Well, the Penguins are in Carolina this evening for a match-up with the Hurricanes. The game is the first of an extended road trip and it is being a looked at a stretch of games that could really help, or really the Birds, who are still sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review has even gone as far as to compare this road trip to the one that sparked the Penguins Stanley Cup run two seasons ago and he just may be right. The team has just completed a series of trades, is dealing with a number of injuries and is sort of looking to find itself in the midst of a losing streak. A nice showing during this five game streak could solidify the Penguins playoff positioning as well as prove to them that they can indeed win in light of all of the injuries that they have had to deal with.
We are roughly five hours away face-off in Raleigh and like you, I am very anxious to see the “new look” Penguins in action. As we all wait for the moment when our heroes hit the ice, here are some thoughts, observations etc.
First of all, the team will get their first look at Alex Kovalev and I couldn’t be happier to watch him make his debut. Kovy was always a favorite of mine and I am excited by the prospects of having him back in black and vegas gold. Sure he is 38-years-old and has fostered a reputation as a player who just isn’t willing to work hard over the past nine years, but I dig it. He has a ton of offensive upside and he will add a dimension to the line-up that has been absent since Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz and company have been out of the mix.
Kovalev is saying and doing all of the right things and sounds like a guy that is excited about getting a second opportunity with a franchise that really took a chance on him back in the day. He credits the Penguins with giving him a chance to show the kind of player that he could be in the National Hockey League and had some of his finest NHL moments while skating in the Burgh. I fully expect him to take advantage of the opportunity, not only to make a run at his second Stanley Cup Championship, but to open eyes in and out of the organization in hopes of securing work for next season.
I also found it interesting to hear him mention that he would relish finishing his career here in Pittsburgh. He has seemingly always had a soft spot for the organization and it would be fitting to watch him skate his swan song here in town.
Kovalev is set to debut on the wing with Jordan Staal and James Neal. Though it may take that line some time to get acquainted with one another, that trio will give the Penguins line-up some much needed punch.
Kovalev will also get a chance to man the point on the power play, an idea that was apparently front and center when Shero kicked around the idea of acquiring him. Look for him to unleash his wicked wrist shot early and often from the high slot. Mark it down now… Kovy scores tonight.
Kovalev will wear number 72 for the team… it is worth noting that Kovalev once won an All Star Game MVP while skating with 72 on his back.
The Penguins have also called up Brian Strait, who will play his second game of the season on defense for the team. The move was necessitated by Brooks Orpik’s broken finger. I neglected to mention that injury in yesterday’s update, but know that you are all aware of it.
Losing Orpik is going to be a pretty big deal for this team. Though Kris Letang has been the team’s best defenseman this season, Orpik is the heart and soul of the unit. He is the team’s longest tenured player, isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and is respected by all in the room. It will be interesting to see how team deals with him not being out there for the next four weeks.
There is talk that Brett Sterling will be a healthy scratch this evening, which set off a bit of a firestorm on Twitter… I am not exactly sure why it is such a shock that a career AHLer might find himself in the press box after he team filled some spots with actual NHL wingers Neal and Kovalev. Yes Sterling has been a great soldier for the team and found a way to pick up 5-points in seven games, but he is a career AHLer who hasn’t been able to secure work in the league even while playing for the Atlanta Thrashers. He just doesn’t have the size to be a long term player in the National Hockey League… though it is great to have a player with his offensive upside in the organ-I-zation. Look for Sterling to be amongst the first players headed back to Wilkes Barre-Scranton as the team starts to get its wounded warriors back in the fold over the next week or two.
“Mario has always said, ‘You guys know the players. But having known Alexei Kovalev, certainly he goes to bat for him as a person and a teammate and things like that.” – Ray Shero on Mario Lemieux’s input in acquiring Alex Kovalev.
“Yeah, I feel really good out there and the last two, three days of practice. I’m ready to play.” – Dustin Jeffrey on the fact that he will return to the line-up this evening. (He’ll skate with Pascal Dupuis and Mike Rupp.
“Oh, 100 percent. Between being 100 percent physically and being excited, I think it’s 120 (percent).” Alex Kovalev’s new math in explaining how excited he is to be back in Pittsburgh.
“I think as far as me and the player I’ve always been and want to be, the six years in Pittsburgh have been the one (point in my career) that I really had the chance to explore my talent and show that I can be a different player, and show people that I’m not only a 20-goal scorer, I can be 30 (goals), 40 (goals), whatever. I still feel that I have that capability, and like I said, I’m really excited to start fresh again and hopefully it works.” – Kovalev on his time in the Burgh and what it means to be back.
“Let’s look at it this way – I’m sure most of you guys here probably heard before that when I won the Stanley Cup, I never had a chance to take it home because of the lockout year. So I never really saw the Cup except holding it on the ice. That’s one of the reasons I want to get another Stanley Cup, so I can finally share it with my friends and take it home maybe. I want to get another Cup before the end of my career. To start with a Cup and end with a Cup, that would be great.” – Kovy on what it would mean to win the Cup.
“I’d love to be here until the end. Looking back as an older guy, the most important thing for me in Pittsburgh was I didn’t know what to expect. The Penguins gave me a chance to explore my talent and become a great player. That is the reason I loved it in Pittsburgh. Now the Penguins are doing that again, giving me another chance.” – More Kovy on being back in the Burgh.
I haven’t given you guys a playlist in a while and decided that today is the day. Especially considering that I am going to be ramping up our music/pop culture content… figured it is time to get it back to the level that it used to be!
Anyway, without further adieu… your cold winter’s Friday afternoon, Kovy Debut playlist…
Fuel – Metallica (Live Sophia Bulgeria – THE BIG FOUR)
Burn – The Cure
Keep It In the Family – Anthrax
Never Gonna Stop – Rob Zombie
My Way – Limb Bizkit
Army of Me – Helmet (Bjork cover)
Be Without Fear – Behemoth
Supremacy – Sacred Reich
Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck – Prong
Die For You – Pennywise