cashing in.
Mark Letestu opened the scoring with a short-handed goal, beating Connor Hellebuyck on the glove side on a breakaway after Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien whiffed on the puck at the blue line.
Letestu took advntage. That’s his second goal of the season, both coming on the penalty kill.
The Oilers were able to further silence the crowd in Winnipeg, as Darnell Nurse, right out of the penalty box, buried a Connor McDavid pass just 1:46 after Letestu’s goal.
Sam Reinhart has two assists through four games this season, and Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has made a move with the hope of getting the 20-year-old forward going offensively.
As per John Vogl of the Buffalo News on Sunday, Reinhart has been moved to the middle between Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons, while Matt Moulson was moved to the top line with Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo.
Reinhart, a 23-goal scorer from last season, had two assists through the first two games, but has been kept off the score sheet in Buffalo’s last two contests.
Outside of that six-goal outburst versus Edmonton last weekend, scoring has been an issue for the Sabres early in the season. So adjustments to the forward combinations is to be expected.
“Sam needs to get a little bit more feet moving, a little bit more speed to his game,” said Bylsma, as per the Buffalo News.
“He’s made some great plays for us early on – power play and five-on-five for the Okposo goal – but we need to get more out of Sam, moving his feet more, playing a little bit faster, a little bit quicker and providing a little bit more offense for our team.”
The Sabres, without two key forwards in Jack Eichel and Evander Kane with long-term injuries, which would help explain the team’s early offensive issues, conclude a four-game road trip Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Sabres also called up forward Hudson Fasching and defenseman Casey Nelson from Rochester in the AHL.
When P.K. Subban shows up at your event, you expect to be entertained. And he basically always delivers.
His trend of delighting Nashville Predators fans continued on Sunday, as he made a glorious appearance as the Tennessee Titans’ “12th Man.”
If you close your eyes and picture a scene, you probably wouldn’t be that far off; it still doesn’t make this any less fantastic. (Even if the Titans eventually dropped a 34-26 loss to the Colts.)
The photo he posted on his personal Twitter account was great:
This GIF of him using a sword feels like it will get some mileage on Twitter. After totally convincing other people about your sports/political/hot-dog-being-a-sandwich opinion, and then drop the P.K. dagger:
Was the Titans jersey not lasting for long predictable or unexpected?
Opinion: this was the Titans game to attend since they fell a yard short of beating the Rams.