While the Penguins did not hold a morning skate on Thursday, head coach Mike Sullivan and captain Sidney Crosby spoke to the media as they prepare to close out their home-and-home series with Toronto at Scotiabank Arena. Here's what they had to say...
- Evgeni Malkin, who missed Tuesday's 5-2 win over the Leafs and Wednesday's practice due to illness, was able to skate this morning. "He feels a lot better," Sullivan said. "We're certainly encouraged that he'll be able to play."
The Penguins recalled defenseman Zach Trotman from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on an emergency basis on Wednesday and brought him to Toronto. "We have a few defensemen who are a little bit nicked up," Sullivan explained. "We thought that when we traveled on the road, it would make sense to have an extra (defenseman)."
Sullivan said that he has a sense they will need to use Trotman tonight, but did not say who he would replace in the lineup.
- Finally, Sullivan said that Matt Murray will start in goal for the Penguins after Tristan Jarry stopped 34 of 36 shots in Tuesday's victory.
The duo has helped the Penguins to a 6-1-1 record over their last eight games, with each netminder getting four starts over that span. Jarry has gone 4-0-0 with a .941 save percentage and 1.99 goals-against average, while Murray has gone 2-1-1 with a .929 save percentage and 2.23 goals-against average.
"That's something we've seen over the last few years, where it seems to be more of a tandem," Crosby said. "They have such a great attitude and they're so competitive that they just want the team to win, but they want to make sure they do their part. That's all you can ask for from teammates. They've handled it well."
- The Penguins were dominant on Tuesday despite Malkin being a last-minute scratch in the game. They outworked and outplayed the Leafs and were perfect on special teams, going 3-for-3 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
"It looks like the process that we want to go through is to just get embarrassed enough to the point where we really look in the mirror and recognize what's required for us to be able to compete at a high level," Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said afterward.
He wasn't the only one in the Leafs locker room who had strong words following the loss, as the players expressed frustration with their performance. So with that being said, the Penguins expect quite the response from the Leafs tonight on their home ice.
"I would expect them to be a motivated group," Crosby said. "Points are always important, but especially at this time of year. Playing a team a couple times in a row like this, you expect the intensity and the emotion to be pretty high, but I think they're important games for both teams."
- Crosby will certainly be looking to set the tone like he did on Tuesday, where he was an absolute force - finishing with four points (1G-3A) in the contest.
"I think this is his favorite time of year," Sullivan said. "He tends to play his best when the stakes get high. I think he's enjoying this group of players and this team this year. He's been really good since he's come back from the break, in my mind. He has the ability to just change the outcomes of games with his influence on the game. He's so good on both sides of the puck. I just think he's the most complete player in the game. He's so explosive offensively, but he's so conscientious defensively too. It doesn't surprise me that he elevates his game the way he does at this time of year."