|Penguins veteran winger Gary Roberts will miss Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Gary Roberts highlights|
Early in the playoffs, the lesson-learned talk centered on how the Penguins dispatched the Ottawa Senators in four games after losing to those very same Senators in five games in last season's first round.
Thursday morning, with a potentially deciding Game 4 against the Philadelphia Flyers hours away, the lesson-learned talk centered on what the Penguins took away from losing Game 4 against the New York Rangers last round after winning the first three.
Nothing tangible can really be taken from one series to the next, but the Penguins obliged the inquiring minds covering this series anyway because they do believe in these lessons learned.
"Yeah, I think we realized how desperate teams are going to be," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "But we expected that coming into both scenarios there in the first two series, and we expect the same thing (tonight). We've always said the last one's the toughest, and that is always the case. So we know more than any time, we have to be ready."
The fact is the Penguins had their chances to win Game 4 against the Rangers, but Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant in making 29 saves for a 3-0 win. Lundqvist denied Marian Hossa at the post with his left skate 10 minutes into the first period, and stopped Evgeni Malkin on a penalty shot with 2:07 left in the second.
"Lundqvist was outstanding," coach Michel Therrien said. "If it was not for him, we probably would have won that game. Yes, we go through experiences. We understand it could be a cliché, but we know it's going to be a tough game (tonight). It's going to be a demanding game. They're going to give everything they've got. This is Game 7 for them. We're going to try to match that intensity… that emotion that they could have."
No Roberts tonight -- Therrien ruled veteran wing Gary Roberts out for Game 4, confirming that he has a mild case of pneumonia. Adam Hall will again play on the Penguins' fourth line alongside Maxime Talbot and Georges Laraque.
"He's still sick. He's got pneumonia," Therrien said. "It's a mild case, so he's listed as day-to-day. He's on medication right now and we'll go from there."
Staal returns – Jordan Staal's whirlwind off-day took him from Philadelphia to his home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on a private plane for the funeral for his paternal grandfather. Staal was back on the ice with his team Thursday morning and looked like he was enjoying himself.
"I asked him on the ice this morning how things were, and he said it was nice that he got a chance to be there," Therrien said. "In the meantime, you know, he's got something pretty special going on with his club, so I'm sure that he wants to be part of it. He doesn't want to miss anything, but it's up to everyone on how to deal with it, and he's got respect for that."
Crosby said hockey is probably Staal's best medicine for mourning right now.
"If hockey can take his mind off things for a while, maybe it's a good thing," the captain said. "It's never easy, and we're definitely there for him."
That's their deal – The Penguins don't care too much that Flyers coach John Stevens will likely put Mike Richards and Danny Briere on a line together tonight.
"Not our concern," was the recurring response.
"It won't change our game at all," winger Jarkko Ruutu said. "Whatever their lineup is won't make a difference to our lineup or the way we play."
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik isn't surprise by the change.
"Being down 3-0 and I think they have scored five goals, so it's more to just spark a couple of guys to get them going," he said. "It doesn't change anything for us."
Watch Party – The Penguins set up shop Wednesday night in a hospitality room at the team's hotel to watch Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
Some guys went just to hang out, but plenty watched with a keen eye trying to pick out anything that could help them should they beat the Flyers one more time. To no one's surprise, the Red Wings were the team in focus.
"For example, we were watching (Henrik) Zetterberg and how he always comes on the right side, looks like he's going wide and he always rolls it back on his forehand," Orpik said. "It's a little something that we talk about. You can definitely learn a lot from watching those games."
Maxime Talbot said he likes to watch what each team is doing collectively, say with their power play or penalty kill, more so than just watching particular tendencies of certain players.
"You watch a little bit as a fan, but you definitely watch what they do no the power play, the goalie, and details of how they play their system," he said. "I like to watch hockey and I like to pick up things about collective play. Even watching it live I think I can pick up a lot of things."
Quotable – "If we win this game we're in the Stanley Cup Final," Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "That's been our goal all year. Everyone is so excited. Even in the pre-game skate there was a buzz that we can get this done tonight. We'll be ready."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.