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The Penguins begin a three-game road trip up the West Coast in Anaheim, California.

5 THINGS

1. The Pens have won four straight games entering tonight, and a victory against the Ducks would set a new season-high streak. Overall, the Pens are 5-1 in the month of January. “We’re playing fast. We’re playing hungry,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We’re winning battles, we’re quick on pucks, we’re not spending a lot of time in our own end, which is nice.”

2. Crosby has recorded multiple-point efforts in all four wins, producing 3 goals, 8 assists and 11 points. Phil Kessel has also gotten on the scoresheet in each victory, tallying 3 goals, 5 assists and 8 points.

3. Crosby’s next goal will be his 400th. He will join Mario Lemieux (690) and Jaromir Jagr (439) as the only players in franchise history to reach that number. Since debuting in 2005-06, only Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (586) has scored more often than Crosby.

4. The Pens are looking to bounce back from a 4-0 shutout loss to the Ducks on Dec. 23 at PPG Paints Arena. “I think we just need to be more aggressive and just win more 1-on-1 battles,” winger Carl Hagelin said. “Last game, we just looked sluggish and we just looked like we weren’t the team we want to be. We know what we can do and that’s what we’re going to do next game.”

5. The Ducks are 20-for-21 on the penalty kill in January, ranking 3rd among NHL teams in PK percentage this month. They thwarted both of Pittsburgh’s power plays in the first meeting of the season. Meanwhile, the Pens are 7-for-18 on the man-advantage in January and are tied for 1st in the league overall.

INJURIES

PIT – Chad Ruhwedel  (upper body), Carter Rowney (upper body), Bryan Rust (upper body)

ANA – Patrick Eaves (Guillain-Barre syndrome), Mike Liambas (upper body)

MORNING SKATE

* The Pens have the morning off after practicing on Tuesday at Honda Center. Head coach Mike Sullivan will address the media at 8 p.m. EST with lineup updates.

* The Pens recalled Jean-Sebastien Dea from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League this morning. He is the team’s third-leading scorer this season with 9 goals, 14 assists, 23 points and a plus-13 in 36 games.

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ 4-0 setback against the Anaheim Ducks at PPG Paints Arena

* The Pens literally and figuratively gave this game away. Costly giveaways, sloppy play and unforced errors were the culprit in the Pens’ loss to Anaheim. The Ducks are playing in the final game of a 6-game season-long road trip, and the Pens could have used that to their advantage by making the Ducks exert what little energy they had left. Instead, Pittsburgh Christmas gifted Anaheim the opening 3 goals – all a result of poor decisions and execution.

This was not the performance the Pens wanted to show heading into the Christmas break. Perhaps getting away from hockey for a couple of days is what the Pens need to regroup mentally and return fresh for the second half of the season.

* The Ducks took an insurmountable 3-0 lead in just 23:42 minutes of play. Kris Letang’s errant pass led to Ondrej Kase’s breakaway goal just 3:10 into the game. A friendly fire collision between Carter Rowney and Jamie Oleksiak, who vacated his spot in an attempt to throw a check, led to Rickard Rakell walking untouched to the net for a backhand tally. Sloppy positioning on a power play gave Andrew Cogliano a shorthanded breakaway goal. Just like that, Pittsburgh dug itself a deficit that it couldn’t overcome.

* On a happy note, it was nice to see Pittsburgh-native John Gibson picked up his first career victory in his hometown. Gibson, who grew up in the suburb of Whitehall, made a fantastic diving blocker save to deny Sidney Crosby of a goal. “Johnny Whitehall” grew up a Pens fan and he had a lot of family in friends in the crowd to see his big win. He was named the game’s No. 1 star while picking up the shutout.

* It was an uninspiring performance by the Pens. But what’s most concerning is their current positioning in the Metro Division. With Carolina’s win tonight, the Pens are only 1 point ahead of rival Philadelphia, who sits in last place.

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ 4-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena

* The Pens need this win. Pittsburgh had lost 3 straight games, each by 1 goal. To be so close, but come up empty has been frustrating for the team. But to lose a 2-0 lead to the last-place Coyotes in a game that Pittsburgh completely dominated would have really been a heartbreaker.

Fear not. Pittsburgh rebounded from surrendering a third-period game-tying goal to retake the lead and win the game. Even head coach Mike Sullivan said that the feeling on the bench was that the Pens would score the go-ahead goal and win the game. That’s the kind of resilient swagger that the Pens have lacked lately. Hopefully, this win will help them get their mojo back.

* What a third period for defenseman Olli Maatta. First he was the goat for losing a puck at his own crease that culminated with Arizona tying the game. Then he made a game-saving stop by diving over his own goaltender to clear a loose puck in the crease before Brad Richardson could convert. Then he finished it all off by scoring the game-winning goal with a mere 14.7 seconds left in regulation. From goat to hero in 10 minutes.

