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Penguins Report: 3/10/11

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • No new updates on Crosby, per coach Bylsma (1:36 PM).
  • Practice status quo (11:05 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Orpik, the PP and the back-to-backs this weekend (1:38 PM).
  • Kunitz, Staal and Neal spit knowledge (1:34 PM).
  • IPH interview with Kovalev (1:51 PM).
  • Letang shoots a TSN playoff promo (2:13 PM).
  • Practice pics (11:38 AM).
  • “And yet I fight, and yet I fight this battle all alone…” (10:00 AM).

2:13 PM:
A few Pens players shot playoff promos for TSN. Among them were Kris Letang.

1:51 PM:
Steve Mears and crew shot some segments for Inside Penguins Hockey (which airs Saturday's at 10:30 a.m. on FSN Pittsburgh) at Southpointe with the new players: Alex Kovalev, James Neal and Matt Niskanen. Here are some pics of Kovy's interview.

1:38 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On if Sidney Crosby still has symptoms and the timing of his return:
There is nothing new for you at this time.

On determining the point when Brooks Orpik’s injury won’t be further aggravated
That’s a medical question. So approximately, from a layman’s standpoint, I’m telling you it’s four weeks. But he goes I think every week and gets tested to see what the progress is on the site (of the injury) and to see the amount of healing that needs to be seen there to assure the doctors that there’s not going to be a problem when he does get into contact.

On the power play
It’s something that we have continued to try to figure where the best spots for our players are since the arrival of James Neal and (Alex) Kovalev. Chris Kunitz has come back and stepped into that equation. So it’s kind of a changing equation over the last five games or so, and I’m not sure we’ve gotten the right mix just yet. We practiced again today – and again (Friday), with a different look than we had before. So we know we want to utilize Kovy’s ability, his passing ability. But he also has a shooting ability that we’d like to see more of out of him. Kris Letang is a guy who we like at the top of the power play. He needs to focus on shooting more. But where Neal goes, where Chris Kunitz goes, and Tyler Kennedy is a guy who’s stepped into the equation because of some of the success we’ve had with him prior to getting these guys. So the equation isn’t totally one we’ve figured out in the last three games, and we’ve spent some more time in practice on it because of that situation. And again, special teams is a huge factor. The tight games that we’ve been playing, it continues to be a bigger factor for us. So it’s something we’d like to get a solution to and improve upon as we go into these games.

On Montreal and Edmonton and if having back-to-back home games presents any difference in their approach:
It’s back-to-back games, plus they’re both at unique times. So preparation-wise, Edmonton is not a team we see very often. So (Wednesday) night was a night we spent focusing on Edmonton more than we normally would a team that’s not your next opponent. So we had a chance to see them play last night. But we know Montreal pretty well. We’ve seen Montreal earlier on in the year, so we’ll get them coming in here. We know how they beat us before, and we know how they’re dangerous. We have to be aware of their skilled guys that have been dangerous against us in the past, but we also have to figure out how we can get our game going and get our offense going and get to the offensive zone against a team that plays some tough defense against us. And certainly Carey Price is something that we have to solve, the way he’s been playing in net. Then Edmonton is a real hard-working group of young players, and their team has changed a little bit as well. So we’ll get our hands full. Preparation time will be somewhat different, we’ll prepare (Friday) afternoon for Montreal’s special teams, something that we don’t normally do. So that’ll be an adjustment and give our guys a chance to get that into their heads coming into the rink on Saturday morning.

On his thoughts after seeing the Max Pacioretty hit and everything that’s unfolded since:
I don’t know if I have anything to comment on about what’s unfolded since then. But it’s an unfortunate hit, that’s for sure. It’s not a pleasant one to look at. The result of him going into the turnbuckle, so tospeak, is something you never like to see (happen to) any player. Having played against and coached against Zdeno Chara, I don’t see him as a dirty player. I don’t see him as a guy looking to take advantage of situations on the ice. But he is a big, physical, strong guy, and he did ride him into the boards hard. It was unfortunate that it was at that point in that rink where there’s a turnbuckle there. And again, you never like to see a player put into that position. In our game against Buffalo, it wasn’t a big difference in the hits, it was just maybe 15-20 feet further down the wall and Ben Lovejoy took (Tyler) Ennis into the bench. Fortunately for Ennis, he slid a good 12 feet before he did make contact with that situation. So it’s unfortunate. You don’t like to see it. You don’t like to see the result for the player. I’m not sure we can eliminate that type of spot in rinks because of the bench situation.

