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Penguins Report: 3/21/12

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Pens can clinch playoffs if... (11:02 AM).
  • Maintenance day for Malkin, Johnson skated before practice (12:52 PM).
  • Malkin, Vitale & Johnson miss team practice (11:30 AM).
  • Re-live Neal's hat trick (10:30 AM).
  • Bylsma on a variety of topics (1:26 PM).
  • Crosby, Staal and Cooke speak (1:25 PM).
  • Pens practice pics (4:11 PM).
  • Cooke's in the Spotlight (10:40 AM).

5:36 PM:
The Pens did an admirable job of persevering through devastating injuries the past two seasons.  But it's certainly been a treat watching this Penguins team operate the way it was built to after Crosby's return last week after an extended absence. And Brooks Orpik said today that the players feel the same way. 

--Michelle Crechiolo

4:11 PM:
The Pens had a high-tempo, fast-paced practice this morning at Southpointe. Here are the pics to prove it...

Fleury leaves his crease to check Cookie into the boards (left); Cooke gets up and checks his skate (right)

Chalk talk with the coach (left); Dupuis displaying some flex (right)

TK practicing the shot that he got 2 goals with last night (left); Kunitz opens his arms (right)

--Michelle Crechiolo

1:26 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

Player updates:
Maintenance day for ‘Geno.’ Brent Johnson was on the ice for his second day this morning.

On where the team can get better:
There are several areas where we can get better. When you look at the goals, plays, passing, you feel good about what you can do offensively and scoring goals. But defensively, away from the puck, defensive zone coverage is always a key for our game. There are areas we know we need to work on. The Winnipeg Jets exploited it. Their D came down and got involved, they had four low and created offense for their team. Line rushes against we saw with their top line last night the way they come with speed and move laterally, their D joined, they got chances in that game as well. We saw that in other games this past weekend at Philly. There are areas where we need to get better at. That particular game was a lot of up-and-down, a lot of offense. The game opened up quite a bit, but we have to play a lot tighter than that when it comes to April and May.

On if he’ll keep Cooke-Crosby-Kennedy together:
I’m not committing to any line for any length or period of time. Kennedy has gotten quite a bit of chances. It was great to see him put that first shot in last night, then get another one. He buried those chances and has gotten open. Sid’s been pretty spectacular at finding the open guy, finding TK. Kennedy has to keep burying them.

On if he’s concerned with Crosby’s lack of goals:

On Thiessen fighting through the 8-4 game:
There are different situations for a goalie. He played his third game in the National Hockey League. It was a different game. He got a couple of point-blankers early on in the game, beginning of the second, beginning of the third again. It was a different type of game than his first two where he was around the 20-shot mark and was guarded a little bit in scoring chances. Last night he saw a lot of good shots and great scoring chances and fought through it. At the end of the game I said he got good run support today. He was able to get his third win.

On Fleury getting the game off:
We’re on our schedule right now of how many games he’ going to play. There aren’t a lot of circumstances that he’s going to go into a game. He got good rest. He’s going to be playing (Thursday) and again with back-to-backs. That may be another opportunity to see how our goaltending plays out this weekend.

On facing Radulov:
Ray Shero is the better scout on him. We talked to Ray about him. I don’t know him particularly well. I know of his notoriety. I know of him through Ray and Nashville, and what he did there. What I do know, is that he is arguably the best player outside of the NHL and could be coming back and playing as soon as (Thursday) for a team that’s already pretty good. For them it can be a great boost to get an offensive talent. Structurely they play good on their back end and have goaltending depth. A high-end offensive skilled player would be a dynamic thing for their team. To get him back, get 10 or 11 games in and get ready for the playoffs. It’s good for them. It would be exciting to see if they do get Radulov tomorrow.

On the final 10 game stretch:
We’ve talked about before our last 10 games, what is our best? We don’t know what our best is. We haven’t been all together, the lines together, playing for a long time. We’ve had success and won some games since Sid’s come back. I don’t know if we’ve gotten to our best game or what our best is yet. We’re still getting to our best game with everybody back. You had to get James (Neal) and that line clicking at a high level. TK, who missed a considerable amount of time with injury, get him back in playing, being aggressive and being a factor. Get Staal’s line to continue at the pace that they’re scoring at. Dupuis is on a scoring streak. To get everybody together and playing, to see what our best is in the next 10 games is a big thing for our team.

--Sam Kasan

1:25 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Sidney Crosby

On where the team is now:
We are doing the right things. We have a lot of depth and a lot of things that can make us successful up front. I think it starts with defense though. Obviously you don’t want to play in your own end. The quicker we can get out of there, the more we can work offensively and wear teams down. I think playing in your own zone is always a work in progress, but we have the defensemen to break the puck out quick and hopefully put pressure on teams.

