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Penguins Report: 3/1/11

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • New Mustache Boy!!!! (11:56 AM).
  • Kennedy and Martin scheduled to play Wednesday (12:54 PM).
  • Pens’ lines (11:26 AM).
  • Kennedy, Kunitz and B.Johnson practiced (11:11 AM).
  • The boss is in the house (11:33 AM).
  • Mustache Boy shootout pics (4:48 PM).
  • Kunitz, Staal, Kovalev, Martin, Talbot and Neal spit knowledge (1:48 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Kunitz, the power play and Letestu (2:15 PM).
  • Kennedy also did some warmups before practice (10:54 AM).
  • Quick pics (11:39 AM).
  • “Here I am on the road again…” (10:43 AM).

4:48 PM:
Mustache Boy shootout pics. (Also note that Kunitz will be mustache boy for the rest of the regular season, meaning until April 10th).

Final Mustache Boy of the season is announced and the players line up.

Kovalev and Cooke safely score early

Letang scores (left), leaving Staal (right) and Kunitz to duel

Staal Scores !!! (left); Kunitz doesn't (right) Mustache Boy = Chris Kunitz

2:15 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On Kunitz not getting a pass on ‘Mustache Boy’ even though it was his first day back:
It’s a tough first day to be healthy. But he (now) has a mustache for a month and a half, or a month and 12 days I believe it is, so it’s a long mustache for him.

On the power play:
We normally practice the power play on game days. We added it today because we’re still looking at different looks and possibilities out on the ice. Today’s weren’t necessarily exactly what we’re going to go with (Wednesday), but were giving us different looks at people in different spots, getting comfortable with structure and what we’re trying to do. So we practiced that today. We’ll get another look at it (Wednesday) and it will give us options with different possibilities in the game.

On the trade deadline having come and gone and if they can now focus on the group they have and move forward:
I just had comments from a couple of players coming in here today talking about the jitters passing. Whether or not not every guy on every team is in discussions with getting traded, there’s always that sense of relief when 3:30 p.m. comes and goes. Now we know that this is our group, this is our team. We have 18 games left, we’ve got ourselves with 80 points. And now it’s time to focus on playing hockey with this group of guys in this room, playing good hockey, and getting ready for the postseason.

On how he plans to use Letestu (Wednesday):
Today in practice we had him with Neal and Kovalev. He was playing the center ice position. He played extremely well in his first game back. He probably got a little more time than I had anticipated. He skated real well, played real well and was good on the power play. He’s going to get a chance to play in the middle there.

On if that’s half of what he did and half of Jordan Staal being comfortable with Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke:
Yeah, and at some point in time you anticipate getting Chris Kunitz back and him filtering in the lineup as well. So (today was) just kind of a possibility what lines could look like here for the next little bit.

On if he’s talked to Talbot about playing strictly wing, how he’ll deploy Rupp and Adams, who Dupuis is going to play with and where Kunitz is going to go:
That’s a great question, and interesting thoughts, which didn’t just start happening today. Chris Kunitz primarily played left wing and James Neal primarily plays left wing. They both have been on the right side but very little; they’re most comfortable on the left. Matt Cooke is a guy who can play left or right and feel comfortable. Getting Tyler Kennedy back, he’s been playing good on the right side. But I think yes, in reference to Max and Craig Adams, there have been times when Max has been on the ice with Malkin, with Adams, with other people, and took draws and played wing. He’s kind of comfortable going back and forth and probably will be used as such. He was at wing for the majority of the game at Toronto, but did play a couple of shifts at center when the game indicated that we needed him to slide to center in more of a maybe defensive role in that situation. As we get guys back, we’ll start to maybe rearrange ice time more like we were earlier in the year – where guys are slotted into positions for PK and checking roles, defensive situations. Whereas in the last three weeks, we’ve been all used in every situation.

