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Penguins Report: 2/23/12

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Injury updates from coach Bylsma (1:01 AM).
  • Johnson, Orpik & Crosby practice (10:50 AM).
  • O'Reilly sent to WBS (10:00 AM).
  • Staal a 2-way threat (10:30 AM).
  • Caught in the Crossfire (10:20 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on O’Reilly, Tangradi & more (1:38 PM).
  • Orpik & Sullivan spit knowledge (4:15 PM).
  • Radio Rewind talks Fleury’s record-tying shutout (9:50 AM).
  • Pens pics (11:47 AM).
  • “I think it’s strange you never knew…” (9:40 AM).

4:15 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Brooks Orpik
On how he’s feeling:
Still got a ways to go here, but it was good to get back in practice.
On his injury:
Just something you’ve got to manage a little bit. Just something you’ve got to stay on. It’s something that I had earlier. It was starting to get better, then just had a little setback. So it’s just something you’ve got to stay on for the rest of the year, probably.
On what he can work on in practice:
It’s just good to be able to stay in hockey shape. Hopefully, just get a better response the next couple of days from the injury. Hopefully, just move on from there and don’t have any more problems with it.
On if he’ll play this weekend:
I haven’t talked about that with the coaches. Just trying to get better every day. This is just a step in the right direction. Hopefully I’ll feel better (Friday).
On how careful he has to be with it:
It’s just something you have to stay on so it doesn’t get any worse. I think with any injury, there’s always the risk of reinjuring it so you just try to get back as close as you can to 100 percent.
On taking care of those types of injuries now versus later:
It’s tough. I think my stubbornness gets the best of me sometimes. Sunday, I go in and I probably shouldn’t play, but your stubbornness just takes over because you want to be competitive. I think you’ve just got to be smart about it and realize the games now are important, but you want to be around in a month. You don’t want to set yourself back for that time of the season.

Steve Sullivan

On the core guys that play through injuries:
You are going to have injuries every season. You’re going to have guys that can’t play all 82 (games). It’s very rare to see how many years a player has in his career where he can play a full season. Its just bumps and bruises along the way. We’ve got a few guys who’ve played all the games and we have a lot of guys who have missed. It’s typical of most seasons.

On the difficulties of back-to-back games:
The last couple of weeks we’ve been getting some good breaks with only one game during the week, giving us a chance to have off and some practice days. I think that the back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, being afternoon games, that helps, too. You are still getting a good night’s rest. You’re not going sleepless until 2, 3 o’clock in the morning. You’re able to get to bed at a reasonable time after the first game. That gives you a really good chance to be as close to 100 percent as possible for Game 2.

On how the rest affects the team’s performance especially this past weekend:
I couldn’t answer that. I think you hope that on Game 2 you are bringing the same energy and the same focus of Game 1 of a back-to-back. Hopefully, we’ll do that this weekend.

Assists: Michelle Crechiolo & Brittany Goncar

1:38 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On re-assigning O’Reilly:
It was a numbers situation. I thought his first 3-4 games were his best with us, playing with (Steve) Sullivan and (Tyler) Kennedy. I’m confident in what he can do on the ice. It is a numbers situation at this point in time. Playing games and getting acquainted with our system as well (in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) is something better than just sitting here and watching games.

On improved defensive-zone coverage against the Rangers:
When I looked at the replay of the game, (our D-zone coverage) would be one area where I would want to get better at from the game. I think when you play the game in the offensive zone, you dictate more, you play against a tired team and you get better opportunities to play defense quickly. I think we did have that in that game. There were times when we had them hemmed in and didn’t allow them to play offense with the speed. That was a real big part of that game. When you’re playing D-zone coverage against a good team, you sometimes have to let them have the puck. Those are situations we want to avoid having. We want to get to those situations where we have those shifts and those extended O-zone times – those situations where you can tire the other team out when they’re playing defense.

On Tampa Bay and Columbus:
I think Tampa Bay has started to play a little bit differently in their system. They’re not as stout at playing the 1-3-1 that we saw from them (previously), where the game was getting clogged in the neutral zone and really tough to play against. They’ve changed a little bit. We played a team a couple weeks ago that had won a lot of games in a row and were making a push. Every game was a like a playoff type of game. They have skilled players. (Steven) Stamkos is playing really well right now. So is (Martin) St. Louis. They have skill players that can do damage 5-on-5 and power play-wise. System-wise is a little bit different. With Columbus, I haven’t watched them yet and scouted them. I watched a few games on TV. They look right now like they’re playing hard. They played really hard against the Rangers. I thought that was a game where they did a lot of good things and played with speed. They worked hard and were aggressive. I think that’s something we’ll look to see (if that’s) because of the trade deadline and where they’re at. They’re playing hard. They don’t have the pressure of a playoff race or that type of pressure. But they’re going out and playing hard right now. We’ll look at and that and expect that on Sunday. 

