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Penguins Report: 10/21/11

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Player updates (1:02 PM).
  • Malkin practices; No Sullivan, Neal or Kennedy (11:16 AM).
  • Line combos/D-pairs (11:20 AM).
  • Midnight Crew in action (10:45 AM).
  • Pens deliver pizzas pro bono (11:00 AM).
  • Bylsma talks Malkin, seven D, Vitale & Dupuis (2:18 PM).
  • Orpik and Jeffrey spit knowledge (1:43 PM).
  • PensTV mooch off Cooke and Martin (2:01 PM).
  • Pics (12:01 PM).
  • Crosby plays goalie (11:10 AM).
  • “I’ll tell you just how good it can be, this lazy summer…” (10:30 AM).

2:18 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On if Malkin practicing with the team means he’ll play Saturday:
It’s definitely good. He’s had a couple of practices, good hard practices on the ice with Sidney (Crosby). Today was his first one back in full practice, so that’s a good sign. He’s doing pretty well and we are still seeing about (Saturday).

On if he has made his decision on which defenseman is going to sit:
They certainly have done a good job. There’s been some difficult circumstances and different situations for the defensemen to be in. Now we’re getting closer to a healthy compliment of seven that we anticipated starting the season with. I think we have capable guys in different situations and certainly their role and what they bring might be factors in what we go with. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to have a tough decision to make given the fact that Niskanen, Engelland and Lovejoy have all performed real well here in the last nine games.

On if the opponent effects the decision:
It might. Depending on if Deryk Engelland brings a different element than Ben Lovejoy, so it would sometimes be the opponent.

On Niskanen looking like a different player:
I think there’s a comfort level for Matt. I think there was a real determination with him in the summer time and coming back. When he left here and in our conversations at the yearend. It was clear that he felt he could be a lot better. He worked in the summer to do that and I thought right from the start of training camp he was one of our better defensemen in terms of skating, that’s with the full compliment. Last night, just leaving the game, probably one of his best skating games and you’ve seen him skate well defensively, you’ve seen him jump more physically, you’ve seen him skate at the rush and be a big factor with shooting the puck as well. I think he’s the second on our team in shots. You just see a lot more to his game and I think the comfort level and him coming in with a focus to really have this be a stellar year from him.

On why Joe Vitale has been able to fit in so quickly:
Joe earned six, seven games last year, got a comfort level, had some success and had it last year. I think coming into camp, he had that added confidence of last year much like we saw with Ben Lovejoy and Deryk Engelland a few years back. They know they can come up here and add. They know what they bring. They know what their assets are, and Joe’s is his speed and tenacity. He’s a physical player. He’s good on draws. He’s been able to go out there and add that. He’s played on different lines. He’s been in different situations. Some nights it’s been eight minutes, some nights it’s been 15. But he’s out there with the confidence that he can add in those situations, and he has. He’s been a physical player. Some nights he’s been the speed and tenacity of our team. He blocked four shots last night, gets a big goal for us there on the re-direct from Deryk Engelland. He’s still got a long ways to go and can really get better, but he’s adding that energy and speed and I think that comes from his development and getting that confidence of playing last year, then being ready to do it here in training camp.

On using Pascal Dupuis on the PP point and his development as a player:
His use on the point has been that he knows exactly what he’s doing when he gets the puck, which is to shoot the darn thing on the cage. He’s got a good one-timer. He’s got a good shot. We used him there in practice and the puck came to him four times, and it went on the cage four times. That’s what we were looking for from him in that spot. I think this year in particular, there’s been a lot of detail, a lot of physicality and puck battles have been added to his game in the last two years since ’09. That’s made him an effective player all over the ice. His speed – he’s always coming down the wing with that big shot. That’s kind of been something you’ve always seen from him. But there’s a lot of speed. There’s tenacity. There’s physicality. There’s puck battles. He’s blocking shots on the penalty kill. But the details and the speed that he brings to the game make him an effective player. A lot of nights he’s driving our team with the speed that he plays with and the details of his game. He’s a guy who does lead our team in puck battles and tenacity. You see that from him at the net. You see that from him on the forecheck. That’s something I think he’s really, really grown into. You’ve seen him be a factor penalty kill wise, on the top line with Sidney Crosby. I think he’s really done a lot for his game. He’s a big part of our team. He can play fourth line, power play, penalty kill, four-on-four and on the top line. He’s really grown and added a lot as a player in the last couple of years.

