Penguins Notebook: Gonchar likely out vs. Lightning
Share with others:
The Penguins had to be encouraged when they saw defenseman Sergei Gonchar go onto the ice for practice yesterday at Southpointe.
After all, he'd been badly hobbled by a Brian Rolston shot late in a 2-0 loss Wednesday at New Jersey.
The Penguins would have felt a lot better, though, if Gonchar had been able to skate for more than a few minutes before adjourning to the locker room for the rest of the workout.
Because he clearly was affected by taking that shot off the outside of his right foot, Gonchar is a long shot to dress for the Penguins' game against Tampa Bay at 3:08 p.m. today at the St. Pete Times Forum.
• Game: Penguins at Tampa Bay, 3:08 p.m. today, St. Pete Times Forum.
• TV, Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
• Probable Goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Mike Smith for Lightning.
• Penguins: Have lost three games in row, second-longest skid of season. ... C Max Talbot does not have goal in his past 12 games. ... Are 6-1 against Southeast Division opponents.
• Lightning: Is 9-5-6 at home. ... LW Ryan Malone has three goals in past five games. ... Has been outshot in nine of its 15 victories.
• Hidden stat: Penguins are 6-0 in shootouts, while Tampa Bay is 1-6.
"He was better [yesterday], in terms of dealing with his injury but wasn't great on the ice, so without a morning skate [today], it's tough to think that we're going to have him," coach Dan Bylsma said.
"But we're hoping he continues to progress, and he did coming into today. If that's the case, it could be a warm-up decision [before the game]."
Today's game starts the second half of the Penguins' season, and that subject figured prominently in the meeting that preceded yesterday's workout.
Mostly, the discussion focused on how, despite having been fairly successful through the first 41 games, the Penguins are capable of being better.
"The biggest positive you can take out the first half is that we're right up there [in the standings]," defenseman Mark Eaton said. "And we still have a lot of improvements we can do.
"By no means do we think we're anywhere close to where we can get. I think that bodes well."
The Penguins are 26-14-1 and in contention for first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Finishing atop either isn't necessarily a priority, however.
"I don't think it's something we put a lot of [emphasis] on, to be honest," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "We have the big standings board in the locker room and you pay attention to that, but I think more of it is, at least from the coaching staff, is just getting better."
The Washington Post reported that, while a Capitals-New York Rangers game at Yankee Stadium is the league's preference for the 2011 Winter Classic, the No. 2 choice would be a Capitals-Penguins matchup at a venue in Pittsburgh.
Serious discussions about the details of next year's outdoors game won't start until after the Olympics next month, but an informal poll of Penguins players showed strong support for participating in another such event -- they were in the inaugural one at Buffalo in 2008.
"A lot of guys, a couple of years ago, were skeptical going into it," said Eaton, who missed that game because of an injury. "But if you talk to the guys who went through it, they'll put it right up there as one of the coolest things they've gone through in their career."
The Penguins have lost three games in a row and, while they aren't enjoying it, don't seem overly concerned about the threat of going into an extended tailspin.
Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet doesn't seem to think that's very likely, either, which is why he addressed the Penguins' recent struggles with his players after their workout yesterday.
"Pittsburgh's lost three in a row," he said. "They don't do that very often. The odds of them losing games after three in a row lessen. We know the warning is, we've got to be ready to play."
First Published January 2, 2010 12:00 am