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Bylsma Transcript on Crosby's Return

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins
Head coach Dan Bylsma held a conference call with the media Sunday afternoon to discuss captain Sidney Crosby's return to the lineup on Monday night when the Penguins host the New York Islanders at 7 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center. Here is the full transcript of Bylsma's remarks:

On if Crosby will be wearing any special protective equipment:
Sidney will continue to wear the equipment he’s been wearing in practice since training camp started and since he’s been practicing with us. I don’t know specifically any, if all, modifications to that particular helmet.

On how Crosby’s return will affect his line combinations:
(Monday), the plan is for Sidney to skate with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. That’s a line he’s played a lot with and has the most experience with on our team. It will be starting that way with Sidney. That will continue to leave James Neal with Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy. We could possibly see Jordan move around as well with Malkin.

On how soon he expects Crosby to be back at top form:
The expectation, I think, with any player who’s been in practice and hasn’t been in games and is now going to get back in games – it’s different. The game is going faster. There are different scenarios, more scenarios. You’re talking about a lot of different things. But I think there’s going to be a (period of) time before he totally feels comfortable and back, certainly, to the level that he was playing when he went on that point streak in those games or how he was at that level. But the one thing I think is easy to see is that in practice, he’s one of the best players on the ice. He is the best player in the ice with his speed and the way he plays the game. So he’s going to bring that into the game tomorrow. It’s going to take some time. And sometimes Game 1 is on adrenaline, and it takes a few games for players to get that back, get the timing back and to get the sense of the speed of the game. It’s been close to a year for him to play a system, play to the expectations of where he needs to go on the ice and what we expect from our team. So I know we’ve laughed about that a little bit today, that he might need a refresher course when it comes to the rink (Monday) morning.

On what limitations Crosby will have regarding ice time and the situations he’ll be used in:
In terms of ice time and minutes, in talking with players that are returning back – Tyler Kennedy returned back, other players as well – there’s always a period where you’re getting back to where your game is at. I think Sidney’s adrenaline is going to be going so high (Monday) that he’s going to be tired out a little bit quicker than he normally would. He thinks maybe he’s only going to be able to play 12 minutes (Monday), and I laugh because once Sidney Crosby gets to 12 minutes, he’s certainly going to want the 13th minute to get out there if it’s a (certain) situation. I don’t know exactly what a number would be, but it’s certainly not going to be rushing right back into 20-plus minutes – where he was at before. But there are certain circumstances that if they arrive in the game, he’ll get into more, like if there are more power plays or there are circumstances where his minutes could get a little bit more than maybe even you plan. But he certainly will be watched and monitored and we’ll see how he’s doing and what his conditioning level is in terms of game situations. That one I always laugh at, because when you get those guys in a game, they always want to go out one more shift. So we may have to tie him to the bench a little bit.

On his players protecting Crosby:
In terms of how we play and what we expect from our team, I think we showed last year and we show now that we’re going to be a tough team to play against. We’re going to be a team that plays a physical style and I think we’re going to be a team that backs each other up with our play and backs each other up when and if things get rough on the ice. I don’t think that’s going to change regardless of who’s in our lineup.

On how Crosby responded to contact in practice:
I don’t think he got any crushing blows in practice. He certainly had a fair amount of contact. He was around the net; he was with people. A couple times he got hit to the ice. A couple times he had some contact into the boards in puck battle situations. That happened over the course of a month or so, five weeks of having those situations. I think initially when he started, there was a getting used to (period of) going into those areas. In the last four weeks, he’s initiating going into the net, going into those areas, finding contact, winning pucks and playing in that. So as much as can be done in practice, he’s been getting that over a period of time – some days more than others. But he has been hit and gone to the ice a couple times. He has crashed into the net, so he’s had some of that and as our players find out, he’s a hard guy to hit. He’s a hard guy to go after and hit hard. So he’s had a fair amount of that and I know he’s confident in those areas. He’s confident going to the net. He’s confident in that traffic area right now. I’m confident you’ll see him go to the net hard (Monday) night.

