Penguins notebook: Team getting a much-needed break from back-to-back games |

Penguins notebook: Team getting a much-needed break from back-to-back games

Jerry DiPaola
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry makes a glove save against the Sabres in the second period Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.

After playing on consecutive days eight times this season, the Penguins will go a month without playing games on consecutive days.

After concluding a back-to-back series with the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, the Penguins’ next one won’t come until Jan. 4-5 at home against Carolina and on the road against the New York Islanders.

It’s a welcome respite for a team with a league-high 19 back-to-backs on its schedule.

“We’ve had a lot, and that might take a little bit of a toll, especially on the guys who play bigger minutes,” winger Bryan Rust said. “Not having that burden for a while, I think guys can stay a little bit more fresh and play a little harder and have a little more success.”

Coach Mike Sullivan is looking forward to having some space between games.

“We’ve gone through a really difficult schedule from a logistics standpoint,” he said. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of practice time. Most of the practices have been more recovery skates than they are substantive practices where we’re actually trying to get better out there.

“Hopefully, with the schedule spread out a little bit more moving forward, it will give us an opportunity to practice things we’re showing them on film.”

Incidentally, Rust said he thought the Buffalo back-to-back might have been one of the easier ones of the season. It included short travel and both teams in the same boat.

Rust said he thought the early November set with consecutive road games at Washington and Nashville was probably the most difficult back-to-back.

“Based on the teams and based on travel, that was tough,” Rust said.

Gotta hand it to him

Carter Rowney missed most of November with a broken hand, but his sense of humor remained intact.

For instance, he said he wasn’t too worried about the injury causing harm to his smooth finishing touch around the net.

“I don’t know if that’s ever been the case,” he said. “I know what I’m working with here.”

While Rowney is not known for his soft hands, he is known for physical play, and he’s recorded a total of 15 hits in his four games back in the lineup.

“I just want to keep building every game,” he said. “I think I’ve had some solid games since I’ve been back. Brought some fresh legs, I feel like.”

More than mere numbers

Sullivan isn’t necessarily looking for statistics from defenseman Justin Schultz.

“He doesn’t always end up on the scoresheet,” Sullivan said, “but he helps us create offense. He makes a good first pass. He sees the ice really, well and he helps us get out of our zone.”

Before Saturday’s game, Schultz had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 21 games.

Learning process

Top prospect Daniel Sprong was a healthy scratch in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 5-4 overtime win over Milwaukee on Friday night. After scoring seven goals in his first five games of the season, Sprong scored twice in his next 12.

“Part of the process of being a pro here,” Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach Clark Donatelli told The Citizens’ Voice. “We wanted him to watch from up top. We’ve been doing a lot of film work with him, and this is part of the process.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib. Jonathan Bombulie contributed.

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