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Penguins Notebook: Petry Progressing, DeSmith Explains Jarry Confusion

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Jeff Petry

LAS VEGAS — There was something a little off on Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Penguins practice. Coach Mike Sullivan stopped practice to admonish his team to pick up the pace. The locker room was eerily quiet. Even the usual jokesters merely sat in their locker stall, dutifully fulfilling their media obligation, but little more.

“Long travel day yesterday,” came the acknowledgment from one player.

The Penguins are in the midst of their second lousy stretch of the season. They were winless in seven after the last time they traveled this far west. Currently, they are winless in five, and it didn’t seem even a piece of cake from Buddy Valastro (the Cake Boss) could liven the mood.

(For the record, I ordered a giant piece of double chocolate to take to my room, but they forgot to give me a fork. Yes, I ate it with my hands, and I have no regrets).

Casey DeSmith

For those of you watching the Winter Classic on TV, you were probably as confused as we were about Tristan Jarry. Was he coming out? Was he hurt?

Casey DeSmith was also waiting, watching.

We’re not sure how much the TV broadcast showed, but DeSmith stood up, put on his helmet, removed it, and sat down at least twice.

At practice Wednesday, Sullivan said Jarry returned to Pittsburgh for further evaluation. The team recalled third goalie Dustin Tokarski, who will back up DeSmith Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights.

DeSmith knew Jarry was hurt and thought he was coming out, but Jarry tried to gut through the injury. After a couple of false starts, Jarry exited the game just over four minutes into the first period and did not return.

“I was kind of up in the air for a second there. You know, he was going to try and play through it,” said DeSmith. “And then the more I watched him, I was like, ‘There’s no way he’s going to stay in.’ And so I started to get ready. And then, as he came to the bench, maybe looking like he was staying in. So I didn’t know what would happen, but I was just trying to get ready as best I could, just in case.”

DeSmith has been solid this season. His 4-7-2 record is the product of playing the second of back-to-backs, in which the Pittsburgh Penguins have been notoriously subpar. However, he has a respectable .911 save percentage.

DeSmith dutifully respected Jarry on Monday. A backup QB doesn’t put his helmet on without drawing attention. Same for a backup goalie.

“I stood up, tried to maybe get a little bit warm, get the blood flowing a little bit, but not like put my gear on, which I didn’t want to obviously pressure him,” said DeSmith. “I didn’t know exactly what he was thinking. So I just kind of kept my hat on and waited.”

Mike Sullivan on Losing Streak

“We’re right in the thick of it, and that’s how we need to look at it. We’re trying to stay in the moment, and I think the most important thing is that we’re just trying to get better every day,” Sullivan said. “We have to build our game. We got to try to learn through experiences.

“We have tremendous leadership. These guys have been through an awful lot in their careers, and we trust our leadership group that they understand how to handle these situations. Everybody gets it. We know that we’re in a battle to make the playoffs. And that’s our very first objective.”

The Penguins have 44 points. They are behind the New York Islanders by two points but have two games in hand. The Buffalo Sabres have been catching up. Buffalo has 40 points with one game in hand on the Penguins and three on New York.

The defending Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers are within striking distance, too.

 Jake Guentzel Goes Dry

As colleague Dave Molinari noted on Wednesday morning, the Penguins’ offense has been sparse.

Jake Guentzel has gone seven games without a tally, a rare drought for him.

“Well, I think he’s pressing a little bit. He puts a lot of pressure on himself to score in all ways, and this team relies on him in that regard,” Sullivan said. “And so he’s a competitive guy. He’s a proud guy. A lot of times when players go through stretches like this, where they don’t score — most players throughout the course of their careers do, and Jake is not any different — it’s just a matter of making sure that you’re in the right headspace, so you don’t get in your own way.”

Jeff Petry

After Pittsburgh Penguins practice Wednesday, defenseman Jeff Petry worked with assistant coach Ty Hennes in full gear. He has been out of the lineup since suffering an upper-body injury on Dec. 10.

The Penguins’ game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday will mark 10 games since the Penguins placed Petry on LTIR. He will be eligible to return to the lineup after Thursday.

However, he has not yet practiced with the team or participated in any team skates.

Haircuts?

If you didn’t notice, Teddy Blueger chopped the mullet and shaggy hair.

He apologized that he’s not as recognizable anymore.

Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.