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Sloppy Pens Fall; Schultz & Pouliot Compete



Exterior, NHL season, Pittsburgh Penguins Coronavirus Response
PPG Paints Arena By Jleedev - Own work | CC BY-SA 4.0

The Pittsburgh Penguins were to use their penultimate preseason game as a ramp to the regular season but instead turned in a roller coaster type performance complete with offensive highlights and defensive lowlights. Despite dominating the first 10 minutes, the Penguins trailed 2-0 after the first period and never lead, losing 5-2 to the Detroit Redwings at PPG Paints Arena. 

Penguins regulars Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Olli Maatta, and Patric Hornqvist inserted into the lineup, the Penguins expected more than 0-7 on the power play, allowing two power-play goals in four chances, and nine giveaways. 

“The special teams were probably symptomatic of our overall game. We’re a week away from the regular season, we were hopeful were would have a better effort with better execution overall,” said Mike Sullivan. “We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. We weren’t as competitive as we needed to be”. 

The Penguins Carter Rowney, battling for the extra forward spot, blasted a shot from the right wing circle past Red Wings goalie Jared Coreau, six minutes into the second period. Rowney, 27, is a Wheeling Nailers alumnus, who played the last three seasons with the WBS Penguins on an AHL deal. Rowney is a long shot to make the club but has scored 74 points in his 145 games with WBS Penguins. 

Letang tied the game, 2-2, with six minutes left in the second period with a short-handed marker. Letang whistled a shot past Coreau from the slot. 

The Penguins rush and subsequent goal were set up by a pair of spectacular saves by Marc Andre Fleury, including diving to his right to make a stick save. Fleury was in moments spectacular, but also loose. 

“There’s still one game left. I’m not sure what the plan is, but I’d like to (play). It’s the most like the game action you’re going to see like the (regular) season,” said Fleury. “There’s still some work to be done.”

The Penguins host the Columbus Blue Jackets, Saturday at the Consol Energy Center PPG Paints Arena. Puck drop is at 3. Fans in attendance will be leaving by 5 to be ready for work on Monday. 

Pressbox Nachos

–Phil Kessel will be just fine. His shot wasn’t as wicked as we last saw, but he clearly will be ready for the regular season. Kessel streaked to the net on his first shift and nearly deflected a proper pass from Jake Guentzel. It was a vintage Kessel play.

Justin Schultz NHLPA Headshot

Justin Schultz NHLPA Headshot

–The Penguins coaching staff paired Justin Schultz with Derrick Pouliot and gave the pair nearly 18 minutes of ice time, including as points on the 2nd power play unit. Like a dance-off, the pair was competing for the same spot at the same time. 

Pouliot may have had the stronger game, though Schultz’ offensive acumen draws more attention. Based on one game, I would put Pouliot ahead. Based on the body of work this preseason, Schultz has a clear lead. 

However, Sullivan offered no praise when asked about their performance. They were on the ice for Detroit’s first goal, seven minutes into the game. The defensive zone coverage was…a mess. Schultz appeared to be the closest to the proper position as an uncovered Gustav Nyquist beat Fleury from close range, but no one was blameless.

–Tom Kuhnhackl has been invisible for some time. Perhaps his roster spot should not be as secure as was assumed.

–David Warsofsky was lost in his own zone for much of the night. The Penguins should reevaluate their organizational depth chart. Warsofsky is a power play specialist, but would otherwise be unneeded on this team. Stuart Percy and Tim Erixon also have NHL experience. 

–Conor Sheary did not register a shot. In a game with plenty of offensive action, Sheary was one of five Penguins without a shot (Maatta, Chris Kunitz, Kuhnhackl, Guentzel). 

–If you’re in a deep keeper hockey pool or fantasy league, grab Jared Coreau now. The young goalie is reminicent of Matt Murray. In a year, he should be ready for NHL pipes.

–The players in uniform with a final chance to impress, Saturday, should take full advantage. It could be an interesting preseason game, especially if Columbus decides to dress a few of their regulars who choose to send a message for the regular season.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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