Penguins notebook: Schultz connected to both Crosby, McDavid
NEWARK, N.J. — When defenseman Justin Schultz made his Penguins debut Sunday in New Jersey, he joined an exclusive club.
He has been a teammate of both Sidney Crosby and the player expected to someday take the torch from the Penguins captain as the face of the NHL, Edmonton rookie Connor McDavid.
Schultz said he sees some similarities between the two.
“I think their hockey sense is so much higher than everyone else,” Schultz said after being traded to the Penguins on Feb. 27. “And their speed. Playing with Connor, it's amazing how fast he is, how quick he turns while he's stick-handling 100 mph. It's pretty remarkable. He's a special player, and now I'm looking forward to playing with the best player in the world.”
For the record, the other players in the Crosby-McDavid club are Mark Letestu, Adam Clendening and Rob Klinkhammer.
In each of Derrick Pouliot's past nine games, the Penguins attempted more shots than their opponents when he was on the ice. That usually is an indicator that a player is in fine form.
Yet Pouliot found himself scratched Sunday to make way for Schultz's Penguins debut.
He wasn't surprised. Shortly after the Penguins picked up Schultz, Pouliot said he was expecting fierce competition for playing time among the team's defensemen.
“It's going to be whoever is playing consistent and whoever is playing well. That's what I imagine the coaching staff will do,” Pouliot said. “You're going to have to be good every day and not take any time off.”
When it comes to stopping losing streaks, Evgeni Malkin has been a one-man gang for the Penguins this season.
Malkin has been in the lineup with the Penguins coming off a loss 25 times. In those games, he has 16 goals and 34 points.
The sample size is tiny — six games after a 17-save performance in a 6-1 win Sunday — but Penguins rookie Matt Murray has some of the best goalie numbers in the NHL.
Among goalies who have played more than one game this season, he ranks first in goals-against average (1.82) and second in save percentage (.934), trailing only reigning league MVP Carey Price.
“You probably have to get net-front traffic and second and third opportunities and make him move because he's so big and steady,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “If you're straight on, one-on-one with him, he's a very difficult guy to score against.”
On Sunday, Baby Pens captain Tom Kostopoulos became the fourth player in hockey history to appear in 600 games in both the AHL and NHL.
The other three are Florida Panthers heavyweight Shawn Thornton, former Penguins defenseman Jim Morrison and former Boston Bruins center Dave Creighton.
Kostopoulos celebrated with three assists as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton beat Hershey, 5-4.
“He's the first guy on the ice. He's the last guy off the ice. He's a great mentor to young players. He loves people and he loves the game,” said Hynes, who coached Kostopoulos in Wilkes-Barre from 2012-15.
“He's one of the few guys that you run across in your time that there's such passion for the game of hockey. He was born to be a hockey player.”