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Penguins Report: 12/19/11

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Lots of injury updates from coach Bylsma (12:54 PM).
  • Lovejoy hopes to be back "very soon" (12:42 PM).
  • Michalek gives update (12:50 PM).
  • Lovejoy on the ice for practice (11:08 AM).
  • Pens that are practicing (11:17 AM).
  • Pens practice with sled hockey teams (2:18 PM).
  • Malkin named NHL's 'Third Star' of the week (5:20 PM).
  • The Pens are operating way below the cap (10:44 AM).
  • Bylsma on Kennedy, his shutdown players, 'Coach Q' Hossa (6:17 PM).
  • Pens practice pics (1:41 PM).
  • More sled hockey pics (11:14 AM).
  • It's the most wonderful time of the year…(10:30 AM).

6:17 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On Joel Quenneville getting his 600th NHL win:
Just to make the point even further, I’ve had 200 games and he’s got 600 wins. I think it’s an amazing number. I was watching the game (Sunday) night and saw it on the NHL Network today that it was his 600th win. That’s longevity. That’s a long career and a lot of wins. I think he’s top 10 all time in wins. I’ll look for 200 wins before I even get close to 600. That’s an amazing career. He’s done it with a few different teams, but he’s won a lot of hockey games and won a Stanley Cup as well. I might have white hair when I get to 600.

On Tyler Kennedy’s play:
I think Tyler’s frustration level is having success and scoring some goals – especially the second half of last year – and where he got them, power-play wise and essentially on our top line last year at the end of the year. Trying to find where he’s at, what line he’s at, if he’s on the power play or not are things that can take away from being focused on playing the way Tyler Kennedy can play. Especially in the last five games he’s been playing well, playing with energy, playing with the puck in the offensive zone and being effective with his speed that he can be. That’s something that is more of a bigger focus for him than it is how many pucks are going in the net for him. I think you’ve seen his play get a lot better. He’s been good in those areas. You see him, even in the last game, attacking on the power play like he was last year and getting the opportunities to score those goals. I think if the frustration level is there, it might be because now he’s playing the right way, playing well and playing in those areas to get those opportunities. If he continues to be there, we’ll see him have big games and score big goals and get some more pucks behind goaltenders.

On how to defend Marian Hossa:
It’s tough. I know my experience isn’t playing here with Marian and seeing him on the ice, but we’ve seen him a lot in the Finals in 2009 and it’s tough to defend him. It’s tough to say you’re going to do a job of not having him have the puck and seeing his power and skill in the offensive zone and speed through the neutral zone. I think when you watch, every game he plays he brings that. So to say you’re going to try to minimize that effectiveness is a tough thing. But the best way to have success is keeping him on the outside and keeping him as close to the boards as possible. He’s going to have the puck, but when he gets on the inside, when he’s driving to the net on a rush, when he has that room, when he’s in the offensive zone cutting to the middle of the ice – he’s almost impossible to handle. You see that in the game (Sunday) night, you see that in virtually every game I’ve watched him play this year. We’re going to have to do our job with the puck, playing with the puck and keeping it away from him. But when he does get it, minimizing his opportunities to play with speed and try to keep him to the outside regardless of which defensemen are out there against him.

On who his shutdown players are with Staal, Letang, Martin and Michalek currently out:
I think recently, it’s been Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen who have shouldered a lot of the responsibility, especially now that Paul Martin’s out. When Paul is out there, Brooks and Paul are penalty killing first together and they’re also getting shifts where we know and anticipate the best guys being on the ice if we’re on the road. But Deryk Engelland is also thrown in that mix with Paul Martin and has done a real good job. So it’s a little more a flow of the game, a feel of how the players are performing in the game and the matchup we might be getting. If you’re going against Marian Hossa, Deryk Engelland may be up for more of that matchup being physical and being able to handle a bigger guy like that than maybe Matt Niskanen would. So some of that is a matchup. We have to read that each game. Then in terms of forward lines, we really have to trust and lean on a multitude of players to be in those situations. Joe Vitale has gotten some of that, especially when he’s been winning a lot of draws and been used in those situations too out there. Pascal Dupuis with Matt Cooke and ‘TK’ have been used as a matchup line. Maybe a patchwork of that knowing after power plays and so forth when the other team’s best lines are going to be out there. You need to have maybe a different line ready for those situations. So a lot of guys have been used and called on in those situations. Jordan Staal is one of the best defensive forwards in the game regardless of how he’s playing. He still is that guy. Maybe Pascal Dupuis might be doing a matchup well against one type of player, but not the next night. You have to look to focus on maybe a Joe Vitale and his speed and faceoff ability the next night. Evgeni Malkin has gotten a lot more of responsibilities with his line given our lineup. So guys are being used and called upon in different situations.

