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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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Duane and Shaney Boles have spent the last few days at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh with their 11-year-old son, Ryder.

As they were waiting to be discharged on Wednesday afternoon, a hospital worker entered the room and informed them that they would have to wait just a little bit longer – because Penguins players would be stopping by as part of their annual holiday visit.

As soon as Shaney heard the news, she couldn’t help it. She started to cry.

“I cried because he’s been a frequent flier here at Children’s since he was 15 months, honestly,” Shaney said of Ryder. “It’s been pretty much once a month for his whole life. He’s really just a pretty tough kid. He has a heart condition and some vertigo and he gets pretty sick, so that’s why he has to come in for fluids and maintenance.

“And honestly, he’s a huge Pens fan. As soon as they said that, I just knew right away he would be so excited if they came walking through the room.”

Ryder is unable to play contact sports because of his health, so he has never gotten the chance to play hockey. But he absolutely loves to watch hockey, and to see his favorite player, Sidney Crosby, from his favorite team, coming through the door was overwhelming in the best way.

“I’m really happy,” smiled Ryder, who hopes to sing the national anthem before a Penguins game someday. “I’m super excited I got to meet the players that I’ve been watching forever. I’ve been watching Sidney Crosby on the ice since I was two years old. It was just super awesome.”

Both Ryder and Shaney were overcome with emotion after such a special visit, sitting on the bed together and crying tears of joy when the players left.

“It just meant more than they really know,” Shaney said. “They were so sweet. As a mom and a dad, we see him go through all this stuff. But for them to walk in there, it was just really, really special to us. We appreciated it so much.”

The reaction of Ryder and his family was incredibly heartwarming, as was the reaction of Yaheim Young and his parents.

Crosby, Ryan Reaves, c, Tristan Jarry and newest Penguin Jamie Oleksiak delivered Yaheim a Christmas gift, which he couldn’t have been more thrilled to open.

To Yaheim’s delight, it was an Amazon Fire tablet. “Sweet! Cool! Thank you!” exclaimed Yaheim, who got up and hugged each and every player. The players’ goal is to put smiles on the kids’ faces, but Crosby had the biggest one after that interaction, who said to Yaheim’s parents, “Glad he liked it! What a great reaction.”

“We enjoy coming here and I think just to see the smiles on the kids’ faces, see their reactions – you could see the reaction of a couple kids that opened the gifts there, that says it all,” Crosby said. “That’s why we’re here.”

Phil Kessel also received a priceless reaction from a child who has been wanting to meet him for a while now.

A few years ago, Chelsey Stokes took her son Cooper to his first Penguins game and told him he could pick out one thing from the souvenir calendar. He picked out a Lego figure of Phil Kessel, and ever since then, Cooper has been obsessed with anything Phil Kessel.

Cooper, who is waiting for a multi-organ transplant, turned 8 years old in October. Chelsey said all he wanted for his birthday was a Kessel jersey and “the real Phil Kessel.” Chelsey laughed and told him that wouldn’t be possible. But they learned about a week ago that Cooper’s wish might actually become a reality, and Chelsey couldn’t be more grateful that it did.

“This is amazing,” Chelsey said. “I didn’t actually think that this would happen in a lifetime. It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ve been able to take him to games and he’s been able to see him from the seats, but this is a whole new surreal thing for him and I’m super blessed and thankful that this was able to happen.”

Chelsey said that on Tuesday night, Cooper was practicing what he was going to do when he first saw Kessel, and ultimately decided he would run up and give him a hug. And that’s exactly what Cooper did when Kessel arrived. Wearing his No. 81 sweater with the rolling backpack that contains all of his IV fluids in tow, Cooper dashed over to Kessel and threw his arms around his legs.

The two of them became fast friends, playing in the Lemieux Sibling Center for over half an hour before Kessel departed to visit other patients at the hospital.

“I heard he wanted to meet me or whatever, and that’s awesome,” Kessel said. “I’m happy I could be here and meet him and have a good day.

“It’s great. I love this day. I think we make the kids happy, and I love coming in here and getting to spend time with them. It’s a great day.”

–Michelle Crechiolo

One of the other groups, consisting of Brian Dumoulin, Patric Hornqvist, Jake Guentzel and Justin Schultz, visited over a dozen rooms.

The players took a photo with each of the kids they visited and their families, but a cool moment happened in infant Simon’s room. When asked by his parents if anyone wanted to hold him, Hornqvist obliged, and Simon calmly rested in his arms for the picture. This led to his teammates dubbing Hornqvist as “The Natural.”