On if the confidence level in the room now can compare to ‘09:
I think there is definitely a confidence level there that just comes from winning games. I don’t think anyone compares it to that year. I don’t think there is any room or any time to really think about that. There are a lot of good teams and you can’t really afford to do that. It’s good that we built that confidence and we’ve definitely built that playing through adversity and different scenarios, but it’s always kind of about the next one.  I don’t think we can really dwell on what we’ve done and I think we know we can still get better.

On getting his timing back:
I think you just feel more comfortable in the game and reacting. Last night was kind of different. It was kind of a different game. I don’t think you can put too much emphasis on that one just because it was kind of wacky the way things were going and how much time and space was out there for both teams. To kind of get those first three in and have it as tight checking as it was and kind of feel that right away was good. That’s the way it’s going to be from here on in, so the main thing is just to kind of feel better with each game and that’s been the case. I just want to keep going.

On all of his points being assists:
I can’t really change anything. I’m not going to go to different spots. I think you have to trust your instincts when it comes to scoring goals. I think in my case a lot of it is timing and reacting. Being in the right spot at the right time. I think I’ve been in those spots at different points and the puck’s either bounced over my stick or I haven’t put it in or for whatever reason, it hasn’t gone in. I still feel like I’m creating things out there and I think as a line we are. I think all the lines have done a good job of keeping momentum and that’s really our job, to create things out there. Whether it’s setting up guys or putting it in myself, we’ve got to contribute some way. Obviously I love to score so I want to take advantage of the opportunities I get. That being said, there is not a lot I would change really at this point. 

On what his role should be on the power play:
I think when our power play has been most effective the last four games, I think it’s when we are all moving and we don’t get idle out there. We’re a little more predictable when we are standing still. I think when we are moving and everyone is creating things that way, it’s a lot tougher on teams. Whether that means I’m distributing the puck up higher or if I end up low and have to jump on a puck, I can do that too. I think all the guys out there have a lot of tools that they can use. Everyone’s comfortable. Really, the quicker we move the puck the better everyone is.

On Brad Thiessen:
He’s done a really good job for us. What is he, 3-0 now? He’s done a really good job for us. I think any time you have a goalie come in, the first few games you want to play well for him. We didn’t really help him out a lot last night and he made some big saves when he needed to. We have confidence in him and he’s proven that over the last few games.

Jordan Staal

On if the confidence level in the room now can compare to ‘09:
It’s a different team. You can’t compare like that. We are obviously confident in our group. It’s a good feeling to win every night and that we can find a way to win a game. It’s a very confident feeling in the room.

On the different weapons on the team:
It’s nice to have that depth. That’s what good teams need if you want to make a good push and have it go well. We have that in the room and all throughout the lineup – forwards, defense and goalies. Very good feeling in the room and hopefully we can keep it going. 

On where the team can improve:
There’s ways to just find our game. (Tuesday) night it was pretty sloppy hockey. It wasn’t our best in that regard. We obviously put up a lot of goals, so we found a way to win the game. There are areas in our game where we have to be tighter. Come playoff time, those games don’t really happen much. We have to find a way to play right away. 

On striving for the President’s Cup:
Right now we are just trying to win every game. It has been our goal to win our division this year. It’s always a tough challenge every season to do that. We’re just trying to focus on one game at a time and we’ll go from there.

PensTV also spoke with Matt Cooke.

--Brittany Goncar

12:52 PM:
Pens coach Dan Bylsma gave a few updates on players missing from practice. Malkin was given the day off for maintenance. Johnson skated for the second straight day prior to team practice.

--Sam Kasan

11:30 AM:
The Pens are on the ice for practice. The only players missing are forwards Evgeni Malkin and Joe Vitale and goaltender Brent Johnson.

--Sam Kasan

11:02 AM:
The Pens are on the cusp of clinching their sixth straight postseason berth, and fourth consecutive under coach Dan Bylsma. The Pens' magic number to clinch is: 1.

The Pens clinch if:

Buffalo loses tonight in any fashion vs. Montreal
Buffalo wins tonight in a shootout vs. Montreal
The Pens gain 1 point in their remaining 10 games

(Getty Images)

--Sam Kasan

10:40 AM:
Matt Cooke has had an excellent season, setting a career high in goals (16) and earning the team's 2012 Masterton nomination, awarded by the Pittsburgh chapter of the PWHA. PensTV shines the spotlight on Cooke.

--Sam Kasan

10:30 AM:
Good morning from Southpointe! Today the Pens will hit the ice for an 11 a.m. practice. Pittsburgh will host the Nashville Predators Thursday at 7 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center.

The Pens are coming off a dominant 8-4 victory against the Jets Tuesday night. James Neal led the way with his first hat trick as a Penguin. Pittsburgh now leads the NHL with 230 goals, while ranking third in the Eastern Conference in goals allowed (181).


Today, instead of opening the day with music, we'll start the day by celebrating Neal's second-career hat trick. Neal tallied thrice in the Pens' 8-4 victory against the Jets Tuesday night.

--Sam Kasan
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