5:20 PM:
Evgeni Malkin was named the NHL's 'Third Star' for his dominant efforts last week. Congrats to Geno!

2:18 PM:
After watching the Penguins practice, the Pittsburgh Mighty Penguins and Johnstown Sitting Bulls sled hockey teams are holding a practice of their own on the CONSOL Energy Center ice right now...and in a cool twist, four Pens players -- Fleury (in full equipment), Orpik, Vitale and MacIntyre are skating with the kids.

Kaitlin Zurawsky has the full report here.

There's been more than a few awesome moments, two of the best being the young players holding a shootout on Fleury...and the other being MacIntyre trying out sled hockey. He's been pushing himself around for quite a while now, and I'm sure he'll be sore later. It takes an incredible amount of strength to do and these kids deserve an unbelievable amount of credit for their determination and willpower.

This player scored on Fleury during the shootout (left); his teammates and Orpik cheer him on (right)

Mac came in to shoot on Fleury and toppled over (left); trying to hoist himself back up (right)

Fleury sending Mac on his way

1:41 PM:
Practice pics...(sorry for the delay)...

Bylsma having pre-practice chats with Williams (left) and Neal (right)

Michalek joined his teammates for practice

Is someone chasing Malkin? (left); Sully with a crisp first pass (right)

Matt Cooke joking around with his teammates

Asst. coach Todd Reirden takes a knee with Niskanen (left); Dupuis and Neal (right)

12:54 PM:
Bylsma just provided us with a smorgasbord of injury updates. Ready? Here they are...
  • No new updates on Bortuzzo, Park, Crosby, Letang and Martin
  • Jeffrey is starting to up his rehab and hopefully we'll see him return to the ice soon.
  • Staal and Adams will be on the ice Tuesday morning and are listed as day to day
  • Lovejoy has been medically cleared for full practice. This was his first one with the team.
  • Michalek has also been cleared for full practice and he's day to day

12:50 PM:
Michalek, who has missed the last 9 games with a concussion, said he hopes to play Tuesday but is being careful about not rushing back. 

On how he feels:
I've been skating for a week now. I had a few setbacks last week, that's why I didn't play. i just want to be careful about it. You see so many guys rushing back and then getting hurt again and missing a significant amount of time, so just want to be smart about it, that's all.

On if the symptoms have gone away:
I said it last week, I felt better and then it kind of went the other way. I don't want to jinx it again. I'm feeling good right now, but you never know, I guess.

On if playing Tuesday is a possibility:
I hope so. I really hope so. But I hoped I would play (Dec. 16) and (Dec. 17) and I didn't, so I'm really hoping it's going to be (Tuesday). I'll keep my fingers crossed.

12:42 PM:
Lovejoy told us after practice that he's feeling great and though he couldn't yet provide specifics, he would like to be back "very soon."

"My arm feels good. I think I’m ready to play," he said. "I’m in shape and ready to go. Got to get the timing back, but I felt great today."

Bylsma said Lovejoy has been medically cleared for full practice and this is his first one with the team. When asked what it would take for Ben to return to game action, Bylsma responded, "The time he needs to be in practice is minimal compared to maybe someone who hasn’t been able to skate and do what he’s been able to do. We’re hopeful that Ben’s going to get some action in before the break."

Here's more from Lovejoy himself...

On where he is in his rehab process:
My arm feels good. I think I’m ready to play. I’m out there battling. My strength is back. I felt great. I’m going to have it taped for a while, but I’ve been skating for five weeks now and I’m in shape and ready to go. Got to get a little timing back, but I felt great today.

