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Penguins Report: 12/31/10

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
FRIDAY’S UBER EPIC WRAPUP:

  • The game start time for the Winter Classic has been moved to 8 p.m. (5:14 PM).
  • Jordan Staal will be a game-time decision for the Winter Classic (2:19 PM).
  • The Pens were happy with the ice conditions (5:11 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Staal playing, Malkin and Ovechkin (3:17 PM).
  • The Pens-Caps alumni game was a huge hit with players with the fans (12:28 PM).
  • Mario Lemieux speaks, as do Loney and Stevens (11:30 AM).
  • All the action from the Pens-Caps alumni game (9:18 AM to 10:51 AM).
  • Alumni getting ready for the game (9:14 AM).
  • Staal’s big run to the top of Heinz Field (4:47 PM).
  • PensTV chats with Fleury, Cooke, Letestu and Martin (4:39 PM).
  • Crosby, Adams, Kunitz and Malkin speak softly, but carry big sticks (3:28 PM).
  • PensTV chats with alums Roberts, Francis, Coffey and Caufield (3:21 PM).
  • Pens practice at Heinz Field (12:25 PM; 11:55 AM).
  • Dupuis came to practice wearing a Steelers helmet (11:42 AM).
  • Pens skate with family (1:22 PM).
  • Steelers locker room and signs pics (3:58 PM).
  • A good cause, selling the Heinz Field rink glass (12:44 PM).
  • New ice sculpture on Heinz Field (1:09 PM).
  • Media skate (8:51 AM).
  • “What you don’t have you don’t need it now, don’t need it now, was a beautiful day…” (7:00 AM).

That concludes today’s posts. With the game being moved to 8 p.m., the Pens will hold a normal morning skate Saturday. Thus we will kick off the Penguins Report bright and early and give you all the updates as the day progresses.



5:14 PM:
The NHL just announced the Winter Classic will now start at 8 p.m.! Click here for all the details.



5:11 PM:
The Pens were pleasantly surprised with the ice conditions at Heinz Field.



4:47 PM:
Staal may be healthy enough to return against the Caps in the Winter Classic, but he's got some work left to do on his shootouts. He lost the shootout at the end of practice and had to touch the sign at the top of Heinz Field. Check it out below:





4:39 PM:
PensTV on the prowl...

MARC-ANDRE FLEURY



MATT COOKE



MARK LETESTU



PAUL MARTIN





3:58 PM:
Some more pics from the locker room, and some awesome locker room signs that equipment manager Dana Heinze and his staff have hung up.


Alex Ovechkin waiting to go to practice


Craig Adams with his children (left); Evgeni Malkin talks to reporters (right)


Sidney Crosby killed as usual during his media availability










3:28 PM:
Sounds heard by Penguins in the Steelers locker room:


Sidney Crosby

On if he’s more excited now that he’s in the stadium:
Yeah, just to kind of get comfortable with our surroundings a bit, and just to see how many fans we had even for practice, it’s pretty special. A lot of us had the opportunity to play in Buffalo, but to host one is pretty neat, and we’re excited to get it started.

On the matchup with Ovechkin:
It’s just important to win, no matter who it’s against. With a bigger event like this, you want to be on the right side. I think both teams bring out the best in each one another, and I’m sure that wont change.

On if he senses a buzz in the city
:
Since we got here, yeah. Since training camp, I think everyone’s been talking about it. So I think everyone here is pretty excited to host it and have it here in Pittsburgh. We have a ton of support, they’re very deserving of this chance. All these things surrounding the game, the AHL game last night, the minor hockey tournament – all of these things are a part of it and they’ve done an amazing job. So I expect tomorrow to be special.

On if it ever rained on him playing hockey growing up
:
You know, I don’t remember it ever raining. Snowing, yeah, but not raining. If that’s the case, and we can still play with rain, so be it. We’re just happy to be a part of it and we want to play. If they can’t maintain the ice with a lot of rain, then we can’t play, there’s nothing we can do. But whether it’s rain or snow or whatever it is, individually and personally, I’ll play in anything, so I’m okay with it.