On if he anticipates any hesitation on Crosby’s part:
You know, every player has to get back on the ice and it’s going to be faster and quicker and more situations than you get in practice. But to this point, he’s been the guy who’s been going to the net and initiating and I think he’s been ready for that for a while as he’s gone through his rehab and progressed. And as he’s gotten closer, I think he’s continued to do that. I think you’ll see him do that (Monday).

On the final hurdle Crosby had to clear to get back in the lineup and when that happened:
He has been progressing and getting closer. That’s been happening over the course of the last week-and-a-half or so. But really, until he went and saw Dr. (Michael) Collins in conjunction with Dr. (Charles) Burke – they saw him today and talked to him and cleared him, and that’s when the decision was made that (Monday) would be the day.

On how Crosby feels about his return:
I’ve spoken with Sid the last couple days and thought maybe we’d be getting closer. I knew about the doctor today. The only thing I can really say is that is that I would liken it to the sound you hear in the voice of a player that’s going to go play in their first National Hockey League game. He’s excited. He’s anxious. He’s been wanting to play hockey for a long time. And as he’s progressed and gotten closer, I think anticipating, you try to put that in the background and not think about that. But now that he is scheduled to play (Monday), the anticipation is come to the forefront and he’s excited.

On the impact Crosby’s return will have on his teammates:
I think when he came out for player introductions on opening day this season – where he came out in a suit to the bench – I think you get a fraction of an idea what it’s going to be like when he hops out (Monday) right before that game and he comes out the tunnel. I think the building is going to be going crazy. But we’ve come off our road trip where we haven’t played our best hockey, and I think it’s going to be a boost for our team. I think our guys are going to be excited to have him in the lineup, excited to have him in the room and excited to have him be in his customary spot of a guy on our team. I think there will be some challenge for our guys to not go out and be a spectator and watch like all the fans are going to watch and see what happens when Sidney Crosby touches the puck for the first time. That will be a challenge. But also, I think it’s going to energize our guys and energize our team and they’re going to feed off the excitement that’s going to be in the building.

On if the team matured not having to rely on Crosby when he was out:
Our team has talked and worked on becoming a team, not just Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and not just relying on those guys. We’ve done that – we’ve tried to do that – for a couple years now with him in our lineup. There are and have been key parts and key players. We’ve tried to play a certain way and I think our players believe in that. Without them, that certainly was tested by the eyes of the people looking at us. When you win a hockey game or you lose a hockey game, you immediately talk about the lack of people in your lineup, of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. I think you saw our team learn we could be a good team. Our team believed we could be a good team. Our team really focused on how we need to play, and that’s been a strength of the guys in that room. I think this year in particular, with the anticipation of getting Evgeni Malkin back and the anticipation at some point in time down the road, getting Sidney Crosby back, there’s a feeling that we could be a real good team. We’ve been able to win some hockey games here through the first 20 games, and starting (Monday), we’re going to see that team with Sidney Crosby back.

On the team maintaining the urgency they had without Crosby:
We believe that’s been a big part of our team, a big part of how we play. We think that’s how we play as a team. I know our players are proud of that. They believe in that. That’s part of what we bring to the rink every day. I think it’s part of the expectations for the players in that room, from each other. That expectation is going to be there when Sidney Crosby gets back there as well. Are there concerns? As a coach, we don’t want to be in a situation where we just stand around and get caught up in watching Sidney Crosby play. I think have seen him in practice, we’ve seen him do some pretty crazy things and we’ve seen him at a high pace. But I think it’s not going to be the first time we’ve seen him. We do have to engage and we do have to get to our game and we do have to be ready to play like our team can. That’ll be part of the leadership of the guys in that room that have been doing that for the first 20 games and did that last year. I think that’ll be the expectations for the guys in that room, like Jordan Staal, Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin – they have those expectations for each other and you’ve seen them do that in the absence of a lot of players and play well. We’re certainly going to enjoy watching 87 go out there, but I also know that we’re going to want to get back and win some hockey games here after losing two.
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