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Penguins Report: 2/10/12

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

6:01 PM:

1:51 PM:
The Jets held a 1pm practice at CONSOL Energy Center. Proof below (although they could be doctored. How would you know?)

1:41 PM:
Earlier this year we asked fans to submit Twitter questions for James Neal (@jneal_18). We received so many great responses that we broke it up into two parts. Here is Part II of Neal's Twitter Q and A:

Part I of Neal's Twitter Q and A is here.

Note: Michelle and my Twitter account is @PensInsideScoop if you'd like to follow us. Don't forget to add @pghpenguins and @PensPRLady.

1:32 PM:
Michelle Crechiolo did a great job on the unsung success and work ethic of Pens defenseman Deryk Engelland:

But no, Engelland hasn’t gotten complacent just because he’s finally made it. That’s just not the way Engelland works. The way Engelland has always worked is harder than anyone else, and his continued dedication to growing and developing as a player has earned him a more expanded role than the one he occupied last year.

“He just keeps getting better and better,” fellow defenseman
Brooks Orpik said. “I think you see a lot of guys who view making the NHL as kind of the end goal, but he’s a guy who doesn’t take it for granted at all.

“He’s never gotten comfortable. He’s the first guy to the rink every day. He puts in extra work all the time. Starting with the East Coast Hockey League and every league he’s moved up to from there, he’s had to kind of work for everything. I don’t think all of a sudden you just get here and you change your habits. It’s just kind of who he is. He’s kind of a blue-collar guy. He doesn’t come from a lot of money. He just comes from a middle-class family and is a hard-working guy.”

Full story is here.

(Getty Images)

1:24 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room…

Marc-Andre Fleury

On hitting his stick off the goal after today's practice shootout:
No, if you break it then you get fined so I just wanted to teach him a lesson. ‘Stop the puck.’

On if the stick learned the lesson:
A little bit, I hope so. 

On showing an exurbanite amount of emotion in net after the loss:
No, I just haven’t lost much in shootouts. This one rattles me a little bit.

On Winnipeg:
They’re a good team. They play hard. They’ve been playing solid lately, also, and fighting for a spot to make the playoffs. We know we’ve got to be ready. It’s going to be a good challenge for us.

On the pressure of the division:
It’s a good division. I think it doesn’t matter which division you're in. Everything has the same consequence, if you don’t win you’re out of the playoffs.  For them though, it’s really hard. It should be interesting to follow.

Matt Cooke

On having Jordan Staal back:
Pretty much for the most part he’s been my centerman while I’ve been in Pittsburgh. He’s a big guy, responsible for his own end and has matured offensively over the last year.

On the bonus of getting a guy like that back:
I think any time you can add a piece like that, it’s like winning the lottery and/or making a big deal at the deadline. They’re a huge part of our team. Unfortunately, there are injuries. When there are injuries we feel that we have to hold the fort down until they get back. There will be a lot of excitement having him back in the lineup. It’s fun to see.

On Winnipeg:
They’re a tough team. We’ve had two really good games against them in Winnipeg. We did match up well and we are going to have to be at our best to beat them.

The memories are bitter sweet: Brittany Goncar

1:15 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On how much he expects to play Staal:
I talked to him today about where he’s at conditioning-wise. I told him I know that I wanted to play him quite a bit the last 15 games. I expect him to be used significantly in the game. Maybe not quite totally to the 20-minute mark, but 15-plus minutes and on the second power play. Probably not 100 percent on the penalty kill. That may be a spot where other players may go in front of him where he normally would assume their ice time. I think he’s going to play 15-plus minutes.

On the line Staal will play on:
Initially, Cooke, Staal and Dupuis will be a line with the possibility of using another player in there as a more offensive line if those situations arise in a game. That’s where initially, the game will start on (Saturday). I’d like him to get to the offensive zone, but they’ll be somewhat of a line that will look to match up against the other team using defensive-zone types of scenarios.

