By: Casey Shea

What a difference a week makes.

After a dismal 0-3 start to the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins have rattled off three straight wins.

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Are things perfect now? Don’t be silly. However, there are some big signs of improvement over the past seven days.

We’ll get to that in a bit, but there was one thing that came up this week that isn’t necessarily hockey-related.

Can we briefly discuss what constitutes a winning streak? After the Penguins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, some people claimed they were on a two-game winning streak.

To me, the word “streak” can’t be applied until a team has won/lost three games in a row. Why? Because the legendary movie “Major League” taught us this years ago.

With that settled, let’s move on to the Pens.

Pascal Dupuis To Return Against Dallas

This came as a bit of a shock, considering he was supposed to miss about a month to start the season.

Following today’s morning skate, Dupuis announced that he has been cleared to return and will make his season debut tonight.

Pascal Dupuis, whose season was cut short due to blood clots last year, suffered a lower-body injury toward the end of training camp.

As for where he will fit into the lineup, I’d expect to see him on the third or fourth line to start. If Chris Kunitz continues to struggle on the top line, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dupuis get a shot alongside Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

For now, let’s just be happy to see Duper back in the lineup.

 (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Daniel Sprong Deserves More Ice Time

Speaking of the lineup, Daniel Sprong has earned some additional ice time.

The Penguins’ second-round pick this past summer has been a lot of fun to watch so far.

In the Penguins’ 2-0 win over the Senators last week, I spent much of the evening watching Sprong every time he hopped over the boards.

Here are a couple of things I noticed from our seats that night:

His positioning away from the puck is remarkable. I don’t know how to better describe it, but he’s always in a position to make a play. You can’t teach that kind of thing and it’s impressive.

His feet are always moving. One thing good youth hockey coaches drill into kids’ brains is to not stand around. Always be moving so you have momentum when you need to make a play.

I still have (not-so) fond memories of former coaches yelling this throughout practices.

The point is, Sprong gets on the ice and works until his shift is up. He even puts his head down and chugs hard to the bench for line changes. Coaches LOVE that.

How many times have you seen a team take a too many men penalty because one guy was lazy coming off the ice? This won’t happen with Sprong.

To date, Sprong has only played five games. After he plays his ninth, the Penguins will need to decide whether to keep him around or send him back to juniors.

For me, I feel that he’s earned a permanent spot on the roster. However, I’d like to see him get at least some time alongside either Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Maybe not an entire game, but throw him out there with those guys a little more.

The team has had trouble scoring goals so far this season and Sprong has been creating a lot of chances. If anything, it gives you more information about his strengths and weaknesses.

 (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Has Crosby Woken Up?

Crosby showed how dominant he can be against the Florida Panthers Tuesday night. From the opening shift, he looked like a different player than the first five games of the season.

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Immediately, he tried to take on and split the defense off a rush. It didn’t work, but it was the first time I could remember him trying it this season.

There was something about that move that had been lacking in his play to start the season. You could see the determination in his body language. Was anyone surprised when he scored in the first period?

Ok, I realize some probably were because it snapped a 0-17 streak on the power play to start the year. Moving on.

The point is, he was going to break out of that funk no matter the cost. For reference, he had a total of eight shots in those first five games.

On Tuesday, he racked up nine shots and added two assists.

Hopefully, this was the start of things to come.

 (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Sellout Streak

As noted above, I was in attendance for the 2-0 win over the Senators last week. Here’s the thing, the sellout streak is nice and all, but I’ve got some questions about it.

Every game, they announce the attendance with “[Insert number]…another standing room only sellout.”

That’s all well and good. I get it. The seats were sold. Cool.

However, I’m more interested in the actual attendance because there were entire rows of empty seats that night.

In fact, there were seven seats in front of us wide open and two next to me. I’ve never been to a game at Consol Energy Center where this was the case. It wasn’t hard to spot open groups of seats either. It was just strange.

We weren’t planning on going to the game initially. A text message alert from the Penguins was what got us to go. The night before the game, they alerted fans that remaining seats for the game were 50 percent off.

Naturally, my wife and I jumped at the idea and had a great time. For that, I want to thank the Penguins because it was a great promotion, even if it was a last-minute thing. Hopefully, they do more of these throughout the season.

Of course, after the game started I began to wonder if this was all some ploy to keep the sellout streak intact.

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t care about the actual streak and I don’t know many people that do. I understand how important it is to the Penguins and such, but I don’t think fans are high-fiving each other when the sellout announcement is made.

(Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Columbus Hires John Tortorella

This isn’t exactly about the Penguins, but it does loosely pertain to them.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have played seven games this season. They have lost all seven. As a result, anyone who had Todd Richards in the “First NHL Coach to be Fired” pool is very happy.

His replacement is quote factory John Tortorella, formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks (briefly).

I can’t wait for this. This is a guy that absolutely lives for the game of hockey and has no filter whatsoever. If you need a refresher course on just some of his (in)famous moments, watch the video below.

Warning: Some Words Have Been Bleeped

I vividly remember the “25 percent rule” quote. It’s still one of my all-time favorite hockey quotes.

It’s worth noting that the Blue Jackets were widely expected to be a contender in the Metropolitan Division this year.

It’s early and that could still happen, but they’ve certainly dug themselves a big hole to start.

Is Tortorella the right guy for the job? Time will tell, but he’s sure to light a fire under some people in that locker room and probably some members of the press.

That’s it for this week, check back every Thursday for more observations on the Penguins. You can follow me on Twitter here!

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