After witnessing the Pittsburgh Penguins' fourth loss in row myself at Mellon Arena on Nov. 12th, I began to do a little thinking.
First of all, Pittsburgh Hockey fans have about two more weeks that they can expect the Penguins to lose on a regular basis. The reason behind this is simply due to injury, and the fact that they are missing the power in their lineup.
Sure, you can say that they should still be scoring with players such as Crosby, Guerin, Kunitz, Stall, and Goligoski, still healthy and active; but look who is currently out. Evgeni Malkin, Tyler Kennedy, and Sergei Gonchar. Those three players are a large portion of the team's powerplay.
Also in the midst of shut-out after heartbreaking loss, Penguin fans tend to forget that to replace an injured player, especially if there are a number of them, players have to be called up from the AHL or other minor leagues around the country. While the players that are summoned are great hockey players in their own right, they simply aren't the seasoned veteran.
Let's take Ben Lovejoy as an example. Lovejoy had seven goals and 24 assists last year during the regular season while playing for Wilkes-Barre Scranton in the AHL. That is not bad at all for a defensemen still trying to establish a reputation. Let's face it though, he is not a Sergei Gonchar, who can dance the puck along the blue line during a powerplay like it is nobody's business; nor does he have a killer slapshot that at times, seems to go right through a goalie.
So as I mentioned before, there are about 10 days left before we can start expecting the veterans to trickle back into the lineup. However, Phil Bourque, former player and current radio color analyst beside Mike Lange, stated on the postgame that he would not be surprised to see Evgeni Malkin back in the lineup as early as the Saturday versus Boston. He says that head coach Dan Bylsma has been putting a lot of pressure on Malkin during practice, leading him to suspect that Bylsma may be looking to re-insert him.
Among other good news is that Max Talbot, who has missed the season thus far due to shoulder surgery in the offseason, is now cleared for full contact. Talbot said in a recent media interview however that, "there is not a chance that I will come back before another 10 days." Talbot went on to say that after those 10 days he will take it day by day until he is as close to 100 percent as possible.
As for Sergei Gonchar, Tyler Kennedy, Kris Letang, and Brooks Orpik, we should expect to see them begin filtering back in about two weeks or so.
So as for now, the Penguins are fourth in the Eastern Conference, and second in the Atlantic Division with 24 points, although that is apt to change.
As a Penguin fan, I still have full confidence that it will be another great season and I think all other true fans should feel the same way.
Until next time...Go Pens!