Penguins notebook: Sochi hopefuls have played well against Penguins
By Chris Adamski
Published: Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, 10:06 p.m.
With Penguins coach Dan Bylsma moonlighting as coach of the 2014 U.S. Olympic team, one of his duties is to select the team that will represent the U.S. in Sochi, Russia.
He doesn't want prospective candidates for the roster to feel obligated to impress him in person.
“If you have any messages to send before today's game,” Bylsma said of the Penguins' game against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, “(it's that), ‘Today's game doesn't have a lot of bearing on it.' ”
Wild defenseman Ryan Suter and wing Zach Parise don't need any auditions — they're locks for Team USA.
Through the first half of this season, though, several American Olympic hopefuls have impressed Bylsma — via hurting his NHL team.
The New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan (currently on injured reserve) scored in a 5-1 win against the Penguins on Nov. 6.
Three days later, Kevin Shattenkirk had the go-ahead goal in the third period for the St. Louis Blues in a 2-1 win against the Penguins.
Two weeks after that, Max Pacioretty scored twice in the Montreal Canadiens' 3-2 victory against the Penguins.
That's three of the Penguins' 10 losses this season in which the winning goal was scored by a member of Bylsma's Team USA orientation roster.
Also, the Toronto Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk have two goals each this season against the Penguins.
“I wasn't real pleased with that performance from all those USA candidates,” Bylsma deadpanned.
“I've tried to send as many messages as I could about where (the team's candidates) stand with Team USA. Because the guys we have been playing against have really showed well.”
Megna out 6 weeks
Forward Jayson Megna (lower-body) missed his second consecutive game Thursday and will be out for about six weeks, Bylsma said. Megna was injured late in the Penguins' win against the Maple Leafs on Monday.
Megna was playing on the second line after the rash of injuries to the Penguins and James Neal's suspension. Megna has four goals and two assists in his first 15 NHL games.
Playing without their star
Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding has been the NHL's best goaltender so far this season, and his story is an inspiration for many.
Harding, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, recently was put on injured reserve and will miss a couple of weeks because of required changes to his treatment.
The Wild coaching staff did not seem the least bit discouraged.
In fact, coach Mike Yeo insisted the team had known of this looming absence for quite some time and reiterated Harding hasn't encountered any setbacks.
Harding has been one of the stars of this season. He is 18-5-3 with an NHL-best 1.51 goals-against average.
Struggling goaltender Niklas Backstrom started in his place Thursday against the Penguins.
Former Penguins left wing Mike Rupp was a scratch against his old team.
Rupp has been hampered by knee and back problems this season and has played only five games for the Wild.
“It's always good to be in Pittsburgh,” Rupp said. “My family and I love it here.”
Staff writer Josh Yohe contributed. Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.
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