Penguins Notebook: Inexperience hinders Despres
Penguins defenseman Simon Despres battles for a puck with Washington Capitals right wing Joey Crabb in a game last month.
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PHILADELPHIA -- Rookie defenseman Simon Despres has shown the Penguins enough that they've declined to assign him to their minor league team in Wilkes-Barre, even though he wouldn't have to clear waivers to go there.
He just hasn't shown them enough to secure a steady spot in their lineup.
Despres was a healthy scratch for the Penguins' 5-4 victory Thursday night against Philadelphia, and it's far from certain that he'll dress for their game tonight against Toronto at the Air Canada Centre.
Coach Dan Bylsma said Friday that inconsistency has been an issue for Despres, but that he was held out of the Flyers game because "we went with a more veteran lineup."
Now that Mark Eaton has been added to the personnel mix, the Penguins are carrying eight defensemen.
When all are healthy, Despres and fellow rookie Robert Bortuzzo face a particularly steep challenge of grabbing a regular lineup spot.
Nonetheless, Despres has been fairly effective, especially lately.
He has two goals, four assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-8 in 17 games.
"Simon has shown some very good games and some very good things, and he's shown them lately," Bylsma said, singling out his work during the Penguins' 7-6 overtime victory in Montreal a week ago.
His talents don't negate his limited experience, though, and that's what appears to be his greatest liability at the moment.
"The consistency in his game is, really, where he needs to improve," Bylsma said. "But he didn't come out of the lineup because of inconsistent play over the last two [in which he appeared]."
Dupuis knows his niche
Pascal Dupuis has become a regular on Sidney Crosby's right side, a spot coveted by countless wingers around the league.
Crosby, after all, not only led the NHL in scoring going into games on Friday, but also is one of the game's elite set-up men.
Before scoring the second goal in the 5-4 victory Thursday night in Philadelphia, however, Dupuis had gone seven games without a goal.
He was well aware of that dry spell, but insisted he was not allowing it to affect the rest of his game and said he does not evaluate his work strictly on the basis of offensive statistics.
"If they go in, they go in," Dupuis said.
"I have a tendency to be streaky. As long as I make the right plays out there, as long as I keep forechecking and keep creating havoc and finish every game as a plus, that's a big plus for me."
Fleury plays role of fan
A lot of teams have wrapped up the first half of their season or are about to.
Chicago is the only club to do it after picking up at least a point in each of its first 24 games.
The Blackhawks took a 21-0-3 record into their game Friday night at Colorado and, predictably, their feat hasn't gone unnoticed around the league.
"That's crazy," Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "Crazy. It just gets more interesting as it goes. That's pretty unbelievable, what they've been doing. Fun to watch."
The Penguins have put together a few impressive streaks during Fleury's time with them, but nothing to rival what the Blackhawks have done.
"That's pretty spectacular, for a team to [do that]," Fleury said.
"We've had some good runs here, but 24 ..."
Different travel plans
In recent years, the Penguins nearly always traveled immediately after a game, either flying home or to the site of their next game
There were a few exceptions, generally when the schedule gave them a chance to spend an extra day or two in a warm-weather location, but those were not common.
They've done things differently several times already this season, however, staying overnight in a city where they played, then practicing there the next day before moving on.
And so it was Friday, a day after beating the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center, that they found themselves at the University of Pennsylvania's Class of 1923 Arena, where they worked out for about 45 minutes before flying to Toronto.
Defensemen Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang and right winger James Neal did not participate in the practice, having been given "maintenance days" by Bylsma.
First Published March 9, 2013 12:00 am