On Staal playing:
I’m not sure what’s going to happen there, but we’d love to see him back whenever he’s ready. Whenever that is, whenever he feels ready and the doctors are okay with it, the sooner the better.

On what the game in Buffalo did for his game
:
I think more so the game (itself) was big. I look back to the game, and I don’t think we thought that would have been a yearly thing that the league would do. It’s really gained a lot of interest every year, and maybe not the typical hockey fan would tune in. Maybe now they’re tuning in to see a game like this. I think if anything, people saw what a great event it was. I think there’s certainly been a lot of interest moving forward. The way I look at it, it was a great event that went well and here we are today, so that’s a good sign.




Craig Adams

On trying to treat this like a normal game:
It’s a little tough, especially being out there today. We were out there having fun and looking around. It didn’t really feel like a real practice. We need to focus, but I think it helps that we’re going to be playing a really good team – a team that we have a rivalry with and they’re going to be coming at us focused. That will help to get us into it.

On the fact that there will be nearly 70,000 people in the stands:
I haven’t really thought about it. The ice surface is a little ways away from the seats, so it will be interesting to see how it feels. It will obviously be different than playing in an NHL rink.

On being out on the ice:
The family skate after was fun. It was neat to see the way the stadium looked and everything. Then obviously to have them around to skate a little bit was fun.

On Rhys becoming a star:
Yeah, he’s the star of the family. He definitely passed me up a long time ago.

On the atmosphere:
It’s great. I was lucky enough to play in one of these in Chicago. Each one is unique, and I think the guys on both teams should consider themselves pretty lucky just to come in here and practice and play in a football stadium in front of a whole bunch of people. It’s a lot of fun.

On if it’s easier the second time around:
It wasn’t hard the first time. It was a lot of fun. So it’s more of a good thing.


Chris Kunitz

On Sidney Crosby:
That’s obviously why he gets all the attention – because he’s the best player in the world. He doesn’t look for the attention, but the way he plays the game and the way he deals with it is like no one else in the league. I think that’s why he’s such an ambassador to the sport. And there’s no better person we can have doing it for our game.

On if Crosby thinks about hockey 24/7:
Definitely. If we’re out at dinner and talking about something – there’s always hockey trivia going on or something we can get better at here and there. That’s something I think all of us have in our blood. I think we like to learn more about the game, but we also want to talk about the game, because that’s something that makes us better and makes us better as a team.

On Jordan Staal:
Anytime you’re out there with your teammates, it gives you a little extra urgency to get out there and play. I was just talking to him and I know that when he can get healthy, he’s definitely an asset to our team.

On if he thinks Staal will paly tomorrow:
By looking at him, it looks like he’s doing well out there. I don’t know what his tolerance is or what he’s expecting out of it, but he definitely looks like he’s ready to go sometime soon for sure.

On what a difference it would make if Staal is back in the lineup:
It’s huge. He has the ability to play in all situations. He’s a young kid, but he brings a lot of veteran experience and calmness to our team. His defensive ability – being able to shut down guys all the time – is a lot to ask of him early on. But it definitely adds something to our team, and when he can get back in the lineup it benefits us.

On the family skate:
It was great. Hopefully, it’s something everyone can experience in their career.

On the hype surrounding the game:
I wasn’t really sure how much of a distraction it would be, but it definitely makes the game bigger than just a regular season game. It’s something that’s built up to almost a playoff-like atmosphere.


Evgeni Malkin

On if the ice was good:
I don’t know. It was okay. But both teams play on the same ice. So it’s not a big deal. So I will enjoy the game and these days.

On if he ever played in rain:
No. I played in Buffalo with the snow, though.

On the alumni game:
I liked it. Everyone played nicely.

On a possible delay tomorrow:
I don’t know. I hope we play tomorrow. If there is a delay, we just might play Sunday, and it will be tough to stay loose.

Tic-tac-toe: Tony Jovenitti, Michelle Crechiolo



3:21 PM:
PensTV chats with the alumni...