On Shero’s vote of confidence on Dustin Jeffrey:
Dustin (was) in the unfortunate situation of having a great camp, showing a different level and speed (but) not getting a great opportunity early on in the season. When he got that opportunity and sometimes in up-and-down situations and different roles, he played very effectively and did a lot of different things – power play, penalty kill, was good in the faceoff at times. He showed he could play top line with Kunitz and Dupuis in a situation like that, and has really earned a lot of respect and a lot of time with the way he’s played. Center is a position where we need that type of player, and he jumps right in coming back from an injury. In Toronto, (he) plays a real strong game as well and adds to our team a little bit of scoring punch and a little bit of stability both defensively and in the faceoff circle and being able to make plays to earn the opportunity. He got a small opportunity to really show what he can do, and now he’s got a chance to run with it.

Shootout score: Michelle Crechiolo

1:48 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Chris Kunitz
On how it has been stepping up his recovery:
I've been skating for a while on my own, just not with the guys. Sometimes it takes only a few sessions; sometimes it can take a week.
On when he wants to play:
I would like to play (Wednesday) but that's obviously not the case. When you can take and absorb that contact you need to play in the NHL level (you can play), but I don't know when that is going to be.
On how he knew he was ready to take part in full contact practice today:
Just talking things over with the doctors, getting re-examined and things like that. You have to just try to protect yourself the best you can and go out and see how it feels.
On not having to rush back now that Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey are back:
I think we want to get guys back as soon as we can. It's going to be a tight push here to get that home ice and to try and catch Philadelphia. We need all our guys back as quick as we can, but you want to be 100 percent. That’s the case in point. You don't want to re-injure yourself. 

Jordan Staal

On Ray Shero not making any more moves at the deadline and if he’s happy with the team they have here:
Yeah, I am. I’m pleased with what we have, and I’m excited about moving forward and trying to make a push with this team.

On getting injured guys back in the lineup:
Yeah, it’s been tough. Definitely these last few games with a lot of guys out, it’s nice to see Letestu and Jeffrey back. It’s a big boost for us, and with a few other guys out, we’re still looking forward to (them coming back).

On if he takes Shero not making any more moves as a sign of confidence:
Yeah, obviously we did make some deals, just not on the deadline. We definitely improved our team and we’re still feeling comfortable with the guys we have in the room. A lot of guys have won here before and we understand what we need to do. It’s just a matter of getting guys back and getting the ball rolling.

On if he was getting nervous at the end of the ‘Mustache Boy’ shootout:
Yeah, I was getting a little nervous (laughs). That was definitely the closest I’ve ever been. I figured that no one was really rooting for me, I would have a terrible mustache anyways.

On if he’s ever been ‘Mustache Boy’ before:
I haven’t lost yet, knock on wood. But again, I wouldn’t grow much of one anyways, so it wouldn’t be very fun.

Alex Kovalev
On being happy to be back in Pittsburgh:
Definitely. It brings back a lot of memories. (Monday) I drove all around the city and went to some old places to eat. It doesn't feel like it has been almost 10 years. It’s amazing that a lot of things still look the same, and I am just happy to be here again.
On the locker room (at Southpointe) looking the same:
You guys all look the same standing around me in the locker room. The only change is the new arena. It took me a while to find the locker room. But that's pretty much it.
On coming in and being a leader this time around:
It seems to me this group of guys has such a good leadership from everyone. I think the experience from winning a Stanley Cup helps a lot of the young kids and the guys that have been in the league for a while. I will bring whatever it takes from my experience, my game and try and get some goals and win some games for the team. Otherwise I really don’t have to do anything else. Like I said, there is enough leadership in this locker room.
On feeling any pressure to fit in with such a young group:
No. You make me feel old right now (laughs). I am still in pretty good shape and I can still keep up with those guys. I don’t see any difference when playing the game. In the locker room it doesn't matter. I don’t really treat anybody any differently than I treated them 10 years ago. It doesn't matter. Back then we had a different group of guys. We are still all hockey players. We are one big family and we all want the same thing, which is to win the Stanley Cup. There is no reason to come in here and show everybody that you are an older guy or more experienced guy or whatever it is. We are all in the same boat and we all want the same thing.

Paul Martin

On when he will return to the lineup:
It’s been a little over a week, so it hasn’t been too long, just a couple of games. It felt good today after (Monday), so hopefully it will be (Wednesday).

On if he’s glad about his potential return:

Yeah, definitely. No matter what situation it is, any time you get back in the lineup after being out for a while, you’re excited. So it’s tough when you have a lot of key guys out, but it’s nice to start getting guys that look like they’re starting to get healthy.

