TAMPA, Fla. — The Pittsburgh Penguins returned Alex Nylander to their farm team in Wilkes-Barre Wednesday, ending his latest forgettable stay in the NHL.
Nylander failed to record a point in three games and was a healthy scratch for the Penguins’ 3-2 overtime loss in Nashville Tuesday night, bringing his career totals in the NHL to 14 goals and 20 assists in 96 games.
And while those hardly are overwhelming numbers, coach Mike Sullivan said Thursday that he does not believe Nylander, who is 25, has reached his ceiling, which likely would doom Nylander to commuting between the NHL and the American Hockey League for the rest of his playing days.
“I still think he’s a very young player,” Sullivan said. “I think Alex is a really talented player. I think the biggest thing he needs to do is to bring a certain element of consistency to his game, and make an impact. You can make an impact different ways. It’s, first and foremost, by making good decisions that set his line up for success. It’s being strong on pucks. It’s being good with his (play along the boards).
“Those are a lot of the little things that, in my mind, are elemental to a game, that set teams and players up for success, and those are non-negotiable with our group. Those elemental things, we’re asking all of our players to value and be good at. So, as a young player trying to enter the league, I think it’s really important that those types of players — players like Alex — understand and value those things, the importance of those things.
‘They don’t always show up on the scoresheet, but they help teams win. I just think the biggest thing for Alex would be just his consistency to his game, so that he can make an impact. And the way to make an impact are those elemental aspects of the game that we’re talking about.”
Jarry in goal
Tristan Jarry will make his third consecutive start and fourth in the past five games when the Penguins face Tampa Bay tonight at 7:08 at Amalie Arena.
He has a career record of 5-2, with a 2.43 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in seven career games against the Lightning.
Praise for Letang
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ penalty-kill, which has allowed just two goals in the past 11 games, has been one of their greatest strengths through the first quarter of the season, and Kris Letang has been a major contributor to that unit’s success.
He is averaging a team-high two minutes, 51 seconds of shorthanded work per game, up from an average of just 56 seconds in 2022-23.
The addition of Erik Karlsson has freed Letang to take on more defensive duties, and he has responded well to that challenge.
“His approach, all year long, first and foremost for me is so impressive,” Sullivan said. “He embraced the role that we asked him to play here. In his whole career — certainly, in my time here, and it predates me — he essentially has run our No. 1 power play. With the acquisition of Karlsson, it changes the dynamic a little bit.
“One of the things that flies under the radar, with respect to Kris’ game, is his ability defend. He’s a really competitive guy, physical. He plays the game with an edge. I think the biggest aspect of his penalty-killing ability is just his anticipation skills, his quickness. He’s really good at reading plays. He can put power plays under pressure because he anticipates so well.”
Most of the Pittsburgh Penguins exercised their option to stay off the ice when the team conducted its game-day skate Thursday.
The only ones who participated were forwards Radim Zohorna and Vinnie Hinostroza, defensemen P.O Joseph, John Ludvig, Ryan Shea and Dmitri Samorukov and goalies Alex Nedeljkovic and Tristan Jarry.