On when he’ll play in a game:
I would like it to be very soon. It’s not my call right now.

On how much he wants to get back with all the injuries to the defense:
Oh, I’ve been going crazy in the press box. I’m dying to get back. Today I don’t remember practice ever being so fun. After just skating by myself, with one other guy and Mike Kadar and our physical therapist, it was a blast to have a goalie, it was a blast to pass to other players and be competitive again.

On the challenges of a wrist injury:
I’ve been very lucky. I never had a great deal of pain. It was obviously broken, you could see it. But we take X-rays every home game, I get to go get a new one with our doctors. They’ve told me I’m getting closer, getting closer. I came in for the game Dec. 17 and they said that my bone was healed and it was up to me – a matter of me being comfortable on the ice and being ready to go. I’ve worked really hard the past five weeks to be in game shape and I feel I’m ready to go.

On if maintaining his conditioning is a benefit of his injury:
Definitely. Dustin Jeffrey tells me every third day how lucky I am to have a broken wrist and not a knee injury, because I’m able to do conditioning. It sucked to do it for five weeks, I was out there on the ice at 8:30 or 9 every morning for an hour. It was just me and it was just skating. For a while it was just one-handed. I do think I’m a pretty skilled one-handed these days (laughs), but luckily I’m allowed to use two again and I’m really excited to be back.

11:17 AM:
Practice is officially underway and Staal, Adams and Martin are not on the ice.

The forwards that are practicing are Vitale, Williams, Asham, Tangradi, Kennedy, Neal, MacIntyre, Dupuis, Sullivan, Kunitz, Cooke and Malkin. The defense on the ice are Lovejoy, Michalek, Engelland, Niskanen, Orpik, Picard and Despres.

Both Fleury and Johnson are skating as well.

11:14 AM:
This morning, members of the Pittsburgh Mighty Penguins and Johnstown Sitting Bulls Sled Hockey Teams will be attending practice today and then skating on the ice at the CONSOL Energy Center afterwards. Very cool!!!

Head coach Dan Bylsma stopped by to say hello to some of the players and their families in the stands before practice.

Matt Cooke tossed a puck over the glass to a lucky little girl

The little girl shows off her prize to her friends and family (left)

11:08 AM:
Pens are starting to trickle onto the ice and defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who's missed the last 18 games with a broken wrist, is among them. This is his first practice with the team since sustaining his injury.

10:55 AM:
It's Monday, so you know what that means...time for Mike Lange to share some of his amazing stories with the rest of us!

This week, he discusses conflicts with players he's had over his 37 years of broadcasting. Watch:

10:44 AM:
Math isn't exactly my forte, but it doesn't take a numbers genius to realize that a whole lot of money is currently sidelined for the Penguins right now with all the injuries they have (Crosby, Staal, Letang, Martin and Michalek to name a few)...

The Penguins’ 20-man roster in Saturday’s 8-3 win over Buffalo added up to $38.9 million dollars, which is nearly $25 million bellow the NHL salary cap ($64.3), and close to $9 million below the cap bottom ($48.3) – the minimum amount that can be spent by a team.

Sam crunched the rest of the numbers for you to put the Pens' injuries into perspective.

10:30 AM:
Hello everyone! After having a day off on Sunday, the Pens are back on the ice today for an 11 a.m. practice at CONSOL Energy Center. They host the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks (who rank first in the Western Conference) here in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, which will be a nationally-televised match.

While the Pens didn't skate Sunday, the team did make a roster move – sending defensemen Carl Sneep and Brian Strait to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Stay tuned to today's report for injury updates.


So I went Christmas shopping for the first time yesterday (yes, I know I'm a slacker) in addition to having our staff holiday party, and it really got me in a festive mood. There's no better time of year than the holidays, and in honor of them I'm going to start the blog with a timeless song...Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas/Sarajevo 12/24 (Instrumental)."

Now I'm 95 percent sure (no, make that 99 percent sure) that Sam won't carry on this theme through the rest of this week since he's a bit of a Grinch, but you never know...maybe his heart will grow three sizes too big.

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