Pittsburgh Penguins: 6 Things to Watch Against the Edmonton Oilers

Eron NoreContributor IIIOctober 9, 2011

Pittsburgh Penguins: 6 Things to Watch Against the Edmonton Oilers

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    The Penguins beat the Calgary Flames 5-3 in their second game of the season. Once again there were ups and downs that may point to some potential trends.

    Once again the Penguins were flimsy with the lead, allowing the Flames to creep back into the game. It does not make to overreact since they got the two points again, but it would certainly be a concern if this lingers against their Easter Conference competition.

    Another troubling area was the goal that Marc-Andre Fleury let in when he whiffed on a puck behind the net. This goal was not as bad as the goal-line sleeper in Vancouver, but the difference that a free goal makes for the opponent is evident. This continues to be the difference between closing teams out and allowing them to hang around.

    On the positive side, the team is 2-0 on the road trip. They will look to make it a perfect 3-0 in the Canadian West against the Edmonton Oilers.

    Again, if you are looking for some in-game commentary, follow me on Twitter @shootinthepuck. Here are six areas that we should look out for in tonight's game.

Richard Park

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    With back-to-back games for the first time this season, there is a potential that coach Dan Bylsma will insert Richard Park into the lineup.

    While the chance is diminished since the Penguins have won two games in a row, keeping Park sharp and seeing what he can add may be useful in the early going.

Brent Johnson

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    It is not set in stone, but one would think there is a pretty good chance that Brent Johnson will make his season debut in the cage. Johnson had an excellent 2010-2011 season, carrying the team through a rough stretch for Marc-Andre Fleury.

    Having a backup goalie who is more than capable of earning two points is a luxury in the NHL. Brent Johnson gives them that chance for a "W" each time he starts.

Joe Vitale

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    Joe Vitale has played two solid games this season. Look for his role to be expanded as he shows that he can handle it.

    Vitale has a nice mix of energy, responsibility and grit. Even if Richard Park gets in to the lineup, it may not be at Vitale's expense. Mark Letestu could be the odd man out instead.

Power Play

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    While two games is not cause for a parade, seeing the power play have any kind of positive results is very exciting for Pens fans. So far they are 4-8 with the man advantage.

    Nobody expects them to run at a 50 percent conversion rate this season. If they score in key situations, there would not be any objections either.

Matt Niskanen

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    Not that it is an overly positive comparison in the eyes of the fans, but Matt Niskanen reminds me a lot of Ryan Whitney and Alex Goligoski. Each had glaring limitations in a Pens uniform, but both were also capable of showing their potential as an NHL defenseman.

    For all the grief Niskanen took last season (deservedly so), the coaching staff would love to find a way to coax these better moments from him. In Calgary, they did that.

    Niskanen had two points and played a fairly solid game. One of the Calgary goals came on a 3-on-2, but Ben Lovejoy and him covered their men, leaving the shooter (Alex Tanguay) to the goalie.

    Tanguay made an excellent shot-pass to get a goal for Rene Bourque. Not much the defense could do on that.

    If Niskanen can string some games like this together, the choice of who sits out when Brooks Orpik returns may be much more difficult.

Evgeni Malkin

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    Evgeni Malkin took a few bad penalties against Calgary. He also scored a power play goal and was involved a skirmish with Curtis Glencross where he dropped the gloves, but due to a quick intervention he was only called for "roughing."

    That was for the best since Malkin did not have his jersey tied down. Overall, he needs to be more aware that his best use is not as a pseudo-power forward, but rather an elite talent.

    Much like the Jordan Staal saga, there is a new "injury-gate." This time is is whether or not Malkin suffered some type of injury during the Calgary game.

    He did not see much action in the third period. Multiple reports traveling with the team indicated that he was hurt, but the team says he was being rested.

    The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Keep an eye on this if it lingers or turns into more.