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Here are the 3 biggest takeaways from the Penguins’ Friday afternoon skate in San Jose.

1. Schultz okay after crosscheck

Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz skated after he left in the third period of Thursday’s game following a crosscheck from Dustin Brown.

“I feel fine,” Schultz said. “Everything went well out there, so I’m good to go. I was pretty nervous at first, luckily all the tests went well and a good day on the ice today. I’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

On the play, Schultz had fallen to his knees facing the boards and was completely defenseless when Brown skated up and leveled him from behind, sending his face into the dasher.

The Kings forward received a five-minute major and a game misconduct, as well as a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety this afternoon. However, Brown did not receive a suspension, merely receiving a fine of $10,000, the maximum allowable under the CBA.

“The league deals with that, I’m not going to comment and start anything,” Schultz said. “It is what it is. I’m not hurt, so that’s alright. I’ll be back next game.”

Evgeni Malkin also received disciplinary action for a play in the game. He was fined $5,000 for spearing Brown in the first period.

2. Pens monitoring workload

The team stayed the night in Los Angeles following their 3-1 win over the Kings and had an 11 a.m. flight to San Jose this morning. When they landed, one bus went to the team hotel while the other took Schultz, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Daniel Sprong, Ian Cole, Chad Ruhwedel, Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith to the Sharks’ practice facility for a skate.

The Penguins have been taking advantage of every opportunity they have to get rest, especially since entering the second half of the season. For this California swing, they’ve only had one full practice – on Tuesday in Anaheim – and will finish the trip without having held a morning skate for any of the three games.

“We’re obviously trying to monitor our workload and for example, this particular week, we’re in the middle of three games in four nights,” head coach Mike Sullivan explained. “We just had back-to-back games, two pretty tough games against two really good teams. To give them an opportunity to recover today, we felt as though it was really important so that we can be at our best tomorrow.”

3. WBS streaking

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins extended their season-best winning streak to 8 games with a 4-1 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Wednesday.

Arguably the most impressive part of that streak is that a number of WBS’ top forwards and both goaltenders they started the season with are currently with Pittsburgh: DeSmith, Jarry, Dea, Sprong and Dominik Simon.

Talking with Dea, who made his season debut on Thursday centering Tom Kuhnhackl and Ryan Reaves, he credited the entire organization from top to bottom for making it easy on guys to slot in wherever they’re needed.

“The whole organization does a great job, starting in Wheeling,” Dea said. “When guys come up they’re ready to play so it makes everything easier. In Wilkes we had good guys down there who work hard. That’s the way we play here in the Pittsburgh organization. We work hard and skate. So that’s why, I think. All three groups of players on the teams make a big group and everybody works hard and helps each other. Every time guys get called up and stuff, they’re ready to go and they know what to do.”

It also helps that WBS head coach Clark Donatelli, who is one of the absolute best people in the game, and first-year assistant coach Tim Army do a tremendous job of finding that balance between development and winning.

“They’re the best, obviously,” Dea said with a smile. “You look at Clarkie, you can’t ask for a better guy to make you feel comfortable. Always there to talk to you and make sure you’re comfortable. Obviously they’re doing a really good job down there.”

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


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.


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

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


* 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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The Pittsburgh Penguins have recalled goalie Casey DeSmith, defenseman Andrey Pedan and forward Garrett Wilson from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Defensemen Kris Letang and Chad Ruhwedel, and forward Bryan Rust, have been placed on injured reserve. Letang has been retroactively placed on IR dating back to December 24.

DeSmith, 26, saw relief action in two earlier games for Pittsburgh this year. His most recent NHL appearance was December 9 against Toronto when he stopped eight of nine shots in 38 minutes. At the AHL level, he is 10-5-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage in 17 games.

Pedan, 24, joined the Penguins in October in a deal from the Vancouver Canucks. The 6-foot-5, 213-pound blueliner has played in 13 career NHL games, all with the Canucks. This year, Pedan has 10 points (2G-8A) and is plus-5 in 26 AHL games with WBS.

The New York Islanders originally chose Pedan in the third round (63rd overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft. He is a native of Kaunas, Lithuania.

Wilson, 26, is in his second season in the Pittsburgh organization. He spent the entire season with WBS last year before joining the Penguins as a ‘Black Ace’ practice squad member during the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.

This season, the 6-foot-2, 199-pound native of Barrie, Ontario has 14 points (6G-8A) and a team-high 54 penalty minutes in 25 games. He has played in 34 career NHL regular-season games, and six NHL playoff contests, all with the Florida Panthers.

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While the Penguins picked up just three points on their season-long five-game road swing through western Canada, one of the positives taken from the trip was the impact Chad Ruhwedel has had on keeping a battered blue line afloat.

Since Oct. 24, a span of seven games, Ruhwedel has averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game – fourth highest among Penguins defenseman. After starting the year as the team’s seventh defenseman, Ruhwedel got an opportunity to enter the lineup due to injuries and has since been quietly consistent.

“It means a lot, their trust in me,” Ruhwedel said. “The more you play, the better you’ll get every week, and you can just get into the game a little easier. Having some more minutes is nice, and I just have to stay with it.”