Assist: Michelle Crechiolo

1:36 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma said there are no new updates on Sidney Crosby's condition at this time.

1:34 PM:
Sounds heard around the Southpointe locker room...

Chris Kunitz

On playing the game and his work Wednesday:
(Wednesday) I had a day off. I’ve been working pretty good up until that point so it was nice to get a day off. I felt all right. There was a little bit of rust. I only had two practices the whole time. I played with Staal and TK, it would have been nice to connect a few more passes and zone time to learn where they are. I felt better. Every practice we’ll get better. I hope to contribute more on the ice.

On how long it takes to shake the rust:
Last year I missed quite a few games two different times. I came back and felt like I could contribute. You have to work hard away from the rink. When you’re trying to get back you have to do a little bit more. It’s going to be game by game. We’re at the point in the point in the season where practices are more timing and skill to keep guys fresh. I think that’s going to help me out a lot.

On going full speed right away:
I try not to be tentative going out there. Sometimes that’s where your mind is not at 100 percent. You’re not sure about making contact. You might as well do it early, try make the first hit or get hit and see how you feel. Everything else is history. You just play the game.

Jordan Staal

On the team coming together without Crosby and Malkin
This team has come together with all the injuries we’ve had, especially those two guys. It’s good to see the players come together and finding ways to win games, and not leaning on the goal-scoring talent of those two, leaning on everyone here in this room. It’s good to see.

On building momentum for the playoffs:
It’s a crucial time of the year. Every game is so important. Every two points is big. There is no better way to step into the playoffs than on a good run and on a good note. We want to keep focusing on what we’re doing. The last couple games we’ve played great hockey. We want to keep doing that.

James Neal

On the power play:
New guys are coming in and playing different positions. We’re trying to find what fits and execute. Guys will switch around. That’s the way it goes. As long as you’re getting shots on net with guys in front, we’re OK.

On the 200th straight sellout this weekend:
It’s awesome, especially coming from Dallas. Coming here you see right away what kind of sports town and hockey town (Pittsburgh) is. It’s fun playing in front of a packed house every night. The fans here love hockey and love the Penguins.

On fighting for home-ice advantage in the playoffs:
You want to play at home in your home building. You feel comfortable there. It’s big. There’s no better feeling than starting a playoff round in your home building.

11:38 AM:
Practice pics from Spointe...

Kovalev (left); Fleury and Letang (right)

Fleury (left)

11:05 AM:
The Pens' usual suspects are on the ice for practice at Southpointe. Orpik, Asham and Comrie skated in the morning before practice.

10:00 AM:
Happy Thursday Pens fans!!! The team had the day off Wednesday, but are back on the ice today at 11 a.m. at Southpointe. While the team was off, head coach Dan Bylsma was busy signing a new 3-year contract extension. You can read my exclusive one-on-one interview with coach Bylsma right after he signed. A lot of good/revealing stuff from the coach in it. 

Now it's time to get back to our weeklong celebration of MTV's Unplugged. We started Monday with Nirvana, and followed Tuesday with Smashing Pumpkins. Since we missed a day Wednesday because the team had off, I'm overloading a bit for Thursday and Friday. I hope you guys don't mind.

First, we'll start the day with Live "I Alone." I played this not long ago on the blog, and added their unplugged version of "Selling the Drama" - which actually gave me the idea of doing a week of unplugged performances.

We'll follow that with a request from my friend Jess. Alice in Chains "Nutshell."

And we'll end the morning with Stone Temple Pilots "Creep." All these awesome Unplugged songs, I'm thinking I should have done a two-weeklong celebration. Maybe next season. Grand finale tomorrow. Tune in or you'll have bad karma for 4 months.

Anyways, enjoy.

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