“It’s great, you see those kids smile when you walk in,” Hornqvist said. “We give them a present, stay and talk a little bit, take a photo with them. They all love it, and we enjoy it too.”

While the Penguins spread holiday cheer around the hospital, equipped with Santa hats and presents, an abundance of smiles decked the halls.

One of those smiles was courtesy of six-year-old Aiden. Aiden let out an enormous smile when the time came for a picture, unveiling his missing front teeth. This led to Aiden’s mom stating he looks just like a hockey player with his smile, something that Justin Schultz, missing a tooth of his own, agreed to.

While the Penguins handed out signed calendars to each patient they visited, Marcus, 13, received five special signatures on his blood pressure pump. Marcus is a center for the Mt. Lebanon Hornets and expressed how he couldn’t wait to tell his teammates about his surprise visitors.

“It was amazing,” Marcus said. “I got to see some of my favorite players and get their autographs. It’s a dream come true.”

Seeing the smile gleaming from Marcus’ face after his interaction with the players shows how meaningful and profound the visit is for the children as well as their families.

“It’s for sure one of the best events we do through the whole season,” Hornqvist said. “It’s the holiday season, we make the kids and parents happy, and it’s always great to see a smile on their face.”

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins’ 4-1 loss to Washington on Friday at Capital One Arena…

* The difference in this game was special teams. The Caps went 2-for-6 on the power play and held the Pens scoreless on all of their opportunities, including two chances in the first five minutes of the third period. The teams played a fairly even game at even-strength, with a decent amount of scoring chances on both sides.

* The Caps may have scored twice on the man-advantage, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a reflection on Pittsburgh’s penalty killers. They did a good job considering the circumstances. The Pens gave the Caps too many opportunities, exemplified when Kris Letang got called for two penalties on the same play like Jake Guentzel did earlier this season. The PKers didn’t give up much, and seemed set to kill it off when an opportunistic T.J. Oshie was able to sneak a shot in with just one second left to break a 1-1 tie, and it stood as the game-winner. Tough break for the Pens, who certainly have to be more disciplined moving forward. They can’t give up that many opportunities to a dangerous power play like that without any consequences.

* The Pens talked afterward about needing to be more resilient. That goal by Oshie, as Sullivan put it, definitely stung, but they needed to have a better pushback, especially on the first shift coming out of it.

* The Caps were able to get timely, opportunistic goals on their power plays, while the Pens were not. It wasn’t for lack of trying. The Pens had a lot of zone time and puck movement, but just weren’t putting it on net enough. “I thought we had opportunities to shoot the puck. We’ve been reluctant for whatever reason the last couple of games to shoot the puck, and I think we can generate offense off of it,” Mike Sullivan said after the game. “When we have that shot-first mindset, I think that’s when the power play is at its best.” I thought Patric Hornqvist was the glue out there tonight. His battle level and work ethic created a lot for his teammates.

* As Sullivan said this morning, there’s always a heightened emotional level between the Pens and Caps because of the rivalry and some of the high-stakes games they’ve played the last couple of the years. That manifested tonight in the form of physicality. Players on both teams were hitting everything that moved and making sure to finish their checks, which meant a lot of bodies flying. Brian Dumoulin took a check in the first period that sent him to the locker room, but he was able to return. Ryan Reaves dropped the gloves for a fight with Liam O’Brien, quickly laying him out with a few well-placed right hooks.

* Sullivan decided to switch up his lines towards the end of the second period, and I thought the team got a spark. He put Guentzel with Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, and Conor Sheary with Riley Sheahan and Carl Hagelin. The trios were connecting for some pretty passing plays, which was exemplified on Kessel’s goal from Rust and Malkin, the lone tally of the night for Pittsburgh.

* Kessel has been consistently producing for the Pens this season. His goal was his sixth of the year, and team-leading 20th point. He has tallied at least a point in all but four of the Pens’ 18 games, including goals in two straight. Both have come at even strength, which is positive step considering most of his production had been coming on the power play.

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ 2-1 overtime loss against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.

* It isn’t a secret that the Pens have struggled on the tail end of back-to-back contests. They’re 0-4 on the year while being outscored 28-7 heading into the game against Calgary.

Though the Penguins fell in the overtime session, it was a much more competitive contest than they’ve shown previously this season. It was a close battle that could have gone either way.

