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Penguins Report: 2/24/12

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Niskanen hopeful to play Saturday (12:12 PM).
  • Injury updates from coach Bylsma (12:25 PM).
  • Niskanen back at practice; Crosby practices with no contact, Johnson missing (10:58 AM).
  • Pens' lines (11:15 AM).
  • Pens wine and dine at Skates & Plates (9:40 AM).
  • Thiessen recalled (5:15 PM).
  • Watch 2 Pens' prospects tonight (11:35 AM).
  • Neal gets stalked by “NHL 36” (10:00 AM).
  • Lemieux statue (12:16 PM).
  • Picture perfect…seriously, check them out (1:17 PM).
  • Pens scrimmage for fun with mystery goalie (3:40 PM).
  • Prospects on TV (11:35 AM).
  • Pens Vault unleashes the legend Matthew Barnaby (9:30 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Stamkos, trade deadline & more (1:09 PM).
  • Martin & Orpik spit knowledge (1:24 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:25 AM).
  • The xx (9:20 AM).

5:15 PM:
With goalie Brent Johnson day-to-day after tweaking something at Thursday's practice, the Pens have recalled Brad Thiessen from WBS. We'll see Saturday if Johnson is well enough to dress or not.

Thiessen, 25, was also recalled by Pittsburgh earlier this week, serving as Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup in Tuesday night’s 2-0 win against the New York Rangers. Thiessen has spent the majority of the season with WBS, posting a 20-14-2 record and 2.88 goals-against average in 37 games. Thiessen’s 20 wins rank fourth (tied) in the AHL.

Full story here.

(Getty Images)

3:40 PM:
After practice a few guys got on the ice to shoot around with some fans, who won that opportunity with an auction bid. Below, Fleury gives some pointers to a mystery Penguin who is suited up in goal. Can you guess who the replacement goalie is?

Martin laughs with the fans (left); Engelland sets up shots (right)

This kid school's our mystery goaltender (left); Fleury poses for pictures (right)

And the mystery goaltender is..........(drum roll).........Craig Adams!!

Fleury, Neal, Adams, Martin & Engelland were the five players that took part in the fun.

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

Paul Martin  

On the back-to-back schedule:
It’s what we are accustomed to quite a bit, especially this month. I think we learned our lesson a couple of times as far as what we can do if we aren’t ready to play, no matter who the team. We just have to make sure we are ready to play and don’t take anything for granted and hopefully it’s a good weekend.

On the trade deadline:
It’s different for everybody. You’re unrestricted, you’re restricted, whether you have a no-trade clause, there are so many things that go into it. I think the toughest thing is for players that concentrate too much on it and can’t just play. I think in this locker room we are very confident in the guys we have in here. Everyone gets along really well. I think it’s a tough time just because you think you might lose somebody that you like in the locker room as opposed to someone out on the ice. It just depends. Different guys handle it in different ways. 

On if he thinks the locker room will change:
I think for the most part you always see a team make some kind of move whether it be on the NHL level or the AHL. I think it’s different for everybody. Usually teams end up making some kind of move whether it be for a draft pick or (a player).

Brooks Orpik

On Tampa Bay:
They started better the second half than they did last year. Last year they kind of tailed off. I’m sure it had something to do with Gary Robert’s training in the summer. He’s a competitive guy, I’m sure he’s explained it. Just staying out of the box and not turning pucks over is huge and could get us in.

On teams that are desperate for a playoff spot:
There are no easy games now. All these teams, I mean no one’s really out of it. Anyone can still make the playoffs here so you have a lot of desperate teams. Those teams are hard to play against so we won’t take them lightly. Watching the game last night, even being down 4-0 they came back and had a chance to win, or at least tie it up. We definitely won’t take them lightly going into tomorrow.

Assist: Brittany Goncar

1:17 PM:
Michelle Crechiolo captured a few gems with the camera.

During the end of practice shootout, Fleury broke out a new move. He propped himself on top of the net, only to descend in time to stop the shooter.

After Crosby was done with his practice session, he moved the nets, picked up the pucks and tossed a stick over the glass to one young, lucky fan.

One tweeter appreciates the gesture...