GARY ROBERTS



RON FRANCIS



PAUL COFFEY



JAY CAUFIELD








3:17 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On Malkin:

This has been his best four or five games away from the puck. I think he’s working very hard up ice, working hard defensively. He’s playing the game the right way. The disappointing part is that he’s had five or six golden scoring opportunities in games the last few games. He hasn’t reaped the rewards. He had a couple breakaways in the Washington game. In Ottawa he had a couple point-blank chances and couldn’t get eh puck to go in. You’d like to see that happen for him. I think he’s played really well away from the puck. It’s been contagious for our team and the players out there with him. He’s focused on that part of his game and it’s helped us out a lot.

On Ovechkin:
A lot of success that we’ve seen Alex have against us is off the rush, coming off the wing, dancing around our defenseman and getting a shot on net. The best thing we can do is having our tracking forwards come back and eliminate those rush opportunities. Something we’ve worked really hard on this year is having a good gap and snuffing that out before he gets in that dangerous position where he can find himself alone in the top of the circle. Last game we were fairly successful at that. It’s a tall task. It’s not something one guy can do or a shutdown pair. It’s the responsibility of the forwards and the defensemen together. It’s something we’re definitely trying to do. Where he is at on the power play is always an issue. He was at the net before he played us and when he played us he moved out to that one-timer position where we’ve seen him score some goals from. That’s something we need to be aware of.

On if Malkin can be taken off his game with physical play:

Yes I think he’ll see that. It’s not the first time that’s been talked about as something teams try to do. I know the Capitals and Bruce paid Sidney a compliment, but we’ve also said that to Sid at times, especially in the playoffs. Those are areas of the game that teams try to target and go after. We’re aware of them. I think it’s a compliment that they think that’s what they have to do to get you off your game. It’s something we’re aware of. In Geno’s case he has to be better in his response. They don’t come after Craig Adams.

On if the Classic is delayed
:
Hopefully we have more information as we get close to the game. Hockey players go through a good 35, 40-minute warmup before the actual warmup. It’s a little anticlimactic. It is an issue. In that scenario where you warmup and then may not play. Then you cool down and have to warm up again. Mentally that may be an issue if it dragged out for a couple of hours. We’re going to be prepared for that situation. Every player understands that. They’re going to have to restart at a certain point if we do get in that situation. We’re not going to be able to control that. We are ready for it. We’ve discussed it. We’ll say our prayers that we start at the right time.

On the ice conditions:
The ice was soft. The puck was surprisingly flat on it. The guys commented on that given the conditions it was better than we thought it might be. The ice was soft. They were passing it fine. With the wetness on the ice, sliding for the goalies across the crease, Fleury did say it’s not the same slide. Given the situation we were commenting that the ice was pretty good. The ice is different in every rink. We’re ready to play. I thought the boards and conditions were fine to play a game. It was an exciting day. I put it up their with some of my best experiences in hockey. I had a great time.

On coaching against Bruce:
We’ve gone back a couple years at Hershey, I played for Bruce for a couple games. We’ve had conversations in the past. We’ve certainly coached a number of games against each other. There are teams and tendencies, there aren’t any surprises between the two of us. The last game I was surprised with the lineup he went with and the switches he made. I can guess when Ovechkin is going to get out there based on the situation in the game and where the faceoff is at. Sometimes he does a double shift on you to get Ovechkin back out there. There are some things that are going to happen in the game. Talk about a talented team with good tendencies offensively. We’ve seen that in Hershey as well.

On Letang’s maturity:
I was a little disappointed with his year last year. I thought we’d see this last year. In the playoffs he came on and had the type of play that you’re seeing right now. Defense is a hard position. Sometimes even the second year through is more tough than the first year. The maturity and growth of a player, defense especially, doesn’t always happen the way you’d like to and the way they’d like to. You’re seeing a guy, he had the confidence to do this game last year, you’re seeing him consistently add offensively and defensively. Two years ago he was a stalwart for us defensively, not so much offensively. In the playoffs he shutdown Hossa’s line and did an outstanding job of that. He didn’t get a lot of recognition for it, but we knew the job he did on Hossa in the playoffs. Last year he didn’t have the numbers that I think he was hoping to have. There was a contract in there and other things that may have affected his year. You’re seeing a confident guy that can skate and defend. He skates so well on both sides of the puck and can really shoot it. You’re seeing that consistently. We’re not surprised to see. We’re hoping to continue to see it.



