On the Penguins: Amid coldest winter, prospect Archibald is hot, hot, hot



A few months ago, Penguins assistant general manager Jason Botterill was discussing the potential of Nebraska-Omaha forward Josh Archibald, a sixth-round draft choice in 2011.

"I wouldn't say that he has a great scoring touch," Botterill said, "but he plays with such pace. He creates so many opportunities for himself."

Well, sometime this winter, Archibald apparently learned how to take advantage of them, because he entered the weekend as the No. 2 goal-scorer in Division I, with 28 in 32 games.

Only Johnny Gaudreau of Boston College, with 30 in 34, had scored more.

Archibald's output broke the school record set by Penguins alum Bill Thomas, a Fox Chapel native, and has made him a contender for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the nation's top college player.

Archibald, a junior, led the NCAA in goals (10) and points (16) in February.

Coming up

Monday: at Washington ... The Penguins close out their longest road trip this season by starting a home-and-home series against one of their most intense rivals.

Tuesday: vs. Washington ... Seven of the past 10 games between these teams have been decided by one goal, including a 4-3 Penguins victory Jan. 15 at Consol Energy Center.

Saturday: at Philadelphia ... Those back-to-back games against the Capitals should get the Penguins in the mood to face the Flyers twice in about 24 hours, beginning with an afternoon visit to the Wells Fargo Center.

Discovering his scoring touch can only enhance Archibald's potential as a prospect, and the Penguins' talent-evaluators were encouraged by the way he was progressing even before that happened.

"I consider him fearless," said Tom Fitzgerald, assistant to the general manager, earlier this season. "He goes into the hard areas instinctively, naturally. He doesn't back down.

"He gets a lot of quality [scoring] chances off the rush from his quickness and his speed. He's not a natural finisher, by any means, but he just gets a lot of opportunities to score goals."

And now, it seems, he's found a way to turn those into more than just opportunities.

Jussi Jokinen isn't the Penguins' highest-scoring forward, and he certainly isn't their best-known.

But he is, based on the overall course of his career, the finest shootout man on their roster, scoring on 31 of 72 chances for a success rate of 43.1 percent.

That's better than the likes of Sidney Crosby (41.7 percent), Evgeni Malkin (41.3 percent), James Neal (40 percent) and Kris Letang (33 percent).

Truth be told, though, Jokinen's numbers were a lot better before 2013-14 because he is a team-worst 0 for 5 this season. Of Penguins with more than one attempt, he is the only shooter who has failed to score.

"I guess it took nine years for goalies to figure out my move," he said, smiling. "So that's pretty good."

Jokinen believes his performance hasn't been as bad as the numbers might suggest -- "A couple have been really close. I think I hit one or two posts and, on a couple, the goalie has made a good save" -- but acknowledged the link between believing he will score and actually doing so.

"Shootouts are a lot about confidence and, as of right now, I don't have too much confidence in the shootout," he said. "If I get the next one in ... I will have more confidence in myself and my moves."

But for one day ...

The Penguins grabbed a share of first place in the Metropolitan Division by winning their regular-season opener against New Jersey Oct. 3, and are so far in front now that they might not be able to avoid claiming the division title even if they made a conscious effort. They've owned the top spot, wire-to-wire.

Almost.

What's easy to forget is that in mid-November they actually slipped into second for about 24 hours. Washington hurdled them ever-so-briefly by virtue of a 4-1 victory Nov. 17 against St. Louis.

The Capitals woke up in first place Nov. 18, but had relinquished it before they went to bed that night because of a 3-1 victory at home for the Penguins against Anaheim.

Those two points put the Penguins back in first, and they shouldn't be in any real danger of losing their grip on it until sometime in the 2014-15 season.


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