Notebook: Lineup tonight foreshadows opener
The team the Penguins put on the ice tonight against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets will look a lot like the one that will open the regular season in two weeks.
Depending on your viewpoint, that could be good or bad news.
“This is the most veteran lineup we’ve put out so far,” coach Eddie Olczyk said. “We’re at home. We hope our fans come out and get a glimpse of a possible lineup for Oct. 10 against L.A.”
Sebastien Caron will start in goal. The lines will be as follows, from left to right: Mario Lemieux, Martin Straka and Konstantin Koltsov; Ryan Malone, Rico Fata and Aleksey Morozov; Reid Simpson, Mike Eastwood and Kelly Buchberger; Brian Holzinger, Matt Murley and Matt Bradley.
The defense will be composed of Marc Bergevin, Steve McKenna, Dick Tarnstrom, Drake Berehowsky, Brooks Orpik and Dan Focht.
Defensemen Michal Rozsival (knee) and Josef Melichar (shoulder) are practicing and surely will be in the opening-night lineup if available, but they have not yet been cleared for full contact.
Olczyk is pleased with the veteran leadership on his team.
“We have really great chemistry going on in the locker room,” he said. “Even though there are still some cuts to be made, I can feel an excitement and a bond that sometimes takes a lot longer to develop.”
Lemieux, Straka and Koltsov were up front on the power play Thursday at practice, with Tarnstrom at the left point and Berehowsky at the right point.
Olczyk stressed that nothing is firm, but he likes Berehowsky’s experience and smarts.
Lemieux on his point men: “Two guys who can handle the puck very well and make good passes. Berehowsky’s got a good shot, so we’ll try that for a while and see how it works.”
The following players on the bubble must clear waivers if they are sent to the minor leagues: J.S. Aubin, Patrick Boileau, Bradley, Tom Kostopoulos, Milan Kraft, Eric Meloche, Ramzi Abid and Simpson.
McKenna wasn’t sure what to think when the coaching staff started using him on defense.
“I thought it was a prank they pulled on me,” he said. “But I like it.”
The 6-foot-8 McKenna started his professional career as a defenseman but was quickly shifted to left winger with the Kings. He has played only a few NHL games on defense. He might play a few more if injuries continue on the blue line.
Tonight, McKenna will start his third exhibition game on defense. All reports are good so far.
“I feel pretty comfortable back there,” he said. “I’ll play anywhere they want me.”
In an era when more than 300 NHL players are using composite sticks made of carbon, graphite and Kevlar, Lemieux sticks with what works for him: wood.
Lemieux is the only Penguins player who uses a wood stick.
“He can feel the puck better on his stick when he takes passes and stick-handles,” equipment manager Steve Latin said.
“Keep your stick on the ice.” — Olczyk’s advice to Koltsov, who will skate with Lemieux tonight
“If you want to make a hockey club, you’ll do whatever it takes, and that’s part of your character. Some guys have character, others not as much. It’s all about the individual.” — Lemieux.