     "@pghpenguins as a zamboni operator I can tell you first hand that we appreciate it when someone slides the nets to the gates, esp a superstar"

1:09 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On the Stamkos-Malkin matchup Saturday:
I don’t think at this point in time with 22 games left for us that we’re looking at it as a showdown game or head-to-head game between two guys with high numbers. (Tampa Bay) is five points out (of the playoffs) and they’re in desperation mode in terms of needing to win hockey games. We’re looking at a situation where we need to put games together and win as well. You go into the game knowing you’re playing against Stamkos, knowing you’re playing against Martin St. Louis. You know what they do, why they’re dangerous. We know the run (Stamkos) has been on right now, how many goals he’s been putting up and where he’s been scoring them. I’m sure they’re going to be well aware of Evgeni Malkin as well. We’ve played them twice recently in the past month or so and ‘Geno’ has had spectacular games against them. I know they’re going to be aware of that as well. It’s certainly going to be key in the game, but the head-to-head matchup, I don’t think it’s like that with a few games left in the season.

On Stamkos:
Steven Stamkos is a dangerous sniper. It’s a player that, when he’s over the blue line, power play, 5-on-5, you’re acutely aware that he’s dangerous with anything that comes near him. Their power play is lethal with his shot and what he can do there. It’s well documented. You’re well aware of it. Whether it’s the first shift or last shift, it doesn’t matter what the score is, we know how dangerous that situation is. I know that right now, in terms of snipers he is in a league by himself in our league right now with how dangerous he is with his shot and the kind of sniper he is.

On his assessment through the first three quarters of the season:
In an evaluation of our team – which we do at different points in time and have done recently – there are a lot of things that we like about our team and how we play. What we’ve identified as where we need to improve is the consistency with which we play those things. We defend well. We need to be more consistent in how we defend. Some of that is game-to-game. We haven’t been good in some games with the consistency with which we’ve defended. We are confident and we’re a good defending team. But with our defense and how we play, we need to be more consistent. The Philadelphia game and Rangers game, we pegged those as teams above us and possible teams we’ll see in the playoffs. In those games, we really focused on in making a statement with and how we play. That’s something we focus on as we go down the stretch here against those matchups and those teams. The consistency of our play is a really big thing. We’re going to have to find that in the games that we have this weekend against Tampa Bay and Columbus. Special teams is something that has been a big part of our success and how we play. You add those two together and we rank second in the league. That’s been a big part of our success with the type of team we’ve had. Those are some areas where we’ve been good and we need to identify where we need to be better going down the stretch to show that we’re ready to be a team that’s going to win in the playoffs.

On if players are acting different during the trade deadline:
Conversations are different in the dressing room, casually. You see other things happening, rumors and ones that are really prevalent. There is talk about that – good trades, bad trades, those types of things. In terms of getting fidgety? No. There has been a coach trade before. There hasn’t been one in a very long while. The players are aware of it. They talk about it, other teams, other trades and really not too much about rumors about our team.

On if the team needs to add a player at the deadline:
I was in a coffee shop yesterday afternoon and ran into a gentleman who owns a flower shop. He told me of his dream trade. He had lots of things moving around and people coming to the Penguins. I just chuckled because it wasn’t possible with salary cap issues and all of those things. We can’t afford to get a player like Evgeni Malkin with our salary cap situation. The best situation and best trade Ray Shero could make is for Sidney Crosby. That’s a health issue and injury situation. We don’t know what that is. When you talk about what would make our team better, what our team needs, the guy wearing 87 would be a good start for Ray on Monday. We don’t have any timeline when or if that’s going to be a possibility. Who knows if anything will happen for our team. The guy (at the coffee shop) wanted (Rick) Nash. That didn’t quite work.

12:25 PM:
Pens head coach Bylsma had a few injury updates...
  • Orpik is still day-to-day with upper-body injury
  • Johnson tweaked something in Thursday's practice. Listed as day-to-day.
"Tyler Kennedy skated this morning on his own," Bylsma said. "Sidney Crosby skated again with the team today. Matt Niskanen was back on the ice. Brooks Orpik, after two days of practice, is still day-to-day at this point in time. Brent Johnson left practice a little bit early (Thursday), tweaked something. He is day-to-day at this point."

