Pens to play with just five d-men in crucial tilt versus Isles


Pittsburgh will be undermanned in the first of two games that could decide its playoff fate.

On Friday, head coach Mike Johnston announced that injured d-man Derrick Pouliot would miss tonight’s game, meaning the Pens will ice just five blueliners when they host the Isles at Consol.

A rash of poor health and cap constraints have left Pittsburgh in this position. Olli Maatta, Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff are out with various ailments and, as a result, journeyman Taylor Chorney was recently brought up from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton because his (relatively low) cap hit fit within the financial parameters of a recall.

The Pens are asking a lot of Chorney, 27. He’s played almost exclusively in the AHL over the last three seasons and, since appearing in 42 games in his rookie campaign, has skated in just 22 NHL contests.

So the Pens will play tonight with a blueline comprised of Chorney, Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi, Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy. It’s the same five-man unit that struggled in Tuesday’s loss to Ottawa after Pouliot exited with his injury; Martin played over 29 minutes, Scuderi over 25 while Cole and Lovejoy were both over 21 (Chorney, playing in just his fifth game of the season, played 13:34.)

The Penguins blew a 3-0 lead against the Sens, eventually losing 4-3 in OT. That said, Pittsburgh still controls its own destiny for the playoffs — if they beat the Isles and Sabres, they’re in (and could pass New York for third in the Metropolitan Division.)

Scuderi calls Pens ‘fragile’ after Ottawa collapse


As the second-oldest player on Pittsburgh’s roster and a two-time Stanley Cup winner, Rob Scuderi’s words tend to carry weight.

The ones uttered after Tuesday’s stunning OT loss in Ottawa certainly did.

“I think we’ve been a fragile group for the last couple of weeks,” Scuderi said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “This is depressing right now.”

Tuesday’s game, in which the Pens blew a 3-0 lead, continued a disturbing trend in which Pittsburgh plays well, suffers a bit of adversity and then — well, they sort of unravel.


— April 4. Pens jumped out to 2-0 lead on Columbus. The Jackets scored two quick goals just over two minutes, and went on to win 5-3.

— Mar. 24. Pens jump out to 2-0 lead on St. Louis. The Blues scored two “greasy” goalmouth scramble goals to tie it up, and won in OT.

This trend, inevitably, circles back to a larger-scale discussion about Pittsburgh’s lack of composure. History has a way of repeating itself with the Penguins, especially when it comes to keeping it together — though there’s been wholesale changes at various levels of the organization, the Penguins keep falling apart at the first sign of adversity.

“It seems like a couple of bad breaks,” forward Brandon Sutter said, “is all it takes to get us off our game.”

It has to be asked if certain moves by GM Jim Rutherford have played a role. Steve Downie, currently sidelined with injury, has been a penalty magnet and doesn’t appear any more disciplined now than he was during his controversial junior career. Noted pest Maxim Lapierre, less-than-affectionately known as Yappy Lappy, isn’t exactly a paragon of composure either.

The counter to that argument, though, is that Downie and Lapierre are bit players, role guys. Pittsburgh’s fragility is more of a team-wide epidemic and can’t be pinned on one or two players — nobody played well over the final 40 minutes of the Ottawa game, and you could almost feel the Pens collectively sink when Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s “shot” caromed in off Derrick Pouliot’s skate for the Sens’ opening goal of the game.

Despite all this, Pittsburgh has a positive to cling onto. It can still orchestrate its own playoff fate — if the Pens get three points from the final two games, they’re in.

“It’s time to let it go,” Scuderi explained. “We still control our destiny.”

Rutherford: ‘Our guys felt very strongly about reacquiring’ Lovejoy


Of all the trades completed today, was there one that left fans angrier than the one that saw Pittsburgh trade 23-year-old defenseman Simon Després to Anaheim for 31-year-old blue-liner Ben Lovejoy?

If there was, we missed it. Based on the comments we got here at PHT, the majority of Penguins fans were positively irate with GM Jim Rutherford for trading away young Després. 

According to Rutherford, however, Lovejoy was a player that was highly coveted by those within the organization.

“He’s developed into a solid, consistent player,” he said. “Our guys felt very strongly about reacquiring this player.”

The Pens also acquired d-man Ian Cole, 26, from St. Louis, in return for 25-year-old defenseman Roberto Bortuzzo.

“When we looked at our defense, despite the fact that it’s played pretty well at this point, we were concerned about the experience,” Rutherford explained, per the club’s website. “We were looking to upgrade, add more of a veteran presence.

“We felt to have a good run in the playoffs we needed more experience and that’s why we made these two deals.”

The Pens certainly have experience back there now, with Lovejoy joining a blue-line corps that already included Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Christian Ehrhoff, and Rob Scuderi.

And to be fair to Rutherford, perhaps he felt giving up Després was worth the risk with youngsters Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot in the organization.

That being said, these deals will only increase the pressure on the Penguins to make a deep run in the playoffs. You can bet the fans will remember today if things don’t go well.

Video: Penguins hold on to beat Capitals for first time this season


The Washington Capitals could not complete the regular season sweep of the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, as these two clubs finished their season series on Wednesday.

After losing the three previous meetings with the Capitals this season, the Penguins finally prevailed, holding on for a 4-3 victory to move three points up on Washington in the Metropolitan Division standings.

Washington remains in the top Wild Card spot of the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh, which acquired Daniel Winnik earlier in the day, is now only three back of the New York Islanders for the top spot in the division.

Given the time of year, and the history between these two clubs, it’s not surprising that tempers reached a boiling point in the first period. A heated melee broke out between the two teams with a fight occurring inside the Pittsburgh bench.

Both teams went one-for-six on the power play. With his Capitals behind a pair of goals late in the third period, Alex Ovechkin blasted home a one-time slap shot — typical Ovechkin — to narrow Pittsburgh’s lead.

But Ovechkin’s league-leading 39th goal of the season wasn’t enough.

Chris Kunitz scored what would be the winning goal before the midway point of the third period.

Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi blocked a shot earlier in the game and appeared in discomfort afterwards. He did not play the final 12 minutes of the third period, according to the Time On Ice report.

Penguins let emotions get the better of them in loss to Capitals


In a tied game, third period, on home ice, the Pittsburgh Penguins seemed more interested in retribution at times, after Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin caught Kris Letang with a wicked slash that wasn’t called.

What eventually happened, as the Penguins lost their cool and took a parade to the penalty box?

The Capitals took the lead, as Joel Ward scored on a beautiful passing play with less than five minutes remaining in the third period. They’d go on to defeat the rival Penguins by a final score of 3-1, and now possess the league’s second-best power play at 23.6 per cent after Tuesday.

Ovechkin scored his league-leading 37th goal of the season in the first period. Two of Washington’s goals came on the power play, which would certainly illustrate the need for a more disciplined effort from Pittsburgh, especially in such a tight game, even if it did get chippy.

“I’m not blaming the refs or the Capitals. I think it’s on us. You can be mad over a call. You can be disappointed. But you can’t let it get to your game,” said Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi, as per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“I like the fact that we responded and didn’t take a lot of crap from them.

“But at the same time, we have to know the line to toe.”