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Penguins conserve energy ahead of possible clincher

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- Dan Bylsma knew the question was coming. And staying with his stringent Stanley Cup Playoffs policy, the Pittsburgh Penguins coach initially refused to answer it.

"The lineup will not be discussed," were the first words Bylsma uttered when asked who his starting goalie would be for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Islanders 7 p.m. Saturday.

Then, in a tacit acknowledgment of the obviousness of the answer following Tomas Vokoun's shutout in his Penguins postseason debut during Thursday night's Game 4, Bylsma continued on and left little doubt about whom will be between the pipes for Pittsburgh when the puck drops at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, RDS, TSN, ROOT, MSG PLUS).

"We know what Tomas did last night in the game and how well he's played for us," Bylsma said during a conference call with media Friday afternoon. "And especially early on [Thursday] stopping a few grade-A chances and being really big for us in that game."

Vokoun made 31 saves for his second Stanley Cup Playoffs shutout and first in nine years in making his first postseason appearance in more than six years.

The No. 1-seeded Penguins regained control of their best-of-7 series with the No. 8 Islanders, taking a 3-2 lead after Marc-Andre Fleury allowed 14 goals over the previous three contests (losing two).

The night before being named a finalist for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, Sidney Crosby had a highlight-reel goal and an assist during Game 5 to give him eight points in four playoff games.

Crosby gingerly left the ice with about two minutes to play in the second period after blocking a shot with the inside of his left foot. Crosby returned for the start of the third period, and there are no indications he has any injury.

Crosby did wear a slightly modified mouth-guard mask for Game 5 than he had for the Penguins' previous home game May 3. Crosby downplayed the significance of the adjustment, saying he preferred the marginally different plastic shield he had on his black visitors helmet.

"It wasn't anything major, and I don't think you could even notice it," said Crosby, who also took a puck to the throat during Game 4 in Long Island. "Probably nothing really worth discussing. There was definitely an adjustment, but nothing any different than any typical adjustment you'd make with your equipment or anything like that."

For the second consecutive non-game day during this series, the Penguins did not practice. That means, even if this series gets to a Game 7, the team will not have practiced from Game 4 on. If Pittsburgh does advance to the conference semifinals, it will have gone seven days between practices.

The Penguins have 13 players on their roster who are 30 or older.

"The age of the players on the team is really not a consideration as much as getting time to rest and time to recover and just maximizing the opportunity to go on the ice," Bylsma said. "And then when you go on the ice … it's not just practice and waste energy."

With Game 6 scheduled for an evening faceoff (the 7 p.m. start time was not official until Thursday), the Penguins will have a morning skate.

"We just don't feel the need to skate two times between now and the game," Bylsma said. "We did that between Games 4 and 5 and we're going to take the opportunity between Games 5 and 6 here today."

Bucking something of a League trend in recent years, Bylsma and his staff are known for conducting morning skates with more structure and intensity than many other teams.

In effect, Bylsma said he'd rather prioritize having a crisp morning skate than going through a practice the day prior.

"If we're going to do a morning skate, we do have detail and we do have things in the morning skate that we apply to our game and take into the game," Bylsma said. "Whether that's the power play, special teams or some other detail. So we have that in the morning skate, and essentially we'd probably do the same things today if we chose to skate and have tomorrow be an optional, so it really isn't that much different."

Tomas Vokoun
Goalie - PIT
RECORD: 1-0-0
SV: 31 | SO: 1
Should the Penguins lose Saturday, Bylsma said the back-to-back nature of playing the series-deciding game 24 hours later will have an effect on any lineup decision he makes. Bylsma dressed forwards Tyler Kennedy and Joe Vitale and defenseman Simon Despres for Game 5 in place of Jussi Jokinen, Tanner Glass and Mark Eaton, respectively.

Forward Beau Bennett and defenseman Deryk Engelland also have seen action in the series and could be possibilities should there be a Game 7.

One position, though, that the potential two-games-in-two-days situation will not be considered is at goalie, Bylsma said.

For myriad obvious reasons, the Penguins would much prefer there be no Game 7. Crosby, who's a week into a return after a month-long absence because of his broken jaw, is just one example of a player who could benefit from the extra rest.

He said that consideration ranks far down the list of motivations for winning Game 6 on Saturday.

"Everyone's kind of got their bumps and bruises at this point -- we just want to make sure that we win the series, and that's not because of any other reason than guys are out there to win," Crosby said.

"We have a great opportunity here to win it now, so we want to make sure we get it done."

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