Friday, February 1, 2008

Reinforcements trickling in!

--Colby Armstrong practiced yesterday and virtually declared himself good to go.

--Adam Hall practiced hard and while he didn’t give his unconditional return tomorrow night, it does seem like he’ll be back sooner than later; which is good news for the Pens faceoff rates and penalty kills.

Sadly America can’t deny crappy hockey players for long, as Kris Beech is in-country. But don’t expect him in the lineup tomorrow night. Michel Therrien is not a fan of Beech at all; the last time the two were together was a playoff run in Wilkes-Barre in 2005. Despite a great AHL roster (featuring among others Armstrong, Ryan Whitney, Erik Christensen, Michel Ouellet, Max Talbot, Rob Scuderi, Tomas Surovy, Shane Endicott and Marc-Andre Fleury) the Baby Pens were bounced in the 2nd round. Therrien was less than pleased, especially with Beech not really carrying the banner as far as he should. Beech would get traded that summer. To Nashville (where Ray Shero was assistant GM).

Speaking of Fleury; according to the PG he went through a rigorous on ice pre-practice workout and is going to give it a go in an actual practice today. It’s been 9 weeks now since he suffered an ankle sprain, which thanks to the solid play of Ty Conklin doesn’t actually seem that long. One gets the feeling that the NHL at large is learning more and more about the high ankle and how to treat it.

Earlier--even this season, you saw guys try to rush back before 100% (Talbot and Washington’s Alex Semin) only to have a setback. Because of the low bloodflow to the area plus the importance of pushing off your ankle (especially for a butterfly goalie) you just can’t rush it. The ankle will get better when it gets better and all you can do is just wait it out. Surely that’s going to be the strategy for Sidney Crosby. He’s too important and it’s too late in the season to suffer a protracted setback.

Now that some familiar faces are set to start trickling back in the lineup, let’s look at a line scenario (assuming Armstrong and Hall are ready and Jarkko Ruutu is not suspended).


Why, that’s almost starting to look like an NHL lineup again!

Jonathan Filewich has given a lot of energy and is playing balls out. He hasn’t had “Tyler Kennedy” level impact, but he’s been better, to us, than any of the Tim Brent’s and Ryan Stone’s that have gotten the same chance.

Nathan Smith continues to impress as a reliable lower line center. If he can keep winning faceoffs (he’s at 66.7% but only has only taken 15 draws in his two games up) then he might be able to carve out a niche as a 4th line center for a while. It will be a numbers game though, even after those close to returning come back the Pens still have three more forwards that will be back sooner or later (Crosby, Kennedy and Gary Roberts) that will probably knock Smith back to Wilkes-Barre. But Smith has proved to be good depth so far.

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