Shorty: Sam Kasan



2:19 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma said that center Jordan Staal will be a game-time decision for the Winter Classic!!!! A significant upgrade from the day-to-day status.

"Considering the fact that it’s his first game coming up, and he hasn’t had a training camp," Bylsma said, "and has gone through the injuries that he has, it’s more difficult versus if he had been out for training camp, played 20 games and then missed 15. So it’s tough to figure out where to put a guy back in who hasn’t had a training camp and hasn’t played. The confidence level with the injuries that he’s had where he’s coming off are issues going in."

Bylsma did add that Staal, when he returns, will center a line with Evgeni Malkin on his wing.

"That still is the plan," Bylsma said. "We’ve had discussions on when he does get back, what kind of role he’d be played in. I don’t think we’d put him in a 19-20 minute role that he’s been in the past, but I can see him jumping right in with 14, 16 minutes, penalty-killing, and playing center with Malkin on the wing."



1:22 PM:
The players, coaches and staff are skating on the ice with their families. For some more pics of the family skate and other interesting things around the stadium click for the photo gallery.




Dupuis' son with his No. 9 "Daddy" jersey.



1:09 PM:
New Winter Classic ice sculpture. Looks like the player is using a goalie stick though. Maybe that's just my interpretation of this piece of art.





12:44 PM:
Quick note for a good cause. An authentic game-used glass will be sold after the game. Proceeds will benefit the Penguins Foundation.



12:38 PM:
The Pens finished their shootout and gave a stick salute to the fans. Practice is over and the crowd is cheering loudly. Now the players and coaches' families will come out and skate on the ice. Most players when asked looking back at the Winter Classic, what they remember most - the family skate is usually their answer. This is a speical moment for the players and coaches. They've earned it, let's hope they take it all in.





12:28 PM:
As expected everyone enjoyed the Alumni game. The former Pens raved about the contest, while the fans also loved the experience.



12:25 PM:
About 20 minutes left in the Pens practice at Heinz Field. I hope they do a shootout at the end. For an inside look at practice check out the photo gallery.





11:55 AM:
Practice is underway. So far, so good. Pretty typical drills so far.


Jordan Staal (left); Marc-Andre Fleury (right)






11:42 AM:
The players are on the ice. Maxime Talbot led the charge. Pascal Dupuis walked down the runway and did a few laps while wearing a Steelers helmet. We'll try to get a pic for you ASAP.

The players are gathering at center ice for a team photo.





11:38 AM:
Speaking of the Pens 11:30 a.m. practice (the players haven't even started coming out for the ice), you can catch a live streaming of it here.



11:30 AM:
Sounds heard around the alumni locker room...

Mario Lemieux

On the power-play goal and the alumni game:
It looked like we knew what we were doing. It was pretty much the same set up we had 20 years ago. It was fun to be a part of it, play here outdoors. The weather was beautiful. I saw some old faces again, guys I haven’t seen for a long time, some guys from the Cup years and older guys. It was pretty special for all of us. These are memories that we can cherish for a long time.

On the ice conditions:
The ice was great. A couple times in the neutral zone there were puddles here and there, but they came out and fixed it. The ice was pretty good.

On setting up Brown's "50th" goal:
It was great to play (Brown), Bob Errey, Tocchet and all the old linemates from over the years. Kevin Stevens was a little slower, but he still knows where to go.

