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It's A Great Day for Hockey - May 23

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
It's a Great Day for Playoff Hockey will be tracking the Penguins' Stanley Cup quest with constant updates throughout the postseason.

2:17 PM:
The Penguins are well aware that being up 2-0 in a series doesn’t mean that they are a lock to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Pittsburgh was down to the Washington Capitals in the semifinals 2-0 and fought all the way back to win the series in seven games.

The Hurricanes are in a desperate situation. They don’t want to fall behind 3-0 in the series and will have the added advantage of playing at home and in front of their crowd. The Penguins know they need to have that killer instinct and match Carolina’s desperation.

“We have to have that desperation too,” Sidney Crosby said. “We were in this position last series down 0-2. We came back home and still felt confident. It’s the same with them. They know they still have an opportunity to respond with their home ice. There is definitely an opportunity for us to put their backs against the walls so we have to match their desperation.”

“We have to understand how important it is to continue to play the right way. It’s not over,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “They still have a chance to come here and win tonight, get it to 2-1, feel good about themselves and that’s what they’re going to try to do. This is a team that is capable of doing that. They believe they can do it. We had that same experience and bounced back. This is a team that can do that. This game is going to be treated as such for our team tonight.”

1:50 PM:
Another topic discussed was the Penguins’ improvement in the faceoff circle. Pittsburgh holds an edge with a 66-61 mark in the faceoff dot against the Hurricanes. Carolina was the eighth-best team in faceoffs during the regular season with a 51.3 mark.

“It’s something we’ve done much better at towards the end of the year and the playoffs,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “(Assistant coach) Tom Fitzgerald has done a great job in preparing guys by giving them different options to do in the circle but also awareness of what the guys we’re going against are doing. When you’re unpredictable in the faceoff circle in terms of running plays and doing different things it gives the other team more things to think about. You have an advantage if that is the case. We’ve done a better job of doing that in the offensive zone and the defensive zone.”

A part of the newly found faceoff success is due to Sidney Crosby, who has excelled at the task in the postseason. Crosby leads the NHL with 200 faceoff wins (43 more than second place Henrik Zetterberg of Detroit) and has a 53.9 success rate.

“You go in there ready to battle and you try to win them,” said Crosby, who has won 28 of 48 faceoffs (58.3) against Carolina. “Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t. There will be nights that go your way and some nights that don’t go your way. If I’m above 50 (percent) then I’m pretty happy with that but you have to make sure you win the key ones, those in the D zone and power plays and things like that. You really have to make sure you bear down on them.”

12:38 PM:
The buzz topic around the locker room following the morning skate was the hit by Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall on Chicago’s Martin Havlat in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals last night.

Kronwall leveled Havlat at the near blue line of the Chicago zone with a hit that left Havlat on the ice motionless. He eventually regained movement and was able to skate off the ice but did not return.

“I think (Kronwall’s) shoulder got (Havlat’s) head but there wasn’t anything else he could have hit with the way he was positioned,” Sidney Crosby said. “It looked like a pretty solid hit. He is known for catching guys like that. It’s a pretty tough call as far as at that speed. Whether it was to head or not is tough to say. It looked like a solid hit.”

“Right when we first saw it, it looked like he left his feet,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “But after the luxury of seeing the replay, which the referees don’t, the cleaner it looked. It was just an unfortunate result.”

Kronwall was assessed a five-minute major penalty for interference on the play.

“I think the call was based more on the result of the hit and the injury than the actual play,” Orpik said. “He just plays the game hard. He’s not out there (trying) to hurt guys. He has a reputation for doing that but I think he does it in a clean way.

“He was just trying to gain momentum. I don’t think he would do anything differently. At the same time, I don’t think he feels too good about Havlat being injured. I thought it was a pretty clean hit though.”

12:02 PM:
The Penguins jumped on the ice at 11:30 for their morning skate at RBC Center. The team stuck with the same structure from the previous morning skates. The forward line combinations were the same, the eight defensemen rotated regularly.

Following Pittsburgh’s morning skate, the team’s playoff taxi squad took the ice for the practice/workout. Those on the ice were forwards Dustin Jeffrey, Chris Minard, Mike Zigomanis and Jeff Taffe, defenseman Ben Lovejoy and goaltender John Curry.

10: 58 AM:
The Hurricanes held their morning skate at 10:30 at RBC Center and both Erik Cole and Tuomo Ruutu took the ice. Cole, who played in Game 2, participated through the entire skate. Ruutu skated for a majority of the morning skate but left the ice earlier than his teammates. 

Carolina head coach Paul Maurice gave his usual non-committal to the playing status of Ruutu. He will be a game-time decision.

"He got through the morning skate and we're pleased with how that happened, but we'll bring him back to see if there was an increase in swelling," Maurice said. "He knows the guidelines for what he needs to do to say that he can play in our lineup and that decision won't get made until tonight."

Author: Sam Kasan

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