NHL on NBCSN: Penguins look to avoid bad habits vs Devils

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the New Jersey Devils host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Prudential Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Penguins got Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang back on Tuesday and they assisted on a Jarome Iginla power-play goal. All the same, Pittsburgh suffered a 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

That defeat won’t change the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins will enter the playoffs with the number one seed, but how they played was a bit troubling.

“I don’t think … we played our best,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Especially the first half of the game, the way we managed the puck.

“There were a lot of turnovers, a lot of opportunities for their team to go the other way with speed, and we saw them do that.

“That’s not characteristic of how we want to play, how we want to get into a game.”

Obviously it’s just one game, but the last thing the Penguins want to do right now is develop bad habits going into the playoffs. With that in mind, they’ll be looking to bounce back tonight against the Devils.

Of course, the Penguins would also like to get healthy for the start of the postseason. With that in mind, it must have been particularly frustrating on Tuesday when they lost Brooks Orpik to a lower-body injury.

The good news is that the Pittsburgh Penguins should get Paul Martin back soon.

“He’s continuing to progress,” said Bylsma in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report. “He returned to full team practice. … Hopefully, he’ll be able to do that a few more times remaining this week, and it’s a potential he could return to play in one of these games.”

Getting Martin back would be huge, but regardless the Penguins will be looking to play better tonight against a Devils team that wants to finish on a high note before beginning their long offseason.

Probable goaltenders: PIT – Marc-Andre Fleury (22-7-0, 2.35 GAA, .917 SV%) | NJD – Johan Hedberg (5-9-3, 2.73 GAA, .886 SV%)

Top scorers: PIT – Sidney Crosby (15-41-56, 36 GP) | NJD – Patrik Elias (14-20-34, 46 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Pittsburgh – Forwards: James Neal (concussion), Crosby (jaw) Defensemen: Orpik (lower body), Martin (thumb)
New Jersey – Defensemen: Bryce Salvador (wrist)

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”

Golden Knights assign 2017 first-round picks Glass, Suzuki to junior

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The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.

On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.

The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.

“Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.

“We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”

Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.

Mitchell signed PTO with Blue Jackets — shortly after getting cut by Blackhawks

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When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.

His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.

It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.