* The game was also a little bit of redemption for center Evgeni Malkin. He was the man that threw a hard pass to Maatta that resulted in a turnover and Arizona’s tying goal. But he would go on to setup Maatta for the winner after an incredible shift in the offensive zone. Malkin was a horse on that final series, and we can’t discount his goal late in the second period either. On that tally, Malkin drove to the net and relentlessly wacked at the puck until it went in.

* The Pens finally broke though with some offense early from the least likely of sources: the penalty kill and Carter Rowney. Pittsburgh was disadvantaged late in the second period when Bryan Rust forced a turnover at the blue line. He and Rowney were off on a 2-on-2. Both ‘Yotes defenders jumped on Rust and he made a patient, perfect backhand pass around the outstretched stick of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and to a wide-open Rowney. The Pens’ winger went crossbar, post and in for the tally.

* The penalty kill stepped up with a goal, but its first priority is always to kill the penalty. And the Pens deserve an immense amount of credit for that of late. The PKers haven’t given up a goal in the past 8 straight games, a perfect 23-for-23 in that span.

* We’ll end with a congratulations to Mike Sullivan for recording his 100th win with the Pens, becoming just the fourth coach to hit the century mark for the organization.

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Here are the 3 biggest takeaways from the Penguins’ Thanksgiving Day practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex…

1. Injury updates

Evgeni Malkin, who missed Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to Vancouver with an upper-body injury, was the only player missing from the skate. Head coach Mike Sullivan said his status remains the same.

“He’s not going to travel with us to Boston,” Sullivan said. “We’ll evaluate him when we come back. One of the reasons he’s not going to travel with us is because it’s an afternoon game and he’s got an opportunity to skate here.”

While Malkin is ruled out for Thursday’s game against the Bruins, Sullivan said he is a possibility to play Saturday against the Lightning.

Carter Rowney, who has missed the last 14 games with an upper-body injury, took warmups last night but did not play. The center, who returned to team practice on Nov. 18 and has been taken off injured reserve, said that he continues to feel better and better, though he admitted it’s been tough to stay patient.

“It feels like I’ve been out for months on months right now,” he said. “I’m at the end here hopefully, and as long as there’s no setbacks or anything like that, I’ll hopefully be back soon.”

Rowney did line rushes at practice. Here’s the team’s workflow…

Sheary-Crosby-Hornqvist

Guentzel-Sheahan-Kessel

Hagelin-Rowney-Rust

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Archibald rotated in with the defense.

2. Turkey time

After practice the Pens got on a flight to Boston, where the players will be treated to a Thanksgiving meal at the team hotel.

New England natives like Conor Sheary, who’s from Massachusetts, and Brian Dumoulin, who’s from Maine, will be dining with their teammates despite being close to home. “I’m going to miss my grandmother’s cooking this time around,” Sheary said with a smile. “I think by the time we get in it will be a little bit late and with the day game tomorrow, I want to make sure I get my rest.”

The Michigan natives on the team, like Bryan Rust, Ian Cole and Matt Hunwick, were all watching the Detroit Lions play in their annual Thanksgiving Day game in the locker room before they left – which is a tradition for those guys.

“We’d watch the Lions every year, they would basically lose every year, so the Lions losing was also a great Thanksgiving day tradition,” joked Cole.

All of the American-born players grew up with different traditions, but one constant was the food. Here’s a few of them talking about their favorite parts of Thanksgiving dinner…

Cole: “I don’t know if I have a favorite part. I’m a big sweet potato casserole guy. Love sweet potatoes, love the sweet potato casserole. Love the brussel sprouts, love the stuffing. The turkey is great too, if you get the nice dark meat.”

Hunwick: “My father in-law makes some really good stuffing. Sausage, there’s so much stuff in there that’s so good, mushrooms. It’s really good I love it, they put some vegetables in there. I’ll be missing it this year.”

Ruhwedel: “Turkey and gravy. You gotta have the good gravy on it. Stuffing too, kind of on the biggest plate possible.”

Rust: “Recently stuffing. I was never a stuffing fan until recently, until the last couple years I was never a fan. My taste buds evolved.”

3. Sullivan’s message

It’s no secret that the Pens are dealing with some adversity right now. The team is coming off its second straight loss, where they didn’t score an even-strength goal in either game, and they’ve struggled in a number of areas – particularly coming out with a consistent effort night in and night out.

The players aren’t happy right now, and neither are the coaches, but the message from the staff today was that they need to have a certain level of resilience and resolve.

“It’s never easy when you don’t win,” Sullivan said. “Our expectation when we go into every game is that we’re going to win. That’s the standard that’s been set here, so when you don’t have success, that’s never an easy experience. I’ve never been one to take losing very easily, and I don’t think our players are either. We’ve got a very competitive group and I think they have an expectation to win as well. I think the important thing is that we react and respond the right way.

