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Penguins Notes: The Nedeljkovic Effect; Locker Room Mood



Alex Nedeljkovic, Pittsburgh Penguins

Six months have been reduced to two games for the Pittsburgh Penguins and perhaps only one. The Penguins face both elimination and hope Monday when they host the Nashville Predators at PPG Paints Arena.

The Penguins trail their playoff rivals by one point for the wild card and the New York Islanders by four points.

Read More: Penguins playoff stage set; everything you need to know.

The fallout or continuation can be pinned exclusively on the Penguins. If they win, they will play Game 82 for a chance to go to the playoffs. If they lose, they very well may not.


What’s the vibe?

“Excitement,” Marcus Pettersson said. “A month ago, we could have only wished to play this game.”

He is correct. On March 27, only a few weeks ago, the Penguins were nine points out and had about a 2% chance to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Now, they have a two-game scrap.

Erik Karlsson used the same words.

“(The mood) is great. I think we’re excited for the situation that we’re in,” Karlsson said. “We’ve had a lot of dark days here, and I think lately, it feels like everything has been a little bit more spirited. Tonight is another game where we could have only wished for this opportunity.”

Inside the locker room, the noise level was loud and boisterous. Guys were yelling and laughing across the room, and the energy level was palpable.

The room got so loud I had trouble hearing Karlsson. Rather than dwelling on the Boston loss, the Penguins have clearly turned the page and are, as the kids say, practicing gratitude.

There was a little something off in the room before the Penguins faced the Boston Bruins Saturday. We could all feel it; it wasn’t a bad vibe, but something was a little off-kilter. Monday, the room was every bit as excited as it was after they returned home from beating New York, New Jersey, and Washington 10 days ago.

Update: Following the morning skate, Jansen Harkins spoke with the media. He appears to be in the lineup Monday. Radim Zohorna stayed on the ice with the extras.

Nedeljkovic in Net

Alex Nedeljkovic will make his 12th straight start. We examined why Nedeljkovic should start earlier Monday morning. Apparently, Sullivan agreed.

Without reading too much into the comments, I asked Sullivan about Nedeljkovic and how much effect a goalie’s personality can have on the team.

“I think sometimes goalies have the ability to influence the demeanor of the group by how they play the position. Some guys have more influence than others,” Sullivan said. “I think it’s one element — just kind of my observation of being a coach over the years and coaching a bunch of different teams with a bunch of different goaltenders and watching that dynamic —  and part of it is just personality-based. It is what it is. But Ned’s a fierce competitor who battles hard. And he’s shown an ability to have that effect.”

Take it all for what you will. As one PHN commenter pointed out, this is why head coaches are paid well. If the decision works, he’s right; if it doesn’t, he’s an idiot, and the reasons for the decision have no bearing on how the fans will perceive it.