* Captain Sidney Crosby said the common denominator to the blowouts in back-to-back games has been their poor starts. So if Pittsburgh wanted to buck the trend against Calgary, it needed a better start to the game.

The Penguins not only had a great start, they had arguably their best start of the season against the Flames. No, they didn’t score a goal. But they were dominant in terms of zone time, carrying momentum and creating chances. The Pens had a 19-9 edge in shot. That’s right, 19. Four of which were from Evgeni Malkin.

The Pens didn’t spot the Flames an early lead, and thus, gave themselves a chance to win.

* It was no surprise that the Penguins called upon Tristan Jarry to start in the second half of this back-to-back sequence. Jarry made his NHL debut in last year’s regular-season finale in New York against the Rangers. Jarry allowed three goals in a 3-2 loss in that game. He looked a little nervous and jittery during that contest, understandable considering it was his first taste of the NHL.

What a difference a year makes. Jarry looked poised and in control in his season debut against the Flames. You could see glimpses of why scouts were enthralled by his game in juniors. Jarry made several huge saves, particularly during penalty kills, that were the difference in the game. Jarry’s best save was a split-pad stop on a breakaway by Mark Jankowski in the third period.

Though he ended up on the wrong end of the scoreboard, Jarry deserved much better.

* Ryan Reaves played his usual physical style of hockey. In the waning minutes of the second period he laid two heavy hits. The second was to Matthew Tkachuk, knocking him into the bench at the glass partition. Tkachuk left the game, though he did return of the third period. Reaves was given a roughing penalty on that hit. Though Tkachuk was temporarily hurt, it was a clean hit and shouldn’t have warranted a penalty. Pittsburgh was able to kill off the penalty, but it would have been a shame if that call had changed the outcome of the game.

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As the unnamed narrator in the film Fight Club said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Pens winger Phil Kessel scored. Again. In overtime. Again. In a Pittsburgh 2-1 win. Again.

Two days after Kessel scored a breakaway game-winning goal in overtime against Edmonton for a 2-1 win, Kessel scored a breakaway game-winning goal in overtime against Winnipeg for a 2-1 win, both at PPG Paints Arena.

“Sometimes you get lucky out there,” Kessel said. “I got two breakaways in overtime and was fortunate enough to get them in.”

Kessel, who had nine shots in the contest, only had one thought going through his head as he eyed up the net behind Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

“Hopefully I score,” he laughed. “I’m just reading and reacting.”

Kessel did, indeed, score. But scoring is what he’s done his entire career. Kessel’s winner against Winnipeg was his 300th career goal in the NHL, an incredible accomplishment.

The Wisconsin native also became just the second American-born player to reach the 300 milestone (Zach Parise, 318).

“I’ve played a lot of games in this league,” Kessel said. “It’s nice to get 300 goals, but I’m just happy to help my team win.”

Most impressive about Kessel’s overtime goal wasn’t even the goal. It was his defensive play to intercept the puck from Jets winger Patrik Laine. And then, from a standstill, he was able to retrieve the puck and outskate the speedy Laine in a race toward the Winnipeg goal.

“He has a knack to score big goals at key times,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “What was impressive about the goal tonight was that he was at a dead stop when he picked that pass off. He created enough separation to get a really good shot off.

“That’s a testament to Phil’s work ethic throughout the course of training camp. Phil’s in as good of shape as he’s been as a Penguin. That’s a credit to him to create that separation.”

Kessel’s overtime goals have also been followed by a playful face wash from teammate Ryan Reaves. A tradition both men hope to continue.

“Every time he scores I give him a nice face wash,” Reaves joked. “I mugged him today. It was bad.”

“He’s given it to me a couple times out there,” Kessel said with a smile. “If we win that’s fine.”

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For Olli Maatta, it’s about time something goes right.

Things haven’t gone totally wrong, to be sure. The Finnish defenseman has been a regular on two Stanley Cup winners over the past two seasons.

But Maatta, 23, has been hampered by numerous maladies since his rookie season, 2013-14. Thyroid cancer. Two surgeries on the same shoulder. Mumps. Maatta conquered all.

But what toll was taken physically? How long would the healing process truly take?

That question seems to have been answered.

Maatta says he feels “great,” and has noticeable jump in his stride. He’s been an offensive machine in the new season’s early days, racking up two goals and three assists in the Penguins’ first five games.

That ties Maatta for third on the Penguins’ scoring chart, two points in back of leader Bryan Rust. Heady times.

