ShareThis Page
Penguins

Penguins' Ryan Reaves, Ian Cole emerge after recent benchings

Jonathan Bombulie
| Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, 3:55 p.m.
Penguins' defenseman Ian Cole beats Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for a goal in the second period Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins' defenseman Ian Cole beats Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for a goal in the second period Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena.
Penguins defenseman Ian Cole plays against the Golden Knights Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Ian Cole plays against the Golden Knights Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.
Penguins winger Ryan Reaves plays against the Golden Knights Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins winger Ryan Reaves plays against the Golden Knights Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.

Tuesday night's game at PPG Paints Arena was a showdown between Marc-Andre Fleury and the superstar scorers he called his teammates and friends for the past decade.

Naturally, then, the first two Penguins players to put pucks past the Vegas Golden Knights goaltender were Ryan Reaves and Ian Cole, two guys who came into the game with four goals and 208 hits between them this season.

It was a development that proved how unpredictable goal scoring can be in hockey. It also provided postgame comedy in the locker room.

Reaves, who has scored two of his 30 career goals against Fleury, was asked if he has the book on how to beat the affable goaltender.

“I wouldn't say I have the book on him,” he joked. “It's more like a pop-up book. A picture book, maybe.”

Jokes aside, Reaves and Cole have something in common beyond scoring against Fleury on Tuesday night. Both have responded to a recent stint in the press box with some of their best hockey of the season.

Cole was a healthy scratch for a seven-game stretch last month. He returned to the lineup Jan. 25 against Minnesota when Matt Hunwick suffered an upper-body injury and hasn't given up the spot since.

Cole has a goal, three assists and a plus-6 rating in his last five games.

“Taking advantage of the rest for sure,” Cole said. “We've played a lot of hockey the past two years. Certainly re-energized and excited to be back out there.”

When Cole was scratched for a four-game stint in November, his name popped up in trade rumors. Cole's position on the matter always has been pretty clear, although he hasn't said so in as many words. It's play me or trade me.

The way he's performing now — moving the puck quickly and cleanly, cutting down on turnovers and penalties — playing Cole seems to be the obvious way to go.

“Colesy's a real solid player when he plays within himself, when he's got a little bit of an edge to his game, when he keeps his decision-making with the puck simple, smart and calculated,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think Colesy can be a very effective defenseman for us and has been for a number of years here.

“We think his game has been very good since he's been back in the lineup. That's why he's in the lineup.”

Reaves was in a slightly different situation than Cole. He didn't slip out of the lineup because of anything he did or didn't do on the ice, necessarily. He was a victim of a numbers game, getting scratched for three games late last month while the Penguins had a full complement of healthy wingers.

Now, with Patric Hornqvist and Conor Sheary out week -to-week with lower-body injuries and Tom Kuhnhackl and Carter Rowney leaving Tuesday's game with lower-body ailments of their own, the Penguins are anything but healthy.

That means more opportunity — and more responsibility — for Reaves. Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby have been scorching hot in recent weeks, but they can't do it on their own.

“You can't lean on those top guys every single game like we have been,” Reaves said. “It doesn't matter who's in the lineup. We've got to make sure we're helping out.”

Tuesday night's game provided a blueprint for what Reaves can provide moving forward.

He delivered seven hits, including a steamroller job to defenseman Colin Miller behind the net in the second period. He chipped in offensively. Most importantly, he used his skating ability to keep up with the team's up-tempo style while playing a regular shift.

“Boys are rolling,” Reaves said. “Hope to bring what I bring and keep it going.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me