Phoenix Coyotes v Pittsburgh Penguins

Passionless Penguins ‘need to show some energy and enthusiasm’

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are “troubled,” according to the Tribune-Review newspaper that covers them on a daily basis.

And following last night’s 3-2 home loss to Phoenix — which dropped the Penguins’ record to 2-4-1 in their last seven games — a couple of the team’s veterans insinuated the same thing.

“The biggest thing for us is that we lack a little bit of passion right now,” defenseman Rob Suderi said.

“The guys in here need to show some energy and enthusiasm,” added d-man Matt Niskanen.

Now, it’s entirely possible that the Penguins are simply lacking motivation. With 10 games left in their regular season, it’s a near certainty they’ll finish first in the Metropolitan and with the second seed in the East. Realistically, they’re too far ahead in the division to drop, and they’re too far behind Boston to get the top seed in the conference.

The Penguins are also missing a number of key players due to various ailments:

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That being said, the Pens may be wise to find their “passion” or “energy” or “enthusiasm” or whatever it is they need to find, and find it soon. Because there’s a sense that changes could be coming if this team doesn’t have a successful playoff run.

For example, coach Dan Bylsma’s name is out there as a potential casualty.

And, of course, all eyes will be on goalie Marc-Andre Fleury — with just one more year on his contract — to see how he handles the pressure after four consecutive postseasons of below-average play:

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Even Sidney Crosby — far and away the favorite to win the Hart Trophy, as well as the Art Ross– has a lot to prove after getting completely shut down by the Bruins last year, not to mention the year before when he lost his composure in a first-round loss to the Flyers. (Not that Crosby’s going anywhere if he doesn’t have a good playoffs.)

On a side note, there are those who believe the Pens have never been the same since Jordan Staal was traded to Carolina. And given Pittsburgh’s reported interest in acquiring Ryan Kesler at the deadline, perhaps general manager Ray Shero feels that himself. After all, we all know the high correlation between winning the Stanley Cup and having a Selke Trophy-caliber forward on the roster. And last we checked, there was no Selke buzz for Brandon Sutter.

Pittsburgh hosts Los Angeles Thursday.

Goalie nods: Backups battle as Kinkaid faces Enroth

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth, of Sweden, deflects a shot off the stick of a Colorado Avalanche player in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings prefer to lean on workhorse goalies Cory Schneider and Jonathan Quick respectively, but Sunday presents a change of pace.

In the Kings’ case, Jhonas Enroth is playing in part because of (what Los Angeles hopes is) a minor injury to Quick.

It’s true that the under-sized goalie sports a mediocre 4-4-1 record, but he’s given the Kings legitimate chances to win games considering his impressive (especially for a backup) save percentage of .925. Perhaps he can earn a few more reps if he plays well in what may be a tight game?

Speaking of earning more reps, Keith Kinkaid must continue to work to prove that he’s able to make the jump from AHL goalie to at least an NHL backup. The Kings aren’t likely to make it easy for him, either.

Elsewhere …

Avalanche at Sabres: Semyon Varlamov vs. Robin Lehner

Bruins at Red Wings: Possibly Tuukka Rask vs. Petr Mrazek

Blues at Lightning: Best guess – Brian Elliott vs. Ben Bishop

Flyers at Rangers: Steve Mason vs. (possibly) Henrik Lundqvist

Fight video: Someone other than Evander Kane beats up Alex Petrovic

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Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.

Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.

(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)

Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …

It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.

Outdoor game rumors: Jets host Oilers, Red Wings at Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings face off during the first period of the Winter Classic outdoor NHL hockey game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, and so are rumors about hockey fans bundling up for outdoor games next season.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman went over two possible outdoor matchups coming for 2016-17 during Saturday’s Headlines segment.

A smart move for a potential game in Winnipeg: Imagine the Jets hosting a game in Winnipeg in February? Ilya Bryzgalov almost turned off his TV in protest.

Instead, Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that the Jets are likely to host the Edmonton Oilers in October. That would be a smart logistical move, as long as it isn’t too hot.

(Also, playing it then would hopefully increase the odds of the mainstream sporting public seeing Connor McDavid in an outdoor game.)

Toronto’s turn: Friedman reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to host the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 Winter Classic (or at least an outdoor game), almost certainly on New Year’s Day 2017.

The two teams combined for a great Winter Classic at Ann Arbor in 2014, so that could be a fun time.

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Keep in mind these are reports (and well-placed ones at that) rather than official announcements for the NHL. These things could always change.

Related: Could the Penguins host the Flyers outdoors next season, too?

Ducks likely to recall Khudobin after Gibson injury

Chicago Blackhawks' Richard Panik (14), of Slovakia, collides with Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Chicago. Anaheim won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.

The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).

The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.

Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:

The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”

Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.