ShareThis Page

Penguins notebook: Well-rested unit equates to success on ice

| Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, 2:21 p.m.
USA Today Sports
Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) reacts to a penalty called during the second period against the Blackhawks on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Chicago.

One of the best predictors of how the Penguins will fare in a given game has nothing to do with advanced stats, goaltending matchups or home-road splits.

It comes down to something as simple as rest.

When the Penguins have played on back-to-back days this season, they're 2-6-1, including a thorough 3-1 loss at Chicago on Wednesday night.

When the Penguins have played with one or two days of rest, they're 12-8-4. With three or more days of rest they're 5-1-0.

That come-from-behind 3-1 win at Washington on Oct. 28, the one that looks good now considering the tear the Capitals have been on? It came after three days off.

A dominant 3-1 win over Minnesota on Dec. 26 that kick-started Sidney Crosby's offensive resurgence? That came after the team's longest break of the season: four days over Christmas.

Players generally are averse to excuse-making and take pride in their conditioning, so good luck finding someone in the Penguins locker room who will say some of their poorer performances came because of fatigue.

“I don't think it's an issue. We just didn't come out with our best game,” forward Eric Fehr said after Wednesday night's loss in Chicago.

Still, making sure players stay rested is something coach Mike Sullivan is keenly aware of.

“That's part of the challenge of this league, providing enough recovery time and sufficient rest so these guys can be at their best,” Sullivan said. “The question that the coaches always throw around is, ‘Are we going to become a better team if we practice, or are we going to be better if we give them the recovery that they need?' ”

No snubs

As brilliant as Marc-Andre Fleury has been at times this season, it's hard to label his omission from the NHL All-Star Game as a snub.

That's because two of the goalies in the Metropolitan Division, as hard as it is to believe for those who have watched Fleury this season, are having better years.

Washington's Braden Holtby is 25-4-2. New Jersey's Cory Schneider has slightly better numbers than Fleury in all pertinent statistical categories.

Not that Fleury's teammates would be swayed by those kinds of arguments.

“He's a goaltender that deserves to be there,” All-Star defenseman Kris Letang said.

Roster moves

The Penguins shuffled Wilkes-Barre/Scranton call-ups Thursday, sending down Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson and calling up Tom Kuhnhackl and Bryan Rust in their place.

Kuhnhackl, 23, has yet to make his NHL debut. He's a 6-foot-2 winger who was a scorer in junior hockey but has evolved into a defensive forward and penalty killer as a pro.

Rust has played 19 games for the Penguins during the past two seasons.

Sheary had a goal and an assist against Boston in his second game up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last month, but no points in eight games after that.

Wilson had an assist, a fight and three hits in his first NHL game this season. He had no points and four hits in three games after that.

Shoot first

When the Penguins were outshot 37-18 by Chicago on Wednesday, it ended their streak of 13 games with at least 30 shots on goal. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that was the longest such streak in the NHL this season.

The Penguins have outshot opponents in 10 of Sullivan's first 12 games behind the bench.

Baby Pens stars

Three 21-year-old Penguins prospects — goalie Matt Murray, defenseman Derrick Pouliot and forward Dominik Simon — were selected Thursday to play in the AHL All-Star Game on Feb. 1. Murray is 14-4-0 with a league-leading .942 save percentage.

Pouliot, a two-time AHL All-Star, is among the top-20 highest-scoring defensemen in the league with five goals and 18 points. Simon leads all AHL rookies in scoring with 12 goals and 29 points.

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.