Thrusted into the lineup after Ian Cole’s injury from a blocked shot, the San Diego, Calif. native has seen an increased workload with Matt Hunwick and Justin Schultz both sidelined with concussions. He’s handled it well, and a lot of that coincides with his fit within the Penguins system.

“He’s played really well for us,” head coach Mike Sullivan reflected. “He’s a guy that you know exactly what you’re going to get, night in and night out from him. He’s really increased his intensity level since he’s been playing with us. He’s played a real solid two-way game.”

While Hunwick and Schultz are both on the verge of returning, as they are cleared for contact and practiced with regular jerseys on Monday, Ruhwedel’s play has provided a case to leave him in the lineup.

While the Penguins have had a lethal power play this season, as their 28.8-percent conversion rate is tied for second in the league, they have struggled to score at even strength throughout the first five weeks of the season. Ruhwedel, playing primarily all his minutes 5-on-5, has been arguably the Penguins’ strongest defenseman at even strength.

The UMass-Lowell product has provided a smooth game, highlighted by his skating ability and on-ice awareness.

“The thing we really like about Chad is his mobility,” Sullivan said. “He can get back to pucks quickly, he helps us get out of our end zone. He’s defending hard, he has a good stick, and he’s coachable. He’s done really a good job for us, he quietly goes about his business and plays an important role for this team.”

One of his biggest assets is his quick decision-making with the puck. This was showcased brilliantly on Oct. 12 against Tampa Bay, when Ruhwedel corralled a rebound in the defensive zone, and rather than just clearing the puck, took a few strides before launching a full-ice pass to Conor Sheary. He snuck behind the Lightning defense and buried the goal on a quick counter-attack play.

“He’s a solid player, he’s very dependable,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “I know what he’s going to do with the puck, and that’s a good thing to have in a partner, the predictability. He’s a good skater, has a good shot, and he can work well with anyone.”

The 5’11″, 192-pound blueliner’s steady defensive game is what led to the Penguins pursuing him last off season after three years in the Buffalo Sabres organization, mostly spent with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Rochester Americans.

Ruhwedel initially started the 2016-17 season with Wilkes-Barre, but a strong start and banged-up blueline led to him playing in 34 NHL contests with Pittsburgh, scoring two goals, picking up eight assists, and finishing a plus-9.

It earned him a Stanley Cup ring and a two-year, one-way NHL contract this most recent offseason, and the next big step is becoming a constant presence in the lineup, even when everyone is healthy.

“I just need to play my game, keep doing what I’m doing,” Ruhwedel said. “Do more with the opportunities that I’m getting, and just try to make the most of it.”

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins’ 2-1 win over Edmonton on Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena…

 The biggest storyline heading into this game was Sidney Crosby versus Connor McDavid. The biggest storyline coming out of it was Matt Murray versus Cam Talbot. The goaltenders were spectacular and put on quite the show. With so much talent on both teams, this wasn’t an easy game for the netminders, but they did a terrific job. I thought they were both particularly impressive during power plays.

* Murray made a stop during a second-period man-advantage that’s a candidate for Save of the Year. It was absolutely magnificent. On a broken play the puck skipped right to Mark Letestu, who was wide open on the back door. It looked like Murray wouldn’t be able to recover in time, but he dove across and was able to knock the puck away with the shaft of his stick. Murray is a technically sound goaltender who’s usually in a position where he doesn’t have to make those desperation saves, but power plays are a different story. That was just incredible work by him to get across and keep the puck out of his net.

* Murray was the Pens’ best penalty killer all night, but he certainly got some help from his teammates. Right after that crazy save, chaos erupted in the crease. There were bodies everywhere, and Carl Hagelin ended up saving the day when he reached out and deflected the puck into the corner when the Oilers had another open net. Murray was down and out at that point, but Brian Dumoulin was crouched into a butterfly ready to cover for him if needed. Overall, the Pens did a better job of staying disciplined after getting into penalty trouble their last couple of games.

* The Pens lost Justin Schultz with about five minutes left in the first period when he took an elbow up high. He went to the locker room and did not return, and head coach Mike Sullivan said afterward he had been diagnosed with a concussion. Not only did the Pens go down to five defensemen; but the guys that remained took a beating in this game, particularly when it came to blocking shots. Kris Letang and Chad Ruhwedel both took shots off the lower body that left them in some pain, but they were able to remain in the game. Those guys definitely gutted it out in what turned out to be a surprisingly gritty effort, and Murray couldn’t have been more complimentary of them after the game.

* A win is a win, but this one is particularly satisfying considering how the Pens’ last game went. After allowing seven goals in a loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday they tightened up defensively tonight, especially at even strength. Sullivan said he liked the compete from his guys and that it was certainly a step in the right direction. Now they just need to have more efforts like this on a consistent basis moving forward.

* The goaltenders and defensemen were fantastic, but that’s not to say the stars didn’t shine. It’s a shame we only get to see Connor McDavid twice a year and once in Pittsburgh, because he’s truly a pleasure to watch. The Pens talked this morning about his incredible speed – not just when it comes to skating, but also skating with the puck and making plays. He showed that on a sequence where he danced around Letang and flipped a backhand at Murray that he was able to absorb with his chest, and later he sniped one late in regulation to tie the game.

