James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Murray or Fleury? Sullivan plays coy about Pens’ Game 2 goalie

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One would imagine that Matt Murray‘s job is safe, at least for Game 2.

The guy behind him has a Stanley Cup ring and a $5.75 million cap hit, so any loss will probably prompt people to bring up the name Marc-Andre Fleury.

The question, naturally, is how likely will it be to see Mike Sullivan turn to Fleury instead of Murray against the Tampa Bay Lightning? Perhaps to little surprise during these tight-lipped times in the playoffs, Sullivan played coy.

Even so, Sullivan didn’t throw Murray under the bus by any means.

“As far as what went on last night, we feel as though Matt had a very strong game,” Sullivan said. “The goals that were scored were high-quality chances. Very difficult saves. So I don’t think it’s an instance where Matt had a sub-par performance.”

He then reiterated that it doesn’t mean that the Penguins won’t turn to Fleury regardless.

Still, Murray’s bailed out the Penguins more than once this postseason, and who knows how rusty “The Flower” might be? Judge for yourself if Murray put Pittsburgh in a position to compete in Game 1:

Penguins coach to Crosby, Malkin: ‘Play the right way’

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No doubt about it, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have been struggling to score lately.

Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan recognizes that, although he also believes that the high-end scorers still make an impact on playoff contests, even when they’re not generating goals and assists.

That said, those goals and assists sure are nice.

So, how do you get Crosby and Malkin back to scoring against the Tampa Bay Lightning after their offense dried up?

Some want the Penguins to put that dynamic duo together …

… But either way, Sullivan’s message is simple enough. It seems to go along the lines of “Keep plugging away.”

“When they play the game the right way, they’re very difficult to play against,” Sullivan said. “They help us on both sides of the puck. They’re talented enough players that we think they’ll score for us. That’s really been our message to those guys.”

Sullivan didn’t just have messages for No. 71 and No. 87. He also expects more from the likes of Olli Maatta.

The Penguins get a chance to get back on track in Pittsburgh against the Bolts in Game 2.

Somehow Ben Bishop’s lower-body injury only leaves him day-to-day

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It’s important to note that “day-to-day” is a pretty vague label. Sometimes such a thought makes it downright easier to understand things like this.

Despite being taken off the ice on a stretcher in Game 1, Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is merely considered “day-to-day” with a lower-body injury.

That’s the word from Lightning GM Steve Yzerman:

Does that mean that he’s guaranteed to be ready to face the Pittsburgh Penguins by Game 2 on Monday?

By no means, yet considering how it looked, this is promising. Apparently his X-ray really did go well.

Collberg clears waivers, so Isles successfully terminated his contract

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The New York Islanders were able to terminate Sebastian Collberg’s contract as of Saturday.

This comes after placing him on unconditional waivers on Friday (he naturally cleared waivers).

As this previous PHT post notes, the Islanders thought he had the potential to become a top-six forward after acquiring him as part of the Thomas Vanek trade.

Honestly, even his AHL numbers provide little inspiration. That said, at 22, it’s possible he could get things together and eventually make a dent in the NHL.

He’d likely need to prove himself quite a bit more to do so.

Stars shouldn’t struggle to sign Jamie Benn to an extension

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As much as people linger on the negatives after the Dallas Stars’ season ended with a thud, there are reasons for optimism.

One can find that if you look past the $10.4 million allocated to two under-performing goalies and notice the incredible bargains the Stars enjoy with some of their best players.

Seriously, other GMs probably weep with envy at this, especially since they might have made different decisions while building around this core:

Jamie Benn: $5.25 million cap hit through 2016-17
Tyler Seguin: $5.75M through 2018-19
John Klingberg – $4.25M through 2019-20

There are some other solid finds here or there (super-pest Antoine Roussel is a nice steal at $2M), but that trio is pretty staggering.

Of course, the Stars will eventually need to pay up, and that time will come soon in the case of Benn.

If you ask him, he’d like to make sure that issue doesn’t linger, as he told the Dallas Morning News.

“This is where I want to play, this is where I want to be,” Benn said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.”

It really shouldn’t be too difficult, either.

The Stars see some contracts dissolve this summer, but the ones that expire (along with Benn’s current deal) after 2016-17 are likely most relevant.

Patrick Sharp‘s $5.95M cap hit goes away, as does Ales Hemsky‘s $4M mark. The Stars can make other calls, such as moving away from Johnny Oduya ($3.75M) if they feel as though age caught up with him.

Either way, the bitter pill of the Stars’ Game 7 meltdown is easier to swallow when you look on the bright side.

The Stars would be silly to waste a second in locking up their best player, especially with their other key guys on such thrifty deals.