On putting Vitale between Cooke and Asham:
One of the deciding factors in that game for our centermen – ‘Joey V’ and Craig Adams – was having a little bit more size down the middle against (the Rangers) bottom two centermen. Brian Boyle is a really big andstrong guy that’s tough in the faceoff circle, so we wanted to have Joey V and Craig Adams in that spot. (John) Mitchell is their other centerman. He was a bigger guy in the middle of the ice as well that we were looking to contendagainst and wanted to have some centermen that could counteract that. Whether it was the speed and tenacity of Joey V or size down the middle, that was kind of what we were looking for from the Cooke-Vitale-Asham line. I thought Joey V did it with the speed and tenacity he showed in the game.
On the Rangers purposely getting wingers thrown out of the faceoff circle:
As far as that move, I think it’s a good tactical move. It’s something we may or may not have talked about every time we have an icing. The one thing that I think that is not as prevalent in our game as before is if you get kicked out of a faceoff twice, there’s a penalty. That penalty (I’m going to knock on wood real quick here), is one we haven’t seen as much. You’re getting a guy kicked out with the knowledge that the next guy coming in might be the guy you really want to take the draw to gain some time. I think it was a good tactic on their part. When they put the winger in there, you know they’re buying themselves a few extra seconds to get a breath and to get their feetunder them.
On how Tangradi’s defensive game has evolved compared to a year ago:
The details in Eric’s game have come a long way in the last two years. I think his attention to the details – wall play and puck management in the defensive zone – is significantly higher than it was two years ago for Eric. He’s a guy who’s a bigger body, is good along the walls, is a physical guy for us and has also got to be counted on to be out in defensive positions and be good there. Because he can do that, he can be put out and counted on in different situations, which I think he’s really improved on over the course of the last two years of his career with us.
On if Fleury gets overlooked as an elite goaltender:
I can’t quite explain exactly why that would happen at all. This guy has won a ton of hockey games. He’s won big games. He’s won playoff games. He’s won Game 7s. He’s won a Stanley Cup. He’s certainly extremely talented and he continues to win a lot of hockey games. Maybe our team has not counted on him over the past eight years or seven years like some other goalies have, but this guy has been a huge factor for our team. He’s gone on huge runs when the team needed him to in ’08 and ’09. The consistency with which he’s played over the last two years has gone way up with his game-to-game and how he plays the game. If you can tell me why someone might overlook this guy’s talent and what he does for our team, I can’t explain it because I think this year, he’s putting up a year where we’ve counted on him enormously in net and he’s been very good for us. He’s won games, he’s played solid in games, he’s been consistent and he’s come up with big saves. I think he’s right up there with all the goalies in the league at the top.

Fade into you: Michelle Crechiolo

1:01 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma had a few injury updates...
  • Kennedy (high-ankle sprain) skated before practice
  • Orpik practiced and is still day-to-day (upper-body)
  • No change in Crosby's status (concussion-like symptoms). He skated with team, but did not do contact drills
  • Johnson was back from illness
  • Niskanen missed the practice because he was sick
"Tyler Kennedy skated by himself earlier this morning in his progression," Bylsma said. "Brooks Orpik was back on the ice, feeling better, but still day-to-day with his upper-body injury. Brent Johnson was back on the ice. We'll see how he progresses.

"Sidney Crosby skated with the team. Not a change in status for him, a chance to get on the ice with some more players. He was out there with our team for the entire practice, although he did not participate in the contact drills that we did have. We'll see how he progresses and where's at in terms of getting on the ice. Sometimes it dictates on if it's an optional or how many people will be out there.

"Niskanen was sick."

11:47 AM:
Pens pics...

Dupuis sweeps the ice (left); Orpik back at practice and rockin' the green (right)

HC Dan Bylsma gets a skate repair (left); Martin shows off his shooting form (right)

Vitale blurs the line of Jeffrey (left); Crosby practicing with his teammates (right)

10:50 AM:
The Pens are getting on the ice for practice at Southpointe. Goalie Brent Johnson, who has been sick, and Brooks Orpik, who has an upper-body injury, are at practice. They both missed Pittsburgh's game against the Rangers on Tuesday. Sidney Crosby is also out with his teammates.

Defenseman Matt Niskanen is not at practice. We'll check after with coach Bylsma on his status.

10:30 AM:
Pens' center Staal has 4 goals (one SH) and 6 points in 6 games since his return from a knee injury. Staal is 1 goal shy of hitting the 20-goal mark for the fourth time in his career. Michelle highlighted his offensive production this season.

Jordan Staal has always been revered for excelling in a defensive shutdown role.

There’s no question he continues to do that for the Penguins, as the 23-year-old center is usually assigned to cover opposing teams’ top players and is one of the best penalty killers on a unit that’s ranked third in the league.

But what Staal is doing this year better than he ever has before is understanding how to use his best assets to create more offensive opportunities for himself.

Full story here.

(Getty Images)

10:20 AM:
On Wednesday WTAE's John Meyer and I shot a segment for Crossfire. We touch on Neal's contract extension and trade deadline deals.

10:00 AM:
The Pens made a roster move earlier this morning. They have re-assigned forward Cal O'Reilly to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Note: O'Reilly did not have to clear waivers to head to WBS. Since he was claimed off waivers, the team has 10 games or 30 days to evaluate him. Since he has not surpassed either mark, he does not have to clear waivers to be sent to WBS. However, if he is to be recalled, he will have to clear re-entry waivers to come back to Pittsburgh.

9:50 AM:
It's Thursday, so let's rewind the radio a bit. In this week's Radio Rewind, Fleury talks about tying Tom Barrasso's franchise record for shutouts.

9:40 AM:
Good morning from Southpointe! Today the team will hit the ice for an 11am practice. They'll also practice Friday (at CONSOL Energy Center) before a couple weekend afternoon matchups with Tampa Bay (Saturday, 1pm) and Columbus (Sunday, 1pm).


We'll open the day with a mellow song. I'm feeling relaxed and in a great mood today, and this song is an easy way to start the day. And hopefully, if you're not in a good mood this will chill you out and cheer you up. Here is Mazzy Star performing "Fade Into You."

The group does a live version for 120 Minutes (an old MTV show that aired alternative videos). The best part of the clip though is the jump edits at the end with VJ Kennedy and film maker Quentin Tarantino. Just so randomly bizarre and awesome.

Anyways, enjoy.

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