On Sidney Crosby:
He’s been incredible all year. Since he’s been in the league he’s gotten better and better every year. He’s an incredible player and incredible person. What he did with the 25 games with a point is hard to do in this day and age. It’s not the same as it was 20 years ago. There are good goalies, good defensemen that can skate and defensive schemes are very good compared to 20 years ago. It’s pretty impressive what he’s been able to do. His work ethic is the best in the world. That’s why he is the best in the world.

On hosting the Winter Classic:
It’s exciting for the franchise, for the players and the fans here, who have supported us throughout my career since I’ve been here. Anytime you can host a Winter Classic it’s very special. We’ve come a long way. We struggled for a lot of years before the lockout. We weren’t able to compete the way we wanted to. The new CBA really allowed us to put a great product on the ice and compete with the other 29 teams. Of course, the lottery didn’t hurt.





Troy Loney

On the crowd:
It was kind of hard to hear the crowd down on the ice because it was so big. But when you get the stands filled it’s going to be a lot louder. It would be really fun to play in front of a full crowd.

On overtime:
It would have been nice to have a winner, but at this stage in our lives, we’re okay with it.

On the chemistry:
Yeah, we still had it. You could see it on the one power play with the guys skipping around out there. You pick it up real quick.


Kevin Stevens

On Lemieux not scoring a goal:
It doesn’t really matter who gets it, he was out there having a good time. It was a lot of fun just getting out there and watching him play. Everyone was having fun. There were a lot of laughs and guys tried to crank it up a bit. I think as the game went on, everyone tried to get the puck to him.

On if anything surprised him:
Not really. Bondra scores the game-tier as usual. He comes in and rips one top-shelf. I wasn’t surprised. If anyone was going to score over there it was going to be him.

Alumni assist: Tony Jovenitti



10:56 AM:
With the alumni game over, the NHL will clean the ice as the Penguins will practice at 11:30 a.m. Stay tuned for practice updates soon.



10:51 AM:
The buzzer sounds and that'll do it. The two teams are shaking hands at center ice as this game concludes in a 5-5 tie. The Heinz Field crowd chanted for a shootout. How awesome would that be? Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be happening. The players are gathering for a photo at center ice. Click here for a photo gallery of the Alumni Game!!!





10:49 AM:
The Caps even the score with 45 seconds to play!!! Washington captain Peter Bondra gets the goal. The Caps were in the midst of pulling their goalie, however it took him nearly 30 seconds to get to the bench. Quite an interesting sight. Penguins Alumni 5, Capitals Alumni 5





10:47 AM:
A controversial call on the ice. Lemieux skated circles before finding Murphy at the point. Murphy's shot went into the net, but Pittsburgh was called for goalie interference. The Penguins almost had a two-goal lead with a minute to play. Let's see if that ends up making a difference.



10:44 AM:
Pittsburgh's power play strikes gold!!!! Ron Francis re-directs Larry Murphy's pass from the point into the net. Murphy sent the puck from midpoint to Francis at the side of the net. Ronnie Franchise easily tapped the puck into the net for the lead. Give the second assist to Lemieux - three Hall of Famers hooking up for that score. Less than four minutes to play. Penguins Alumni 5, Capitals Alumni 4



10:39 AM:
Robbie Brown uses his speed to draw a hooking penalty. Great hussle and Pittsburgh's lethal power play will take the ice. Play the shark music!!!!



10:36 AM:
Jay Caufield slams a slap shot from the far circle into the goal to even the score! I hope that goal ends up on the telestrator tonight on FSN. Penguins Alumni 4, Capitals Alumni 4

PS - the sun has come out and it is simply awesome seeing the glare and shadows on the ice.





10:32 AM:
Crowd shots. Classic.









10:30 AM:
Gary Roberts had a great chance in front of the net with the goalie out of position. His backhander however missed the net. Good to see that Roberts still has the same hands from his playing days.



10:28 AM:
Pens will had to kill a penalty as Rissling is called for interference. Lemieux got some PK time as Johnston goes a little offensive as the clock winds down. Pittsburgh is able to escape without surrendering a goal. Caps are 0-for-1 on the power play.



