Blueline Beat: 10/13/11-10/20/11

It certainly has been an interesting week for the Pens. They had some losses to three teams but had two nice wins in the past two games. Letang was suspended two games after a boarding call in the Jets game, which brought about some mixed opinions. We were rewarded with the much anticipated return of Brooks Orpik in last night's game against the Canadiens. Joe Vitale on Orpik's return, "Having him back was a big deal. It was infectious. It made all of us want to be a more physical hockey team."

Here's my recap of the past five games.

Pens vs. Capitals- 10/13/11 (OTL 3-2)

-Brent Johnson got the start due to Fleury's illness and was strong through the middle part of the game to help keep the Pens in the game.

-There were no points from defensemen in this game.

-Johnson stopped 16 of 19 shots.

-Engelland led the team with 3 blocked shots.

-Lovejoy and Niskanen led the defensemen with 3 shots apiece.

-Letang led the team in ice time with 28:04.

Pens vs. Sabres- 10/15/11 (L 3-2)

-The Pens ended up with a loss in part to the Sabres just spending too much time in the Pens' zone.

-Regardless of the loss, Niskanen played a fairly strong game.

-Martin got his second assist on the Jordan Staal goal.

-Fleury stopped 25 of 28 shots and made some big saves.

-Lovejoy and Michalek led the team with 3 blocked shots apiece.

-Michalek led the defensemen with 3 shots.

-Martin led the team in ice time with 26:12.

Pens vs. Jets- 10/17/11 (L 2-1)

-Again, this was a game where the opponent spent a lot of time in the Pens' own zone. Plus, the Winnipeg crowd was roaring for their team to get their first win.

-Michalek's trip in the opening seconds of the game helped lead to the Jets' first goal, eight seconds into the first period.

-Letang made a pretty sweet swat-away save to help Fleury out.

-Michalek helped to take away the sting of his trip a bit by scoring the first regular strength goal by a defenseman this season.

-Letang had his sixth assist on the Michalek goal.

-Engelland had his first fight of the season against Chris Thorburn.

-Fleury stopped 32 of 34 shots.

-Martin led the team with 2 blocked shots (tied with Vitale)

-Niskanen led the team with 4 shots (tied with Neal)

-Martin led the team in ice time with 23:54

Pens vs. Wild- 10/18/11 (W 4-2)

-This game was the first in Letang's two game suspension.

-Brian Strait, who was called up to replace Letang, left the game in the second period. He is now on IR with a hyper-extended elbow.

-The Pens played the second half of the game with only five defensemen, but held their own.

-Michalek got his first assist of the season on Jordan Staal's power play goal.

-Engelland took a puck to the face where he already was stitched up. True to form, this did not stop him for very long.

-Brent Johnson played this game and played it spectacularly. He stopped 24 of 26 shots. It looked like he took a knee injury in the third period but got back up and kept on playing. He deserved the #1 star he got for this game.

-Engelland led the team with 3 blocked shots.

-Michalek led the defensemen with 3 shots.

-Michalek led in ice time with 29:20.

Pens vs. Canadiens- 10/20/11 (W 3-1)

-As mentioned earlier, this was Orpik's first game back of the season. He logged 17:54 of ice time.

-Engelland got his first and second assist of the season in this game. His first was on the Vitale goal and the second on Asham's goal. Engelland earned the second star of the game, and had a quite physical game with six hits.

-Niskanen earned his second assist of the year on the Asham goal.

-Fleury stopped 27 of 28 shots and was close to his first shutout of the season.

-Engelland and Martin led the team with 2 blocked shots (along with Staal and Vitale)

-Michalek led the defensemen with 3 shots.

-Martin led in ice time with 27:23.

Best of the Blueline

I want to give some credit to a defenseman who has really stepped up his game...

Matt Niskanen knew coming into this season that he was going to have to earn his spot. With seven defensemen and only six spots, he was going to have to stand out. He has. Niskanen has become a stronger player everywhere on the ice. Defensively he is making better decisions on the ice and his positioning is much better. At this time he has recorded 11 hits. Offensively he is contributing, with one goal and two assists. Niskanen has 21 shots on goal, which leads the defensemen. With Orpik recovered and Letang's suspension at an end Bylsma will have to sit a defenseman on Saturday. Niskanen has made a case that it should not be him.

Thanks for reading! New post next week!


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