PITTSBURGH — Greetings from Pittsburgh. The Penguins and Kings held their morning skates at the Consol Energy Center in preparation for their game Thursday, and in talking to players and coaches from both sides afterward, the links between the teams became a recurring theme.
Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma and assistant coach Tony Granato both played for the Kings, and Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi, of course, was a key member of the Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup championship team. He departed last summer as a free agent, and the Kings have keenly felt his absence.
Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, who’s scheduled to start Thursday’s game for the Penguins, is a former Kings minor leaguer who was stuck on their depth chart behind a guy named Jonathan Quick. Zatkoff was the winning goalie in Pittsburgh’s 4-1 victory over the Kings at Staples Center on Jan. 30.
Incidentally, Quick stayed on the ice to do extra work Thursday morning, making it likely that Martin Jones will start as the Kings try to tie a franchise record with their eighth straight road win.
A few more ties: Kings Coach Darryl Sutter is the uncle of Penguins center Brandon Sutter, and Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin was originally claimed by the Penguins in the fifth round of the 2007 draft and attended some of their rookie camps and tournaments but never signed with them.
“Well, I don’t think I was good enough,” said an admirably honest Muzzin, who became a free agent and signed with the Kings in 2010. “That was a long time ago. I don’t know. I just didn’t make it. …Things worked out in the end.”
Scuderi said he had dinner with Kings defenseman Matt Greene on Wednesday, and Greene did not pick up the check.
“No, as usual,” Scuderi said. “He had the alligator arms. But I wouldn’t expect anything else.”
On a more serious note, Scuderi said he stays in touch with many of his former Kings teammates.
“I was there for four years and had a wonderful time there,” Scuderi said. “I’m here now but you get to take those memories with you.”
Brandon Sutter — son of former NHL player Brent Sutter — said he saw his Uncle Darryl for a few minutes before Thursday’s skate. “Just kind of talk about a few things, but nothing too in-depth,” said the younger Sutter, who will be the Penguins’ second-line center while Evgeni Malkin recovers from a foot injury.
Brandon also said Darryl is a good uncle who always called him on birthdays and special occasions. “We’re a pretty close family, so when we get a chance to see each other, whether it’s in Pittsburgh, L.A., or somewhere else, it’s always fun to see him,” Brandon Sutter said. “Him and his little boy Chris, between the two of them, they’re fun to see.”
Darryl Sutter joked that he and Brandon “were cutting deals” when they chatted before Thursday’s skate. They don’t see much of each other during the summer because Brandon lives near his father, a few hours away from Darryl’s farm in Viking, Canada.
“He’s a good kid, and all of our family stays really respectful of what the game’s about and what teams are about, that’s for sure,” Darryl said.
Darryl Sutter also said his clearest memory of his team’s Jan. 30 loss to the Penguins is “we didn’t get many scoring opportunities at all in that game.” He also praised the personnel on their power play, which ranks first in the NHL at 24.4% efficiency, and said that even though the Penguins are missing injured players like Malkin, and Kris Letang (stroke) and Paul Martin (broken hand), their lineup remains formidable.
“It’s not like they’re a one-line team or a one-player team,” Sutter said. “You might argue that the best player other than [Anze] Kopitar in the league is [Sidney] Crosby. We’ve got to handle him tonight.”
Crosby leads the NHL in scoring with 95 points in 72 games. He had one assist in the Penguins’ victory over the Kings earlier this season.
Kings winger Dwight King will not be with the team. He has been excused to take care of a family matter