10:25 AM:
The Capitals skate right to the net and get a shot off for a goal. Maulvey gets his second. The Pens are going to have get a body on those Caps when they get close to the crease. Pittsburgh may need to up their physical level and start taking the body to clear the net. Capitals Alumni 4, Penguins Alumni 3



10:21 AM:
No score yet in the second period. Still a 3-3 game. No penalties so far in the contest. The referees are really letting the guys play.



10:19 AM:
Coach Johnston is shuffling his lines. Bob Errey is skating with Lemieux and Brown. Johnston is coaching to win this game. Let's see if his strategem pays off.



10:08:
Here are some quick pics from the first period. For more, check out the photo gallery. The new pics have been added to the end.





 








10:06 AM:
FSN's Dan Potash just interviewed Robbie Brown and asked about Lemieux setting up his goal. His reply: "It took 23 years, but he finally got me my 50th." A reference to the 49 goals Brown scored on a line Lemiux in 1988-89.



10:01 AM:
That's the end of the first period. A pretty tight game as both teams are making a bid for the alumni playoffs and bragging rights. I think the Pens were playing coy in the first period and are ready to unleash their speed and talent in the second. In EJ we trust.



9:49 AM:
Craig Simpson gets the Pens the lead with 8:10 to play. His low shot eluded netminder Don Beaupre. But Lofthouse ties it up just 10 seconds later. This one is turning into a good "old" fashion shootout. Penguins Alumni 3, Capitals Alumni 3



9:45 AM:
Pens strike to even the game with 10:23 to play. Rod Buskas gets his first goal of the season and 20th of his career. Penguins Alumni 2, Capitals Alumni 2



9:42 AM:
The Caps get on the board with two quick scores. Alan May's centering pass goes off the stick of Taglianetti and into the net. Seconds later Mulvey buries a shot past Meloche. Capitals Alumni 2, Penguins Alumni 1.



9:37 AM:
Pens alumni on the board!!!! Robbie Brown tips in a Lemieux pass from right in front of the net. Pittsburgh takes the early lead with 15 minutes left in the first period. Just like old times. (By the way, they're playing two 20-minute periods). Penguins Alumni 1, Capitals Alumni 0



9:31 AM:
Lemieux wins the opening faceoff. Here we go!!!



9:31 AM:
Jeff Jimerson belts out the national anthem. Nice touch.





9:23 AM:
Alumni hitting the ice now. A nice little intro for Lemieux as he was the final player to head down the runway. The PA played the announcement from John Barbero when he called Lemieux's first comeback 10 years ago. "Please welcome back to the ice, No. 66, Mario Lemiuuuuueeeeexxxxx!!!!!"





9:18 AM:
Thanks to alumni head coach Eddie Johnston for hooking me up with today's line!

Stevens-Lemiuex-Guerin
Roberts-Francis-Tocchet
Errey-Trottier-Simpson
Loney-Malone-Caufield
Young-Hannan-Brown
(Rissling)

Coffey-Murphy
Buska-Bourque
Leroux-Taglianetti

Meloche
Pietrangelo






9:14 AM:
Here are some shots I got earlier today as the Pens alumni gathered at CONSOL Energy Center to gear up and make their way to Heinz Field for a showdown with the Caps. For a complete photo gallery click here


Rick Tocchet and Gary Roberts (left): Paul Coffey (right)


Bryan Trottier made it!!!






Rob Brown (left); Simply the Best (right)


Lemieux and Austin


Headin' to the bus! Larry Murphy and Bill Guerin (left); Rob Brown and Troy Loney (right)


All aboard the bus!




Made it Heinz Field!



9:06 AM:
Here is the rosters for the two teams in the Alumni showdown.

