SAN JOSE — The Pittsburgh Penguins and coach Mike Sullivan did more tinkering to the lineup Thursday at practice before the team departed for a three-game West Coast trip. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir could be heard as Penguins fans celebrated one potential change. The Penguins also signed a potential steal to an AHL PTO. Also in the Daily, the NHL trade chatter in Montreal, Phil Kessel is “a little surprised” by his predicament, Evan Rodrigues is perfect, and the Ottawa Senators GM search will be a slow build.
I’ll get into the Penguins’ changes and potential later this morning.
I landed in San Jose and immediately hopped in an Uber to San Francisco to do one thing. Visit Alcatraz. I didn’t post a lot of pictures on X, but it was an enjoyable visit. There were some disappointments, and the Parks Service seemed to be embarrassed by the place. There are so many extraordinary stories, but none are told, or they’re mentioned in passing. Those were bad people, but who doesn’t want to see Al Capone’s cell? Or learn more about Frank “Birdman” Stroud (the audio tour tells a quick story about him playing checkers and being a psychopath).
And, of course, I had to go exploring in search of a unique local restaurant. The plan was to visit the Stinking Rose, whose slogan is “We season our garlic with food.” However, when I arrived, it looked a bit posh. Almost corporate. That’s a hard no for me. So, I wandered further and found Mona Lisa’s — a worn-looking exterior with a 1950s neon sign that belied a great Italian restaurant on the edge of Chinatown. Before long, the waiter and chef were teaching me Italian. I capped off a pretty healthy plate of Bolognese with some sort of lemon dessert. They hollowed a Sicilian lemon and stuffed it with ice. It was inventive, though I should have got one of the three variations of chocolate cake. A cool place, and my bill with a glass of wine was about $50–which is amazing in San Francisco.
To the hockey…
Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Is Jeff Carter coming out of the Penguins lineup? It seemed that way at Penguins practice.
I thought national NFL media-type Dave Dameschek (a friend of PHN) had the good take, “It’s a sincere shame how deep we’ve buried what Jeff Carter did to spark the Pens 2.5 yrs ago – was among the few who didn’t assume the fetal position v NYI – but that was 2.5 yrs ago.”
Following the Adam Johnson tragedy and minor league mandate, four Penguins tried neck guards Thursday.
Erik Karlsson is very good, but coach Mike Sullivan wants him to hit “another level” on the Penguins blue line.
And the Penguins AHL affiliate signed defenseman Mark Pysyk to a PTO.
I think that’s an under-the-radar move that will pay dividends for the Pittsburgh Penguins … IF he can stay healthy.
NHL Trade Chatter, News & National Hockey Now
Sportsnet 32 Thoughts: The usual NHL trade chatter and a lot more about the debacle in Ottawa, but one interesting little stat that is sure to twist Penguins fans just a bit. Three players are perfect after 100 minutes–no goals against. One of them is Evan Rodrigues. Here are Elliotte Friedman’s 32 Thoughts.
TSN: Former Penguins winger and three-time Stanley Cup winner Phil Kessel is surprised. He remains unsigned and working out on the ice. He spoke with Pierre LeBrun, and Kessel wants a job.
Montreal Hockey Now: A guy that you and I have been keeping tabs on is finally healthy and red-hot. Sean Monahan is filling the net in Montreal, and that opens up a lot of NHL trade rumors and possibilities.
Except for one thing–Montreal is in a playoff spot.
NHL.com: Great googily moogily. The Vancouver Canucks hung 10 on the Penguins next opponent, the San Jose Sharks. It was ugly and probably rock bottom for the Sharks, and Sam Lafferty scored, too. NHL.com put together all of the highlights here.
To little surprise, Rick Tocchet has been the right leader for a talented team that was in disarray.
Washington Hockey Now: Nick Backstrom stepped away from the game after realizing his play wasn’t up to standard, but that opens opportunities for others and a chance for the Capitals GM to go shopping. What are the Washington Capitals options?
Carolina Hockey Now: Very quietly, Paul Statsny announced his retirement.
NYI Hockey Now: Six points ahead of the Penguins already–the Islanders blanked the Capitals Thursday night. For all of the struggles and roster questions beyond Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal, the New York Islanders are winning.