The Pittsburgh Penguins have won three in a row since taking a couple of days to unwrap presents under the tree and be with family. The break was well-timed, and they’re now in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff chase. The Daily will now periodically focus on the playoff chase. A pair of Eastern Conference teams waived their goalies, Ottawa made another splash hire, the Carolina Hurricanes have a couple of chips to play on the NHL trade block, and Marc-Andre Fleury played his 1000th game.
Here’s a little Fleury story, an odd bookend to his career. After his very first game, my radio co-host (and now a big shot in the industry) Mark Lazerus chased down Fleury for a quick interview in the corridor at the Civic Arena just outside the team bus, which was loading to go to the airport. That interview was awful because you could hear the diesel bus engine in the background, but it’s a keepsake.
When Fleury possibly made his last visit to Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, a pair of colleagues had to chase down Fleury for a quick interview, you guessed it, in the area just outside the team bus at PPG Paints Arena, which was loading to go to the airport.
There aren’t many players who would consent to that extra time, not as a rookie and not as a veteran of his standing. I find the symmetry amusing.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Check it out — The day began with a little troll job by Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray. Strolling into the Philadelphia stadium wearing a Sidney Crosby jersey.
The Cardinals upset the Eagles, too.
Oh, those Penguins. It wasn’t always a perfect game, but Alex Nedeljkovic was spectacular. They brought a lunch pale for the second night in a row, and the heating-up Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New York Islanders. Here’s the Penguins game recap.
The Penguins are now in a three-team tie for the second wild card with the Capitals and Devils, three points behind the Islanders for the top wild card with one game in hand.
NYI Hockey Now: Here’s the flip side — No revenge for the New York Islanders.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now: The report card wasn’t as much of a report card as it was a parent-teacher conference. The Penguins played another gritty, sometimes ugly, hockey game. Coach Mike Sullivan gave the perfect quote, too. THIS is how the Penguins should play and who they should be. The Penguins grades.
Please forgive me — I didn’t do the locker room feature or the postgame video. I knew yinz were busy, so I treated myself to a little extra sleep. I’ll have more to read today.
NHL Trade Talk, News & National Hockey Now
Sportsnet: The Carolina Hurricanes have made up ground to make up in the playoff race and vaulted into second place in the Metro Division. A couple of names are also popping up in the NHL trade chatter.
New Jersey Hockey Now: Bad news for the Devils that will impact their lineup for some time. Timo Meier is out.
Detroit Hockey Now: The team directly behind the Penguins is struggling to win close games — The Detroit Red Wings are struggling to push forward.
Philly Hockey Now: The Ottawa Senators made a little bit of a splash hire, moving interim GM Steve Staois to permanent, then adding a TSN analyst/Philadelphia Flyers legend as senior VP.
Toronto Star: The Toronto Maple Leafs waived Ilya Samsonov after declining performance and a couple of disasters. Kevin McGrann lays out why they did it and what comes next for the TML.
Buffalo Hockey Now: The goalie struggles also continue on Lake Erie and Ontario, where the Buffalo Sabres banished Eric Comrie.
TSN: Since we’re on a goalie roll, the crowd went nuts. The Flower had chills. Marc-Andre Fleury played his 1000th game.