Pittsburgh Penguins Alumni Roster

\
Honorary GM: Jack Riley
Head Coach: Ed Johnston
Assistant Coaches: Pierre Larouche, Randy Hillier

#   Players           
7 - Rod Buskas (D)       
10 - Ron Francis (F)       
10 - Gary Roberts (F)       
12 - Greg Malone (F)       
12 - Bob Errey (F)       
13 - Bill Guerin (F)       
16 - Jay Caufield (F)       
18 - Craig Simpson (F)       
18 - Francois Leroux (D)   
19 - Bryan Trottier (F)
23 - Gary Rissling (F)       
24 - Troy Loney (F)       
25 - Kevin Stevens (F)   
27 - Gilles Meloche (G)   
29 - Phil Bourque (D)       
32 - Dave Hannan (F)       
32 - Peter Taglianetti (D)   
35 - Warren Young (F)       
40 - Frank Pietrangelo (G)   
44 - Rob Brown (F)       
55 - Larry Murphy (D)       
66 - Mario Lemieux (F)
77 - Paul Coffey (D)       
92 - Rick Tocchet (F)       
  

Washington Capitals Alumni Roster
Head Coach: Granny Grant
Assistant Coaches: Joe Reekie, Bucky Gallagher
   
#   Players               
2 - Pat Ribble (D)       
2 - Ken Sabourin (D)       
3 - Sylvain Cote (D)       
7 - Yvon Labre    (D)       
8 - Mark Lofthouse (F)       
9 - Nick Kypreos (F)       
10 - Alan Hangsleben (D)   
12 - Peter Bondra (F)       
12 - Dean Evason (F)       
16 - Errol Rausse (F)        
16 - Alan May (F)       
18 - Craig Laughlin (F)       
19 - John Druce (F)       
20 - Dino Ciccarelli (F)       
20 - Michal Pivonka (F)   
21 - Dennis Maruk (F)       
22 - Greg Adams (F)       
23 - Blair Stewart (F)   
24 - Gord Lane    (D)       
24 - Robert Picard (D)       
27 - Paul Mulvey (F)       
31 - J.R. (Joe) Reich (G)   
33 - Don Beaupre (G)       



8:51 AM:
Sitting in the Heinz Field press box alongside Michelle Crechiolo and Trib Total Media's Kevin Gorman. I just rode the bus over with the alumni. It's still so surreal to be sitting on a bus behind Kevin Stevens, Ron Francis and Gary Roberts (photos coming shortly).

As I noted earlier, Thursday was the media skate at Heinz Field. Here are some pics from that beautiful day.


That's me (left) at center ice in the t-shirt. That's right, I went skating with just the t-shirt. Trib Total Media's Rob Rossi (right) with a scarf and angry pose.


The gang from left to right: Me, Rob Rossi, Bob "The Legend" Grove, Michelle Crechiolo, Tony "T-Bone" Jovenitti.



7:00 AM:
I'm at CONSOL Energy Center where the Penguins alumni are currently putting on their hockey gear. The former players (ranging from Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Larry Murphy, Rich Tocchet, Paul Coffey, Bryan Trottier, Kevin Stevens and more!!!) will be dressed in all their gear (minus the skates) and will board a bus: destination Heinz Field!

The Penguins alum will be taking on the Capitals alum at 9:30 a.m., rekindling the rivalry that was initially ignited in the early 1990s.

As a fan who grew up in the early '90s, I can't even begin to express what it feels like to see the guys I idolized as a child lace up the skates and play some ice hockey one more time. And to have it become a signature event during the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic Week, playing outdoors at Heinz Field, makes it even more special.

Later today the Penguins and Capitals will practice on the Heinz Field ice for the first time and have their families skate with them. Of course, we'll be here to cover all of that for you.

Having grown up a Penguins and Steelers fan, and having been fortunate enough to work for both organizations, I feel like my life has come full circle. The Winter Classic is an event that will encompass both sports on the largest stage in the world.

Thursday my crew (Michelle Crechiolo, Tony Jovenitti) and I had a chance to skate on the ice at Heinz Field for the media skate session. It was one of the most transcendent experiences of my life. Today we celebrate history as the Penguins alumni hit the ice and allow us all to re-live (even if it is fleeting) the memories of our youth and another era of dominant Penguins hockey.

It's an amazing event to be a part of. I am truly blessed and I can't think of any better way to kick off this day than with U2's "Beautiful Day."


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