On the importance of their games this month:
I really think right now, the nine games here in February are big for us and we have a majority of those at home. Establishing home ice for us in terms of this being a tough place to play is something we’ve talked about since the first of the year. We want to accomplish that. We have some games coming up here on the weekend and then next week that are home games. We really need to be focused on winning those games and the nine overall games in February to set up for March and going towards the playoffs.

On Jeffrey playing wing:
He’ll see some time there on the wing. He’s played that before. Dustin Jeffrey played a significant amount of wing in Wilkes-Barre for that reason – knowing sometimes we have a lot of centermen up here. He’s more comfortable there. He will play there. He’s also going to be playing center coming off the power plays. We use seven forwards there so he’ll be the centerman coming out of that. It won’t be just wing for Dustin, but he will be playing on wing there and has had some experience numerous times playing it in Wilkes-Barre and a little bit here in Pittsburgh.

On Staal thriving in this system and his spiked production:
I don’t know if Jordan gets enough credit for his skating. There’s a handful of images in my mind where what we ask of our centermen, he fits into really well with his speed and how he skates. Last year, he scored a goal against the Rangers late in the year. It was a highlight reel goal. It was a breakaway where he was playing defense in our zone, then gets the puck from a wall play and scores. That, to me, is Jordan fitting right in with what we’re asking from our centermen in terms of skating, speed and going north with how we execute. In terms of his offensive ability, I think this year better than any, he’s understood exactly how big and strong he is skating-wise that has led to better offensive opportunities for him. He’s not a dangle in front of you, around you and through you type of player. But when he uses his speed and strength, he can overpower people. He can overpower defenders and they can’t get the puck off him. He’s done that, I think, significantly better than he has in the past. You see him hang onto the puck longer. You see him go wide and use his speed, size and strength to overpower people and has gotten to the net that way. Offensive zone wise, he hangs onto the puck using his body to keep possession, moves into offensive areas and scores goals and adds offense I don’t think we’ve even seen him come close to in the past. I think that’s something he’s realized and then used to his advantage for offensive situations.

On who will start in goal Saturday:
Marc-Andre Fleury is going in the net tomorrow.

On the day game Saturday and night game Sunday:
We are having our scouting meeting right now that we would normally have the day of a 7:30 p.m. game. This is something we would do on the road if we played at 3 o’ clock or sometime in the next afternoon, when we wouldn’t have a morning skate we’d be having the scouting meeting (a day) early. So we’re having the scouting meeting right now where we’d normally have it tomorrow. Then we’ll resume a normal schedule on Sunday. Probably have an optional skate and the scouting in the morning. It’s a little bit different, but we like to scout the day before versus the morning of an afternoon game.

On Winnipeg:
I think we’re talking about a team that is in a playoff mindset right now where you need to win to go on, not necessarily just this game. They need to win games to go on. Last night, they’re in a situation where winning their division is very close at hand. They got two points and limit Washington. They get farther away from the division and from the playoff picture if they don’t win. I think we’re playing a playoff-mode team. I think we’re playing that with Tampa Bay. These teams are fighting for their lives and fighting for their positioning and to get in the picture. That’s what we think we’re playing tomorrow – a team that’s in playoff mode right now.

You remind me of a girl I know: Michelle Crechiolo

12:36 PM:
Jordan Staal talked to the media after practice. Here is his fireside chat.

On if he expects to play Saturday or this weekend:
I’m feeling really good. The last couple days it was great just to get a couple practices with the team and kind of get back into the timing and everything. Things are looking up.

On if it’s now just timing he needs to get back:
Yeah, I think so. I think the knee feels really strong and everything feels really good. The training staff did a great job of getting me ready. Hopefully I’ll be in the next couple games.

On the role he’ll step into when he returns:
You’ve definitely seen (Evgeni Malkin)’s line doing a great job. They’ve put a lot of numbers up. The guys have been playing unbelievable all the way down the lineup. We’re winning games. We’ve got some scorers, for sure, all throughout the lineup. I’m just another piece. Hopefully I’ll get the nod and we’ll go from there.

