Notebook: Matt Niskanen leaves game in first period with injury
OTTAWA -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma declined to divulge much about the injury that forced defenseman Matt Niskanen from a 2-1 shootout win Sunday against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place.
Niskanen, who has been paired with Kris Letang and has a goal and two assists, left late in the first period, apparently after he absorbed a check.
He will be further evaluated today in Pittsburgh.
It's not that Ben Lovejoy took any pleasure in seeing Niskanen get hurt.
But, really, he didn't mind some of the fallout, at least for part of one game.
The Penguins were forced to mix and match defensive pairings and ask the five healthy defensemen to log a lot of minutes.
"Over the short term, it's fun," said Lovejoy, who dressed for just the second game of the season.
"You're going out every shift, every other shift. Long term, you feel it. But when you lose a guy during the game, the five guys are able to rally and play more minutes. I think you wouldn't want to do it every game."
Lovejoy said because the five remaining defensemen in the game had been on the team together for at least a few years, a rotation with various partners wasn't a problem.
"We know each other's game," he said. "If you need to constantly be switching, I think people are comfortable playing with everyone."
Bylsma singled out Brooks Orpik's work after Niskanen left the game. Orpik played 28 minutes, 28 seconds -- second only to fellow defenseman Kris Letang in the game -- and led the game with nine blocked shots.
The Penguins' three snipers scored in the shootout, and they each did it in a different way.
James Neal blasted the puck between the pads of Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson.
Sidney Crosby lifted a backhand shot under the crossbar.
And, for the win, Evgeni Malkin slid a backhand shot which went between Anderson's pads.
The 5:08 p.m. start was something different for the Penguins, and hockey players tend to be creatures of routine.
"Our team in particular, you'd better not be into a routine too much because there's so many different game times we play and have played over the last four years," Bylsma said. "We get a 12 o'clock game, we get a 1 o'clock game, 3, 6, 5 -- we seem to get a lot of different times."
The team stayed over Friday night after a game in Winnipeg, then practiced Saturday in Winnipeg in what Bylsma said was in lieu of a morning skate Sunday. A few players, though, had an informal workout on the ice Sunday morning.
A look at game times over a 10-day stretch for the club: They started at 8:08 p.m. at Winnipeg, 5:08 p.m. here, play host to the New York Islanders at 7:38 p.m. Tuesday, play at 7:08 p.m. Thursday against the Rangers in New York, at 1:08 p.m. Saturday at home against New Jersey and at 12:38 p.m. Sunday at Washington.
The Penguins were 0 for 5 on the power play after entering the game as one of the league's best on the man-advantage at 35.7 percent. ... Malkin drew a penalty in the final minute of the first period that he's likely to hear about for a while. The perpetrator was Ottawa defenseman Sergei Gonchar, a former Penguins player who is a good friend and former landlord and mentor of Malkin's. ... As Bylsma had predicted, winger Tanner Glass spent some on the left side of a line with Malkin and Neal. Tyler Kennedy began the game in that spot. ... The Penguins scratched forward Dustin Jeffrey and defensemen Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo.
First Published January 28, 2013 12:00 am