It was not exactly a holiday well-wisher on the other end when Taylor Pyatt answered his phone New Year's Day.
"I got the call that I had been put on waivers," the left winger said Friday before he made his Penguins debut at Consol Energy Center against the team that waived him, the New York Rangers. The Penguins claimed him Thursday.
"Definitely a lot going through your mind," Pyatt said. "I wasn't sure if I would get picked up. Probably a chance of going to the minors. To get picked up by Pittsburgh, to get a fresh start, an opportunity there, it worked out pretty well."
Pyatt, 32, played left wing on the third line with Joe Vitale and Craig Adams.
He arrived in town after midnight Friday morning and, before the game-day skate, took a crash course in Penguins hockey -- although coach Dan Bylsma said he advised Pyatt to concentrate on playing rather than trying to master everything the Penguins do or worry about making a couple of mistakes.
"It's been kind of a whirlwind 24 hours getting here and getting settled," Pyatt said.
At 6 feet 4, 235 pounds, Pyatt gives the Penguins size at forward that they had not had. He played in all 48 games of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season for the Rangers but fell out of favor this season, New York's first under coach Alain Vigneault, playing in just 22 of the first 42 games and none after Dec. 12.
"It was a tough three months for me," Pyatt said. "I got off to sort of a tough start. I had an injury, and then it was sort of a battle trying to get back in the lineup. Sitting out the amount of games I did over the last month, it was pretty hard to feel like you're part of the team.
"So to get an opportunity here is exciting. I just want to try to take advantage of it."
Malkin, Letang wait and wait
After defenseman Kris Letang (left elbow) and center Evgeni Malkin (left leg) practiced Thursday, it seemed there was a chance they would return from injury in the Rangers game.
It didn't work out that way.
Malkin, who said he was waiting for a last bit of pain and weakness to subside, skated with injured winger Jayson Megna and conditioning coach Mike Kadar before the game-day skate. Malkin did not return for the skate.
Letang joined the skate but afterward ruled himself out for the game.
"I'm getting closer," Letang said.
"[Thursday,] I felt good. [Friday,] I felt better, but I'm looking to feel even better [today] and we'll see from there."
Malkin missed his ninth game in a row, Letang, his 10th.
Crosby 2nd star in December
Penguins center Sidney Crosby was named the NHL's No. 2 star for December.
Crosby had nine goals, 23 points in 14 games, with at least one point in 13 of the 14 games. The Penguins won 11 of those games.
He had a 10-game points streak during the month and seven multipoint games. He led the league with 59 points in 42 games going into the game against the Rangers.
Chicago's Patrick Kane, who also had 23 points in 14 games, was the No. 1 star for the second month in a row.
Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller was the No. 3 star for December.
Road grind pays off
The Rangers entered the game 12-9 on the road, tied with the Penguins and three other teams for the most road wins in the Eastern Conference, and had won 10 of their previous 13 road games.
They opened the season with nine consecutive away games while the renovations at Madison Square Garden were completed. They went 3-6 in those games, but the experience might have set New York up for road success.
"There's a certain mentality to road games. You know you have to grind it out," said Rangers center Dominic Moore, a former Penguins player.
"We had no choice but to buckle down and play well on the road given our schedule early, but it's just one of those things. Who knows?"
Rangers winger and captain Ryan Callahan returned to the New York lineup after missing nine games because of a sprained knee. ... The game was the first of 2014 for the Penguins. In calendar 2013, including the playoffs, they were 73-31-1. That's a 70 percent winning clip. ... The Penguins scratched winger Chuck Kobasew. Deryk Engelland, usually a defenseman, played right wing on the fourth line, something he also did earlier this season.
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.