Maatta had just one goal in 55 games last season. But the offensive skill has always been there: Witness nine goals in 78 games as a rookie.

“I’m just trying to get it on net when I have a chance,” Maatta said after collecting a goal and assist in the Penguins’ 4-0 home victory over Nashville Oct. 7. “Our forwards do a great job getting in front of the net.”

Said Coach Mike Sullivan, “We’ve always believed Olli has good offensive instincts. He jumps in the plays when he sees them. I believe his hockey IQ is his greatest asset. He sees the ice so well.

“He’s a cerebral player, both defensively and offensively. The fact that he’s getting involved in the offense more is an indicator that he feels good about himself and his game.”

The start of the season hasn’t been perfect for the Penguins, or for Maatta.

The Penguins are 2-2-1. A 10-1 drubbing at Chicago Oct. 5 provided an ignominious moment. Maatta was minus-5. That will ruin your stats for a month.

But things got a lot better just two days later vs. Nashville.

“We won puck battles and had a lot of hits,” said Maatta after. “We don’t kill guys, but we’re tough to play against when we play that way.”

Maatta sparkled against the Predators. His shot was deflected in by Ryan Reaves for the Penguins’ third goal, and then Maatta buried a slap shot over the glove of Nashville goalie Juuse Saros for the game’s last tally.

Maatta got the game’s No. 2 star for his efforts, but not just for his stats.

“Everybody had really good sticks tonight, especially in the slot on plays below the goal line,” said goaltender Matthew Murray. “Olli made a great block in the second period on a guy right in the middle of the slot with a grade-A chance. That’s the difference.”

Maatta, like his teammates, used the humiliation at Chicago as a learning experience.

“We realize how hard it is to win in this league,” Maatta said. “You can’t go out there and play 50 per cent. You’ve got to give everything, every chance you get. If you don’t, it’s going to be tough.

“You can’t get too comfortable. I know we won the last two seasons, but it’s a new season. It doesn’t give you any advantage. You start at zeroes.

“Every game counts.”

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ 6-5 win against the Detroit Red Wings at PPG Paints Arena.

* There is no doubt the best player in the game was winger Jake Guentzel. He finished the game with one goal and four assists. More impressive is the way he accumulated those points.

Guentzel’s first assist was the result of some grit and tenacity. He went into the end boards hard, separating Trevor Daley from the puck. Then he made a quick pass to Conor Sheary, whose shot was placed into the net on the rebound by Adam Johnson.

Guentzel’s other two helpers were the result of some great vision. On a power play in the second period a Justin Schultz shot went off of the post. There was a scramble in front and the puck found Guentzel in the slot. While 90 percent of players in the league would have shot the puck, Guentzel saw Sheary (through two Red Wings) and slid him a perfect pass for the easy tap-in.

* Speaking of Johnson, he’s one of five players in training camp that are fighting for the third-line center role on the team. No doubt he was the beneficiary of having Guentzel and Sheary as his linemates tonight, but he made the most of his opportunity. Johnson scored two goals in the game, one on a rebound and the other with a nasty shot into the corner of the net.

This preseason was the first taste of pro hockey in Johnson’s career (he’s played the past two seasons at Minnesota-Duluth). He definitely has a learning curve and would benefit from some time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. But with games like Wednesday, he’s making that a hard decision for management.

* While we’re on the topic of the third-line center role, don’t count out Greg McKegg. He picked up an assist and had an impressive showing in Tuesday’s contest against Buffalo at Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena. He made such a good impression on the coaching staff that they played him in back-to-back games.

McKegg, 25, has great offensive instincts, and the speed that it takes to really thrive in Mike Sullivan’s system. He scored a goal against Detroit and nearly had a second (the puck went off the post). He also has some NHL experience which may help in the competition against some of the team’s other younger prospects.

* Pens fans got their first look at newcomer Ryan Reaves, though it was a limited look. Mostly due to the large amount of special teams work in the game, Reaves’ ice time was only 10:55. But he made quite an impact in those 11 minutes, registering seven hits.

* The NHL has made it clear that it’s main two “points of emphasis” regarding officiating this season will be face-off violations and slashing. The crackdown, as it usually does, has begun in the preseason. The tightly-called game resulted in seven penalties in the first period alone. There were 16 penalties in total, seven slashing and two face-off violations.

The calls certainly slowed the pace of the game down. It’s still preseason so both the referees and players are still feeling out the process. But hopefully the players adjust quickly.