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Inside Scoop: Pens-Devils

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' Tuesday morning skate before playing the New Jersey Devils.

* The Penguins had a mandatory morning skate after using Monday as a travel day. The only expected player missing was Nick Bjugstad, and head coach Mike Sullivan said the forward is week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Bjugstad had played in just three games after missing 46 games following surgery to repair a core muscle injury. Sullivan said that this current injury is a new one and not related to his prior injury.

* This is the workflow the Penguins used…

Zucker-Crosby-Sheary 

Marleau-Malkin-Rust 

Rodrigues-McCann-Hornqvist 

Tanev-Blueger-Lafferty 

Dumoulin-Letang 

Pettersson-Marino 

Johnson-Schultz 

Riikola-Ruhwedel

These are the power-play units they practiced with…

First unit: Schultz, Crosby, Malkin, Hornqvist, Zucker 

Second unit: Letang, Marino, Marleau, Rust, McCann

Schultz and Letang did switch for a couple of reps.

* Matt Murray will start in goal. He is 4-1-0 with a 2.61 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in five career games at the Prudential Center.

* After the Penguins' loss to Carolina on Sunday, their eighth in the last 10 games, Sullivan's postgame media availability was one of the best we've seen. He was honest and insightful. If you have a few minutes, I recommend watching it.

Video: Coach Sullivan speaks to the media

One thing that particularly stuck out to me was what he told the team following the game.

"One of the things I said to them is that the answers are inside our dressing room," Sullivan said. "We've just got to make sure we bring the right attitude to the rink so that we can work ourselves out of this. We've got to rely on one another, we've got to trust one another. It comes down to a certain attitude, a level of enthusiasm. We've got to make sure that we respond the right way to the adversity. That's the most important takeaway."

If Tuesday's morning skate was any indication, the players did bring the right attitude to the rink. It wasn't a somber, serious skate with the guys all hanging their heads and getting frustrated with each other when a drill got messed up. There was a good energy amongst the group, with the players working hard and working together with smiles on their faces.

One example of this came while they were practicing the power play. Marino tried putting a pass across the ice to McCann but it got broken up. "Nice try buddy!" McCann called over to him. "Good look. Good try."

* After losses, a lot of times Sullivan and the players will talk about needing to watch the video and look at the areas of their game that they need to improve. I asked Brian Dumoulin if they have to do a lot more of that video work during a stretch like this.

"It's late in the season and we kind of know what we are, but obviously there's some little things and some little microcosms in games that keep creeping in and stuff that we don't want to happen," he said. "For the most part, some of the goals against we can control just by our own decisions, so we'll watch that. But system-wise, not too much."

And system-wise, when the Penguins have success their system is rooted in a straight-ahead game where they can leverage their foot speed, which gives their talent an opportunity to be the difference.

* On Monday, four professional sports leagues - Major League Baseball (MLB), Major League Soccer (MLS), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL) - issued the following joint statement:

"After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice. Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting. These changes will be effective beginning with (Tuesday)'s games and practices.

"We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further steps necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment."

On the road, AT&T SportsNet brings a Penguins banner that hangs on the wall outside of the team's locker room. Pre- and post-game interviews with Mike Sullivan are conducted in front of that banner. Under these new guidelines, interviews with Penguins players were also conducted in front of the banner, with a rope set up for the media to stand behind.

Both Sullivan and Sidney Crosby used the same phrase when discussing that and any other measures that may have been put in place to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) - "it is what it is."

"It's something that is completely out of our control," Sullivan said. "We're taking the direction of the league and the CDC and we trust that they're going to advise us the right way. And we're cooperating in that regard. I know our doctors have been in constant contact with the infectious disease people at UPMC and trying to strategize and make sure we do everything internally that we can to do our best to do the right thing. That's all we can do. 

"Everybody watches the news and reads the papers and understands that this is something that's a global challenge. This isn't just affecting our small domain in pro sports. This is affecting the entire globe. All we can do is focus on those things that we can control."

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