Probable goaltenders: Jeff Zatkoff for Penguins. Devan Dubnyk for Oilers.
Penguins: Are 5-1 since Christmas break. ... Are 5-0-1 vs. Oilers since 2007-08, including 3-2 win Oct. 15 at home. ... Sidney Crosby has six-game points streak (4 goals, 11 points), and linemate Chris Kunitz has five-game points streak (3 goals, 9 points).
Oilers: Are 2-3-2 since Christmas break. ... Seven home wins is fewest in Western Conference. ... Rank last in NHL with 3.46 goals allowed per game.
Hidden stat: Ryan Jones is only Oiler who has played more than 10 games and has a positive plus-minute rating (plus-1).
There are indications it might be Dubnyk, although Bryzgalov seemingly has taken over the starting role with the Oilers. He has started nine of Edmonton’s past 12 games since returning in mid-December from a concussion that forced him to miss six games.
“I like Edmonton,” Bryzgalov said. “I like everything here. I’m feeling great here. I’m enjoying it.”
Asked about the Penguins, a team he would be familiar with from his seasons with the Flyers, Bryzgalov was all compliments, with no crazy comments.
“It’s a great team that they have,” he said. “They have All-Star players on their roster. They play fast. They’re dangerous. They have skill. It’s a very, very, very dangerous opponent.”
Bryzgalov, 33, has taken on the task of playing big brother to fellow Russian Nail Yakupov, a highly skilled 20-year-old winger who has had some trouble letting go of his youthful overexuberance or self-centeredness and has been benched for a game here and there by Eakins.
“We’re Russians. We’re on the same page,” Bryzgalov said. “We understand each other very well. We speak the same language. I try to help Nail if he needs something. He’s a young, talented player. He needs to learn some things, how to play in a men’s league, in the NHL. Here, there’s lot of structure. Lots of times the game depends not as much on the skills but how you execute the system.
“It’s always difficult to come to a different country, different culture, different language, different hockey, different system. You’ve got to adjust yourself, and sometimes it takes some time.”
Asked if that was something he went through, Bryzgalov wasn’t biting.
“It’s the same for every player,” he said.
Perhaps Bryzgalov’s new, more subdued outlook was shaped by his recent experiences. The Flyers bought out his long-term contract and must pay him $23 million over 14 years.
Out of work, if not out of money, Bryzgalov had a tryout with the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL but was not signed. The Oilers plucked him out of unemployment in November, and he played in a couple of games for Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League before joining the Oilers.
Playing for one of the worst teams in the NHL, Bryzgalov is 3-6-2. He has a 3.20 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who doesn’t know Bryzgalov, is an outgoing, affable sort. Even though his personality falls well on the side of conventional compared to Bryzgalov, Fleury understands that, from the outside, a quirky persona can be mistaken for something less than a full commitment on the ice.
“The things off-ice maybe don’t help you,” Fleury said. “On a team, everybody’s different. Everybody’s got different personalities. That being said, I think we’re here for what we do on the ice, not what we think, what we say off the ice.
“Your play has to speak for itself.”
Apparently, that’s what Bryzgalov is aiming for with Edmonton.
“I think he’s just really concerned about stopping the puck,” Oilers defenseman Andrew Ference said. “He hasn’t really been too outspoken or anything like that. He’s here to do his job, and I think that he’s up for the challenge of being a really good goaltender and concentrating on that.
“It’s just been pretty normal.”
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly.
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