With the lockout dragging out to its 82nd day, the two new goaltenders were spotted with the Penguins' players at Iceplex in Southpointe today.
Pascal Dupuis (right) and Matt Niskanen.
Dupuis, a right winger, and Niskanen, a defenseman, donned the gear of goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson respectively and took to the pipes. Fleury and Johnson, a former Penguin who is currently a free agent, practiced as skaters instead.
Dupuis said the switch was made in order to change things up and joked he wanted to "try out some different muscles."
One thing which hasn't changed is a cautious attitude towards negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA despite two days of talks in New York which have reportedly been mostly positive. That doesn't mean there isn't room for hope.
“I’m more optimistic the last two days than I have been for a long time," said Niskanen. "It’s good that they are talking. The reports have been good. They’re making progress. Good dialogue. Based on what I hear though, they still have a lot of details to iron out. But they’re working hard at it at least and making an effort to get things moving. “
“Got to remain cautious but at the same time, it has to be (optimistic) because they’re still talking and the right people are in the room right now," said Dupuis.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and team owner Ron Burkle were seen as facilitators of the increased negotiations. Their dynamic was not a shock to Crosby's teammates.
“Obviously we know Sid and all the players want to get back on the ice, " Dupuis said. "At the same time, Ron is a really, really smart person that knows what’s good for the game and what’s good for the game is to get back on the ice right now. “
“That’s kind of what I expected," Niskanen said. "They obviously have good respect for each other. I think they’re both passionate about getting the game back on the ice. That’s probably one of the better things that could have happened to the situation is to have those two guys be almost mediators in a sense. “
Talks between the NHL and NHLPA went on throughout most of Wednesday and ended just before 1 a.m. this morning. They are expected to continue this afternoon. After having seen previous talks last only a few hours - and in one instance, just 10 minutes - the length of current discussions is a welcome change.
"I think it’s a different mindset," said left winger Matt Cooke. "I think the group of owners that are in the room right now and the people representing the league are more committed to the process than they were before.
“That’s a good sign. That means they have serious talks going on," Niskanen said. "That means the league is taking it serious rather than walking out in 10 minutes. That’s a good sign. The fact that they’re talking that long must mean something serious is going on. “
With the NHL having canceled games up until next Friday, how critical is it for a deal to be reached in the near future?
“I don’t think it’s do or die right now," said Dupuis. "But…. it’s getting late."
(Photo: Seth Rorabaugh/Post-Gazette)
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