On having a healthy Arron Asham:
We saw Arron last year in the playoffs and he’s done that in the past. He’s an effective player. He can absolutely rip the puck. He has skill in his game. He’s also a physical player. He’s a hard player to play against. When he’s got those details and when pucks are in areas where his line can go to work, he can be effective for us. It’s now been two games in a row where they’ve really added and been a big part of our success. We get Joe Vitale’s goal, Arron was out there for that one. He was a net-front presence down low working the puck. We see him going to the net for Deryk Engelland’s pass off the pads to him. That throws in a little skill there with the batting it out of the air and then the celebration afterwards to maybe accent his goal (laughs). He seems to have come up big against Montreal the last couple years. But having that over the boards – on three different occasions they played against the top line (Thursday) night and were effective playing their game. That’s really a luxury to be able to have in your third and fourth line, to be able to trust them to be out there in those situations and be effective. We continue to get that.

Had it in their hands: Kaitlin Zurawsky & Michelle Crechiolo

2:01 PM:
PensTV goes speed dating with Cook and Martin...



1:43 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Brooks Orpik

On how he feels after practice:
Pretty good. If I didn’t feel good I wouldn’t have practiced today. It’s one of those things where I missed so much practice time that I wanted to get out there and work on some stuff. That was probably an indication that I felt pretty good. I didn’t feel great, but it was a lot better than I expected.

On if he felt sore:
It was just a little sore, probably just from the first game. Luckily, it wasn’t an overly physical game. It was a pretty good game to get back into it. We watched video this morning and we could have done a lot of things better. It was a good game to ease back into it.

On how coaches evaluate games:
You want to play with confidence, but you don’t want to get over confident. A lot of times when things go your way it’s the other team and not just you. We have to learn from our mistakes and there were a lot of them last night. It was more systematic. The effort was really good last night.

Dustin Jeffrey

On playing after so long:
It feels good. It was a long process coming from March, which was the last time I played. When I got back last night it was a little bit of a relief to finally get into a game. My legs felt good. I had a little pop in my step. To feel that well in the first game back was a huge confidence booster.

On how he feels after a game and after practice:
Still feels good today. There was a little soreness, but nothing that I didn’t expect and I’m glad the way I reacted and felt on the ice today. Moving forward it’s all positive.

On building his minutes up:
That’s the coaches decision game-by-game. It depends, you look at the second period there were a lot of power play and penalty killing stuff. Just jumping back in, there will be different situations, special teams will dictate some of the minutes that you’ll get. For the first game I’m glad the way it went. Hopefully I’ll build on it moving forward.

1:02 PM:
Pens coach Dan Bylsma had a few updates on players:
  • Sullivan (maintenance day)
  • Neal (maintenance day)
  • Malkin (day-to-day)

12:01 PM:
Pics for the eye to see...

Pascal Dupuis loves his teammates "This Much"

Orpik + Malkin = friends (left); Adams + no one = loner (right)

Big Mac + ketchup = delicious (left); Vitale + Reebok = gold seats - don't ask (right)

Crosby "What do you call a fish with no eye? Fsh." (left); Flower laughs so hard he loses control of his equipment (right)

Where's Letestu in this pic? Find him yet? (left); Where's Letestu in this pic? Find him yet? (right)

11:20 AM:
Line combos/D-pairs at practice:



11:16 AM:
Players getting on the ice for practice. Evgeni Malkin is out there for practice. Only ones absent are Steve Sullivan, James Neal and Tyler Kennedy.

11:10 AM:
Crosby gives Brent Johnson some tips on playing goal and covering the posts.

11:00 AM:
The Pens continued their tradition of handing out pizzas to Student Rushers. Staal, Dupuis, Neal, Engelland and coach Bylsma surprised the students with some pizza to warm their hearts before defeating the Montreal Canadiens. But none of the students tipped them #rude.

10:45 AM:
It's time to give the Midnight Crew some love. For those who don't know, the Midnight Crew is a nickname that was given to the equipment staff and trainers that have to set up the locker rooms in Pittsburgh and at whatever visiting rink the team plays in.

The reason they're dubbed the Midnight Crew is because they work well into the evening/early morning hours to do this job. After the team finishes a road trip, they leave right after the game for Pittsburgh. As soon as the team lands in the 'Burgh, the equipment staff and trainers head straight to CONSOL Energy Center and hang the gear for practice the next morning.

And when the Pens play back-to-back games on the road (like they did earlier this week in Winnipeg and Minnesota), they set up immediately after landing in the next road city.

To show you what these guys go through, PensTV documented their late-night setup in Minnesota only a few hours after playing in Winnipeg.

(Midnight Crew: Dana Heinze, Paul DeFazio, Danny "Banker" Kroll, Scott Adams, Mike Kadar)

10:30 AM:
Good afternoon from CONSOL Energy Center! The Pens have an 11am practice today after an impressive 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night. The contest was probably the best 60-minute effort by the team this season. Pittsburgh was in control for the entire game, and the only blemish came when Marc-Andre Fleury lost his shutout in the 58th minute. But that goal against doesn't diminish the brilliant 27-save effort by the Quebec netminder.


Since the Pens are on a bit of a roll and in a good mood, I want to open the day with "How Good It Can Be" by The 88.


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