WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The Pittsburgh Penguins had a little trouble getting to practice on Friday. The Winnipeg Jets’ near-suburban practice facility was filled with a youth tournament, and the youngsters lined the corridors to get a glimpse of Sidney Crosby.
The adults did, too.
And to get into the rink, I also had to walk the red carpet courtesy of the Penguins PR. Those poor kids who thought I was a player and wanted a high-five got one, but they will be sorely disappointed when they ask, “who was that?”
The photo below is only half of the crowd.
The crowd at the Winnipeg practice rink is massive waiting for the Penguins pic.twitter.com/JJpsUZeZBf
— Dan Kingerski 🇺🇦 (@TheDanKingerski) November 18, 2022
The Penguins were about 15 minutes late getting to the ice and took a dressing room a rink away from their eventual practice rink, but they didn’t waste time once they finally got the ice.
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Harkening back to their youth hockey days, they banged the boards to create echoes, hollering and practicing at full speed. Associate coach Todd Reirden joined in, too. PHN was the only media outlet able to make it to Winnipeg for the practice. Video included:
Like most municipal rinks, heat was at a premium. In keeping with the lighthearted day, Coach Mike Sullivan joked that he was just trying to feel his feet. Assistant Mike Vellucci had similar comments with a shake of the head.
A win will do wonders for a team’s attitude.
All players were present and accounted for, which may mark the first time in two years the Penguins have had a full and healthy roster for more than two periods.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines:
Jarry & DeSmith
The Penguins’ power play notched a pair of goals against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night in their 6-4 win. Notably, the Penguins’ power play shot the puck.
“It’s nice to shoot,” said Jake Guentzel. “We got some shots, and it’s nice to get good one five-on-three. It was a nice shot by Tanger, so it’s nice to get a couple and kind of build on that.”
In addition to Kris Letang taking a few shots from the top of the zone (goal included), Sidney Crosby scored near the net, too. The Penguins’ power play had fallen to 24th in the NHL and well under 20% before the win over Minnesota. The Penguins improved to 21st overall (20%).
PP1 remained the same. Kris Letang was at the top with Evgeni Malkin. The forwards were the usual: Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust. However, PP2 underwent a little tweak. Rickard Rakell has been on and off the point with Jeff Petry. On Friday, he was back in the second group.
It was a simple question to Sullivan. What did you like about your game last night?
“I thought we did a much better job, for the most part, at managing the puck. We didn’t give up as many chances off the rush as we had given up the prior games,” said Sullivan. “I know we can still and continue to improve there and get better, but I felt like that was one area we’ve been talking to our players a lot about just being more responsible with the decisions we make with the puck. Mostly coming through the neutral zone and right on that offensive zone entry.”
The Penguins may have been sloppy and at times, lethargic, especially in the first period. But they did manage the puck. Perhaps they were being conservative? Four shots in the first 20 minutes led to a 2-0 lead, and their energetic play at the beginning of the second quickly worked against them when they allowed two goals in 12 seconds.
Sullivan noted that sequence with a little grimace.
The Pittsburgh Penguins face the Winnipeg Jets, who have the third-ranked PK, at the Canada Life Center on Saturday.