12:16 PM:

Preliminary installation has begun on the Mario Lemieux statue, which will be unveiled at a public ceremony outside CONSOL Energy Center on Wednesday, March 7 at 12 noon.

Workers began erecting scaffolding Friday morning around the site where the statue will be placed. It is in the plaza in front of the Trib Total Media gate, along Centre Avenue.

Full story here.

12:12 PM:
Pens defenseman Matt Niskanen spoke to the media after practice.

"I'm better today than the last couple of days," he said. "We're around each other a lot so if one guy gets it, (it spreads). Hopefully, I don't spread it around to anybody else.

"I hope I'm ready to go (Saturday). Nothing is official yet. I'm feeling a lot better today than the last couple of days, so I think I'll be ready for tomorrow."

11:35 AM:
Here's a special treat for Pens fans. They'll have a chance to see two of the team's prospects go head-to-head in Western Hockey League action.

Tonight Penguins fans will have an opportunity to catch a pair of Pittsburgh prospects – Joe Morrow and Dominik Uher – in action, as ROOT SPORTS is airing the Western Hockey League’s Portland vs. Spokane beginning at 10 p.m.

Full details here.

Morrow was mic'd up by PensTV last summer for Development Camp...

Morrow also sat down with Steve Mears for a one-on-one interview. Click here to see.

11:25 AM:
Pens pics...

Staal wearing the red wristband for heart awareness (left); Crosby flashes some nifty moves in tight on goal (right)

Fleury's mustache is coming in rather nicely and creepily (left); Neal & Kunitz compare shoe sizes (right)

Video coord Jim Britt working between the pipes today (left); Single file line for Pens (right)

11:15 AM:
Here are the team's lines from practice...


The seven defensemen are rotating through the drills.

10:58 AM:
The players are on the ice for practice. Matt Niskanen, who missed Thursday's practice with an illness, is back.

Johnson is not practicing as well. He's been sick lately. Video coordinator Jim Britt is between the pipes.

Sidney Crosby is practicing with his teammates. However, it is the same situation as Thursday. He'll only be doing flow drills and non-contact drills. He will skate on his own Saturday.

Tyler Kennedy skated earlier in the day with head athletic trainer Chris Stewart.

10:00 AM:
The National Hockey League (NHL®) and NHL Original Productions announced today that Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal will be the next player profiled on the all-access series “NHL 36.” NHL Original Productions cameras will join Neal tomorrow morning and follow him for the next 36 hours as he and the Penguins host afternoon games on consecutive days -- Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning (1 p.m. ET, NHL Network US) and Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Details on air dates and other info here.

(Getty Images)

9:40 AM:
It’s not every day that the best hockey players in the world serve dinner to fans.

In Pittsburgh, it happens just once a year at the annual Skates & Plates Charity Gala presented by Trib Total Media, which took place Thursday at CONSOL Energy Center.

“Tonight you’ll see players who are some of the finest athletes in the world stumbling and serving plates and dinner,” joked head coach Dan Bylsma. “I think it’s a unique event in terms of the players and their participation. It’s an amazing event. It’s a great event for the fans and the community to be a part of.”

Full story here. Check out the photo gallery here.

9:30 AM:
Since it is Friday, let's open up the Pens Vault and find out what the Vault Keeper has waiting for us. This week we highlight one of my favorite Pens of all time, Matthew Barnaby. I still remember how excited I was to hear that Pittsburgh had acquired the tough and pesky forward. Check out some of Barnaby's best moments with the Pens.

9:20 AM:
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center! Today the Pens will hold an 11 a.m. practice in the home barn. Pittsburgh will host back-to-back afternoon games this weekend against Tampa Bay Saturday & Columbus Sunday.


Today I want to jump start the day with the English indie group The xx. They have a very unique yet distinct sound. While most of their stuff is a blend of soft melody and almost whispered vocals, they do mix in some dance beats with up tempo fills.

The opening song of their self-titled album "The xx" is appropriately called "Intro." It's an upbeat and head bobbing song that sounds simply epic. Perfect way to start Friday and a weekend of hockey.

Anyways, enjoy.

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