“Tomorrow’s a new day, today is a new day. So we went out on the ice today, we had a spirited practice. I thought we got better on the ice today, that was important. And then we’ve got to be ready to play tomorrow.”

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Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin will miss at least one game with an upper-body injury.

Coach Mike Sullivan announced the injury on Tuesday. Malkin will sit out on Wednesday night when the Penguins host Vancouver. Sullivan says Malkin will be re-evaluated on Thursday. Pittsburgh visits Boston on Friday and hosts Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Malkin is second on the team in scoring, with seven goals and 14 assists in 22 games for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions. It’s unclear who will fill his spot on the second line with Phil Kessel and Bryan Rust. Jake Guentzel practiced with them on Tuesday.

The Penguins could have center Carter Rowney return to the lineup against the Canucks. Rowney has missed 13 games with a hand injury.

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The Pittsburgh Penguins placed goaltender Antti Niemi on waivers Monday after he appeared in just three games as Matt Murray’s backup.

Niemi, 34, had a 7.49 goals-against average and a .797 save percentage. That includes allowing seven goals in a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

He gave up four goals in under 10 minutes during the Penguins’ 10-1 drubbing by the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 5.

“[Niemi] just drew the bad hand for three games,” general manager Jim Rutherford told reporters, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He had the back-to-back games and we didn’t do a lot to help him, so I feel bad for him.”

Niemi had signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Penguins in the offseason. Niemi, who won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010, had been with the Dallas Stars the previous two seasons before they bought out the final year of his contract.

Pittsburgh called up rookie goaltender Casey DeSmith from its AHL affiliate in Wilkes Barre/Scranton.

DeSmith and Tristan Jarry will share backup goaltending duties and will be evaluated on a “week-to-week basis,” according to Rutherford.

The Penguins also announced that forward Carter Rowney had been placed on injured reserve after he left Saturday’s game with an apparent hand injury.

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In the NHL, July 1 is usually filled with big signings from teams as general managers jump at the first chance to add valuable assets to their organization and gear up for next season. For every game-breaking free agent acquisition, there are also a bunch of smaller ones used to add depth to teams.

Greg McKegg was one of those deals for the Penguins that day, as they inked the 25-year-old to a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000.

 ”Their reputation speaks for itself,” McKegg said. “The back-to-back Cups and the winning culture they have here, it’s been a good experience so far and a learning process.”

While the signing may not have made a big splash at the time, McKegg is certainly garnering attention now with his impressive performance at training camp.

While the competition for the third-line center role has been well documented – with a handful of viable candidates in Carter Rowney, Teddy Blueger, Adam Johnson, and Jay McClement in the mix for the position – McKegg is another worthwhile name under consideration.

He’s played well so far in the preseason, skating in all three of Pittsburgh’s exhibition games to this point. And not only did McKegg score a goal against Detroit on Wednesday – he’s stood out with his speed, tenacity and faceoff ability.

McKegg’s NHL experience can only help his chance, as the center has appeared in 65 games over parts of four seasons. Head coach Mike Sullivan has liked what he’s seen so far from McKegg, who played the most out of any Penguins forward on Friday against Columbus, registering 21:46 minutes of ice time.

“We’ve seen a lot from him, he’s been very impressive,” Sullivan said. “One of the reasons his minutes climbed is because we’re using him in a lot of situations. We’ve used him on power play, we’ve used him on the penalty kill, and we’ve put him with different people. He can skate, he’s got a maturity to his game, and he has some NHL experience. We’ve really liked what we’ve seen at this point, but it’s still the middle of training camp so we need to keep watching and we’ll evaluate as we go.”

McKegg’s ability to bring a versatile game could be a big deciding factor in whether McKegg starts the season in Pittsburgh or in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The 6-foot, 192-pound pivot possesses good offensive instincts and standout speed. While he isn’t the most physical, he doesn’t shy away from contact either. He hopes to bring all of that to the Penguins this season.

“My overall game, I think the last few years I was just trying to round out my game. I know I can bring a speed factor and hopefully contribute any way I can,” McKegg said.

McKegg was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the third round (62nd overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. While he mostly starred with the Marlies, Toronto’s AHL affiliate, he did partake in four NHL games with the big club over two seasons.

The majority of his NHL experience came last year, as he skated in a combined 46 games with Florida and Tampa Bay. He ended up playing two games in Pittsburgh last season, one with the Panthers and one with the Lightning. The atmosphere in the arena has McKegg excited to have the chance to make playing at PPG Paints Arena a much more common occurrence.

“I remember the building being really loud and right on top of you,” McKegg said. “It was a lot of fun to play. You knew right from the get-go it was going to be a great atmosphere and it definitely lived up to that.”