Penguins notebook: Trip to St. Louis has special meaning for Joe Vitale and Matt D'Agostini.
November 8, 2013 8:21 PM
Joe Vitale will be making a homecoming trip when the Penguins play in St. Louis tonight.
By Dave Molinari/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For Joe Vitale, it will be the second time.
For Matt D’Agostini, it could be a second chance.
Vitale, a St. Louis native, will play at the Scottrade Center for the second time as a pro when the Penguins face the Blues tonight.
He’s more than a little familiar with that building — Vitale played in four Missouri state championship games there, winning three — but returning to his hometown as an NHL player obviously is something special.
Which might be why Vitale marked the occasion by inviting all his teammates to his parents’ house for dinner Friday night.
His father also was charged with making arrangements for Vitale’s relatives and pals to attend the game.
“He gets a couple of [luxury] boxes, then just fills them up with family and friends, as much as they’ll take,” Vitale said “Then, everyone else is on their own.”
D’Agostini’s return to St. Louis, where he played two full seasons and parts of two others, doesn’t have the trappings of Vitale’s homecoming, but could be more meaningful for him. After all, he has been a healthy scratch the past four games and a strong performance against his former club could enhance his chances of securing a regular spot in the lineup.
D’Agostini, who has appeared in just two of the first 16 games, practiced alongside Tanner Glass and Brandon Sutter on the third line Friday — he actually shared the right side with Jayson Megna — and coach Dan Bylsma made it clear that having him dress tonight was receiving serious consideration.
“[D’Agostini being a Blues alum] does go into [the decision-making process],” Bylsma said. “We’re going to go with the lineup that gives us the best chance to win.”
Dupuis expects to play
First-line right winger Pascal Dupuis was back at practice Friday after sitting out the third period of the 5-1 loss Wednesday against the New York Rangers and a workout Thursday, and said he intends to be in the lineup tonight.
“I lasted the whole practice and felt good out there,” he said.
Asked if there is a reason he couldn’t play against the Blues, Dupuis said, “No reason, as far as I’m concerned.”
He added that “if he scratches me, it’s a coach’s decision, but I feel like I can play, for sure.”
If Dupuis is healthy, it’s reasonable to assume that Bylsma will not keep him in street clothes.
The outlook is only slightly less upbeat for defenseman Paul Martin, even though he sat out practice for the second day in a row.
“It’s probable for Paul to be playing,” Bylsma said.
Winger Beau Bennett, who missed the past 11 games because of an unspecified injury, is a virtual lock to return in St. Louis.
He skated alongside Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen in practice Friday and reported no problems.
“I had another good day,” Bennett said. “It keeps getting better and better, the more I skate. It feels like I’m on track.”
Faceoffs should be interesting
Getting control of the puck might not be easy for either team tonight, at least when it comes to getting possession directly off of faceoffs.
Going into Friday, the Penguins ranked fourth in the NHL on draws (winning 54.4 percent), and the Blues were immediately behind them (winning 52.9 percent).
There’s no Morrow tonight
St. Louis forward Brenden Morrow, who spent this spring’s stretch drive and playoffs with the Penguins, won’t face them tonight after being put on injured reserve because of an unspecified injury. Morrow, who signed with the Blues Sept. 23 as a free agent, has two goals and one assist in nine games.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero is in Toronto, where his late father, Fred, will be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday. … Right winger James Neal, who hasn’t played since the season opener, practiced for the second day in a row, but no target date for his return has been announced.
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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