On playing back-to-back games so soon after a long rehab:
It’s never easy to play back-to-back games, but you’ve got to start somewhere, I guess.

On his bad luck with injuries lately:
It’s been tough. But those things happen, I guess.

On his two-way play:
I think this summer was great. My body was feeling good after the all the injuries and stuff like that. Just coming into this year, I felt really confident in my speed and just all of those things kind of clicked. I had a great start. I was unfortunate enough to have an injury, but hopefully I can jump right back on it as soon as I can.

On if there’s any bad blood with Mike Rupp:
There’s no bad blood. ‘Rupper’ is a great guy. I really respect him as a player. He’s an awesome guy. There’s definitely not much there.

On rehabbing back from injuries:
I think you learn a lot. After my first stint, I played quite a few games in a row there. It’s tough being out. I think that’s the hardest thing, just missing the guys and just the daily stuff. It doesn’t get any easier, that’s for sure. I’m glad to be back.

On whether his rehab was on pace:
I think it was right on pace. The training staff did an awesome job just getting me prepared and getting me feeling good. I’m very happy with that.

On the minutes he hopes to play:
You’ll have to talk to the coach about that. But I will play whatever.

I'd build a boat to get to you: Michelle Crechiolo

12:30 PM:
Pens coach Bylsma confirmed that Staal will be in the lineup Saturday afternoon against the Winnipeg Jets.

"Jordan Staal will be playing in the game (Saturday)," Bylsma said. "As long as he had, as we expected him to (have), a good day on the ice, he’ll be in the lineup (Saturday)."

The coach added:

"Arron Asham and Sidney Crosby skated prior to practice. Simon Despres did not skate today in his rehab."

Full story on Staal's return here.

(Getty Images)

11:31 AM:
Pens pics...

Johnson bows his head and reflects on an epic practice (left); Letang stares ahead and reflects on his untied chin strap (right)

Jeffrey: This blue really brings out my eyes (left); Engelland commands his teammates to kiss his king's ring before they are allowed on the ice (right)

Dupuis sharpens his mighty sword (left); Can you guess the three players in the photo above? If you can, then you'll gain instant gratification. Hint: they play for the Penguins (right)

11:07 AM:
Pens lines at practice...



11:01 AM:
Pens are on the ice for practice. Jordan Staal, who needed to get stitches by his mouth after getting hit in the face with a stick Thursday, is on the ice with the team.

The players not at practice are Sidney Crosby & Arron Asham (both of whom did some work on the ice before practice), as well as Tyler Kennedy & Simon Despres.

10:20 AM:
It's Friday so the time has come to open the Pens Vault. And today the vault keeper has a real treat. We're going back to the 1990s with Roger Wood's "Let's Go Pens" - a complete bite off of his "Here We Go" for the Steelers.

But this one features famous Pittsburgh personalities, including legends Mr. Rogers and Myron Cope. If you grew up in the Pittsburgh area, you'll also notice Sam Nover, Bob Pompeani and the Steigerwalds.

And you'll notice that Mr. Rogers is wearing the "C" on his sweater. He can actually make the claim that he was supporting Crosby before it was the cool thing to do #OG.

Note: Trib Total Media's Rob Rossi wants us to film an updated version of the song with current media personalities. The ball is your court Wood.

10:00 AM:
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center! The Pens will hold an 11am practice at the new barn today before back-to-back home games this weekend: Saturday vs. Winnipeg at 2pm; Sunday vs. Tampa Bay at 7pm.


Today we'll open the day with a little John Rolston. I wanted to play the song "The Only Evidence," but could only find home video live versions. (If you have a chance, look up "The Only Evidence." You'll be glad you do, or maybe you won't, who knows).

So instead we'll go with "Gone Gone Gone." Click below to watch Ralston ride a bus alone, sit in a movie theatre alone, stroll the beach alone, stand in a dark street alone, walk an empty hallway alone and walk the train tracks alone. Do you see the theme?

Anyways, enjoy.

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