On the other side, Phil Kessel had a ton of chances all night and finally converted when his team needed it most – 42 seconds into overtime. All in all, the game started off slow, but became an entertaining affair as it went on.

Finally, Riley Sheahan had a real solid effort in his first game wearing black and gold. It was a strong two-way game for the center, who was responsible defensively and made plays offensively. He capped off an excellent shift by earning the secondary assist on Ian Cole’s regulation goal before providing a tremendous screen for the defenseman. All in all, Sullivan said they were real encouraged by Sheahan’s game.

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Here are three takeaways from the Pens’ Monday afternoon practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

1. Cole update

Pens defenseman Ian Cole still has swelling around his mouth after being struck by a puck in Pittsburgh’s 4-0 win against Nashville last Saturday.

There is no timeline for Cole’s return, though he was ruled out for Wednesday’s contest in Washington.

“He looks surprisingly better than I thought he would today,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “There’s obvious swelling, but he is making progress.”

2. Ruhwedel in

With Cole out of the lineup, blueliner Chad Ruhwedel is expected to play in his first game of the season.

“I think Chad will step in and help us win,” Sullivan said. “He’s a good player. He’s played a lot of games for us. We know his game is. We know what he’s capable of.

“We understand how important Chad Ruhwedel is to this hockey team. We have complete faith that he’ll step in and he’ll do the best job that he knows how to help us continue to find ways to win games.”

Ruhwedel, 27, appeared in 34 games and six playoff contests last season for the Penguins. He has been the team’s No. 7 defenseman this year.

“You just have to work every day. It’s not easy but once your number gets called you have to step right into a game that everyone else is ready for,” Ruhwedel said. “There are no excuses.

“Staying in shape and getting extra work after practice to make sure I’m ready to go. If my number is called it’s just a matter of being ready.”

3. Hornqvist close

Winger Patric Hornqvist (hand) participated in full practice on Monday, including contact.

As long as he continues to progress, Hornqvist could be upgraded to a game-time decision for Wednesday night in Washington.

“I feel pretty good,” he said. “It was fun to have a real practice, did some line rushes and a whole practice. I’m one step closer and that’s all I can tell you guys right now.”

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Thoughts, musings, and observations from the Pens’ 4-1 loss against the Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.

* First of all, it was fantastic getting the chance to play at Little Caesars Arena. When we first got to the building, players went straight to the visitors bench to get their first look. What stood out the most was just how, well, red everything is, as every seat in the entire bowl is a vivid shade of crimson. After that, we toured the concourse and were impressed by the mix of old and new. They brought over all of the statues of Red Wings greats like Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay from Joe Louis Arena, which were spread out by a bunch of cool Detroit-themed restaurants and bars. Just a cool atmosphere.

* Joe Louis Arena was infamous for its bouncy back boards, and the players joked that they made sure to test out the back boards here to make sure they didn’t have the same elasticity. “Some of the guys mentioned the first thing they wanted to test out were how the boards reacted, so you saw a couple guys shooting pucks against the boards and seeing what was happening,” goalie Tristan Jarry said. “I did a couple times too to make sure.”

* Tonight was Jarry’s first full game of the preseason, and I thought he looked solid while facing a lot of quality chances against, including a few odd-man rushes. He was in net for three of the goals, as the fourth was an empty-netter, and some of them were just skilled hockey plays. “I thought he made some real good saves at times during the game for us,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought he might have lost his focus on one of those goals. But overall, I thought he made some real good saves.”

* Sullivan wasn’t as pleased with the play of the guys in front of Jarry. “I thought at times, we were competing hard. Didn’t like the second period at all. I thought the second period, we got outcompeted and we talked about that in between periods. That’s the one thing that we can control out there. It starts with puck battles and wall play and just being more determined than the guy you’re playing against. I thought the second period we got outcompeted. I thought the first period we had a pretty strong period. In the third period I thought we played pretty well.”

* Pittsburgh’s lone goal of the game came off the stick of Scott Wilson on a heads-up play. A Wings player, who was the last man back, lost his footing while in possession of the puck. Wilson jumped on it and went in alone on Jimmy Howard, beating him five-hole.

* The Pens had another tremendous scoring chance thanks to a phenomenal play from Thomas Di Pauli. Di Pauli got tripped, but managed to reach out and force a turnover while flat on his stomach. He got the puck right to Freddie Tiffels alone in front, who tried to deke but got denied. If they could have finished off that play, it would have been incredible.

* Greg McKegg continues to impress. He was in and around the net all night making plays. He has so much speed and uses it to be so hard on pucks, and creates a lot for himself and his teammates as a result. At one point he overtook a defender to force a turnover and get the puck to Chad Ruhwedel for a scoring opportunity, and at another point he received a nice pass, gained the zone and started a strong O-zone shift. It feels like McKegg keeps building on every game, and right now, it feels like he’s the top contender for that third-line center position.