The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost three of their last four games, haven’t won at home, and are off to an uninspiring 3-3-0 start.
Maybe you’d expect more from the odds-on favorites to win the Stanley Cup, but the sample size still is small and the Penguins certainly don’t seem to be too worried, based on a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report.
“It’s all right,” forward Evgeni Malkin. “Yeah, we lost our last game. Still positive, looking forward. Nothing bad. We’ve just played six games. Just keep going.”
Part of the problem so far has been turnovers and recently a lack of offensive output. The Penguins are known for their core of top-end skilled forwards, but they have managed just seven goals over their last four contests.
“I don’t think a little adversity this time of year is the end of the world,” Sidney Crosby argued.
Maybe not, in 1995 the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup after starting that shortened season with a 2-3-1 record.
All the same, Pittsburgh has a big test ahead of them based on its upcoming schedule. The Penguins will play against the New York Rangers and Islanders once, the New Jersey Devils three times, and the Washington Capitals twice through Feb. 10.
Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.
Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.
The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.
“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.
The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.
Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.