Maxime Talbot
On if he takes Shero not making any more moves as a sign of confidence:
For sure. It’s a great sign of confidence. It is great for us to know that he makes a move to move forward. We are ready to go.

On what type of impact Kovalev is having:
It's two games. I am sure it is going to get better and better. You saw what ‘Kovy’ could do in the last game and (James) Neal has been playing really well too. It is the first two games they have been playing with us, they are great additions and we are definitely looking forward to even more chemistry.
On what it felt like to score against a goaltender for the first time in a while versus Toronto:
Yeah, I stayed with it. Yes, it is something that I haven't had (in terms of) stats, points and goals. But at the same time, I thought that I was doing what was asked of me and my role, but it is always nice to contribute. I'm not going to lie if I don't say that I am really happy that it went in and I am looking forward for more.
On what Shero and Dan Byslma have said to him about staying at center or moving out to the wing:
There is no message yet. It is something that we are used to doing, playing center and wing. I think everyone in this dressing room can play every position. It's been like that for a while and it's going to stay this way.

James Neal

On if he was nervous during his first ‘Mustache Boy’ shootout experience:
Yeah, a little nervous. I got stopped a few times by Marc-Andre here, he was doing a few weird moves when I was coming in on him. He was throwing me off.

On if that was the first he’d seen of Fleury’s moves:
It’s the first I’ve seen of his shenanigans, I guess in real life. I’ve seen him on that show. I didn’t know he was going to pull them out, but he pulled them out on the new guy. Finally, I found a way to get by him. It was a little nerve-wracking. I didn’t want to have a mustache for a month.

On if he’s ever grown a mustache:
No, I’ve never grown one. I don’t plan on growing one, so hopefully I’m safe for another month here and I guess (the shootout) will happen again.

Give and go: Michelle Crechiolo and Joe Prince-Wright

12:54 PM:
Coach Dan Bylsma gave the daily injury updates, most notably that Kennedy and Martin are scheduled to return to the lineup Wednesday night in Toronto.

Here are the rest of the updates:
  • Brent Johnson returned to the ice and is back to full health
  • Nick Johnson, Asham and Tangradi are still out with concussions
  • Kunitz had his first full contact practice and continues to progress towards playing

11:56 AM:
Today marks the shootout for March Mustache Boy! The contest came down to three players - Jordan Staal, Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz.

Letang scored as he fell to the ice on Fleury to avoid growing the upper lip hair.

Staal and Kunitz traded shot after shot with each failing to score. Finally, Staal beat Johnson with a nice head fake. Kunitz's redemption shot failed on Johnson.


11:39 AM:
Pens pics...

11:33 AM:
The boss is at Southpointe today to watch practice.

11:26 AM:

From the Pens' lines today it looks like Letestu will be centering between Neal and Kovalev, with the Cooke-Staal-Kennedy line reuniting.



11:11 AM:
The Pens have taken the ice for their 11 a.m. practice at Southpointe. Kennedy has joined his teammates in practice. A few other positives are that Chris Kunitz and Brent Johnson, both of whom missed practice Monday, are back with the team today. Plus, Paul Martin is on the ice for the second straight day of full practice.

The usual suspects are absent: Crosby, Comrie, Asham, Nick Johnson, Tangradi and Orpik are not on the ice.

10:54 AM:
Tyler Kennedy, who missed Saturday's game in Toronto with a lower-body injury, did some work on the ice prior to practice.

10:43 AM:
The Pens spent the past two days in Pittsburgh for a brief home reprieve before hitting the road again today. The team is in the midst of a five-game road trip (the longest stretch of the season) that started last weekend in Carolina and Toronto. The second leg of the road swing begins today as the team will fly back to Toronto after practice to take on the Maple Leafs Wednesday night. The trip concludes with visits to New Jersey (Friday) and Boston (Saturday).

As this road trip continues, we'll kick the day off with Bob Seger's "Turn the Page." It's a song about life on road during a tour and the monotony and day-to-day grind that comes with it. It just feels like a fitting song for the team's current travels.

BONUS! Here is Metallica's cover of "Turn the Page." It's a pretty decent cover with a darker element to Seger's version. Enjoy.

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