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Penguins Report: 3/23/11

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Brooks Orpik and Eric Tangradi are participating in full practice with the team (10:56 AM).
  • Orpik has been cleared to play by doctors, but is unsure when he will return to game action (1:15 PM).
  • Bylsma noted that Sidney Crosby skated this morning and worked out off the ice (1:34 PM).
  • Pens lines (11:15 AM).
  • Letestu skated on his own this morning (10:25 AM).
  • Bylsma on Matt Cooke, special teams and catching the Flyers (1:45 PM).
  • Tangradi, Staal, Neal and Asham spit knowledge (1:19 PM).
  • PensTV catches up with Kovy, Dupuis, Talbot and Lovejoy (7:22 PM).
  • Pens are revved up for Thursday night’s Battle on Broad Street (4:31 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:37 AM).

7:22 PM:
PensTV went on a rampage through the locker room, chatting up Alex Kovalev, Pascal Dupuis, Maxime Talbot and Ben Lovejoy...





4:31 PM:
Tony Jovenitti talked to some of the guys about Thursday night's Battle on Broad Street. They're revved up and ready to go! Click here to see what they had to say.

1:45 PM:
The rest of coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On Sidney Crosby:
I don’t know how his rehab is affected on a day-to-day basis. The doctor is dealing with that. But he’s sweating. He’s working hard, and he’s working both on and off the ice – on some days just off the ice. He’s putting in significant workouts, but he’s not ready to progress.

On if Orpik will be traveling with the team:
Yes he will.

On his thinking behind giving Matt Cooke a couple days off from the rink:
Just to take a moment to clear his head, and give him a chance to clear his head before he returns to the team.

On filling in for Cooke’s penalty-killing:
Well, positional-wise, shot-blocking-wise, he’s very good. Again, he’s a smart player, and position-wise, he knows how to dictate the way the play is made and how the play is made. That can prevent power-plays from getting to the appropriate spots. They want to make plays, so that’s what he does well. He’s also good five-on-three, and five-on-four he’s one of our best shot-blockers. That’s something he’s done really well. In terms of what we can do, luckily for us, we have a lot of good penalty killers. On any given night, guys that are good penalty killers don’t penalty kill. Dustin Jeffrey, Chris Kunitz, don’t get a chance to step out there, because we have four or five good penalty-killers. In this case, Dustin Jeffrey is going to see more time, and Chris Kunitz is going to see more time in those situations. They’re going to be given bigger opportunities. Dustin Jeffrey is a guy who hasn’t gotten a big opportunity. He was an outstanding penalty-killer down in Wilkes-Barre. He’s going to get a chance to play some more significant roles. And if he can win draws, he may sneak into the top four for us and help us out there.

On if potential playoff opponents go into the team’s thinking:

There’s certain aspect of opponents, where you may think you stack up well against or you have had success in the regular season, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation as a coach where you try to manipulate the situation to match-up against or end up against one particular team. We got Philly ahead of us here, they’re in our sights. We gotta win two games against them to think we have a chance of getting them. And that would be our goal. If we don’t get that spot, we’re still putting ourselves in the best position. Home ice is obviously a big factor going down the stretch here. So catching Philly and getting home ice are two big factors.

On how important simply having the opportunity to catch the Flyers after all the injuries:
I think a couple times in the past few weeks, there have been opportunities for us. And we’ve taken that opportunity.  We won the game in Boston. It was a test for us against a team that was playing really well, and a team that was starting to really be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. We beat Boston. And the last game against Detroit - they’re one of the top teams in the NHL, and we go into their building on the road and win that game. Those are tests for our team in this stretch. You can win 5-1 against Edmonton, but it’s a different thing to go into Detroit and win in Detroit, and it’s a different thing to go into Boston and win in Boston. We’re going to have a few more tests here going down the stretch. We got a very good team in Philly here, we’re going into Philly. And winning that game puts us in a position where we think we can get them. So it’s some games here in addition to the Philly game that shows that we we’ve played this way and we can have success against these teams.

On the power-play units that practiced on Wednesday:
Those are the two units you’re going to see. We really don’t have an A-group or a B-group there. But we need to execute better there. We need to be better in that area, and a lot of it’s execution. A lot of it’s how we manage the puck and how urgent we are with what we’re doing out there. We haven’t had that, and that’s something we need to build. That was the intent of our practice today. The power-play can be a huge factor for us in these games and in playoff games. We’re not going to get a ton of opportunities. We worked on it today, and it’s something we’re looking for in these games here in Philly.

On how the locker room views the Cooke situation:
I haven’t heard the words you’ve just uttered in our locker room, and I haven’t seen it. We’re disappointed in the penalty, and we’re disappointed in the game where we took the penalty, and we’re also disappointed in the nature of the penalty, but there are also 25 other mistakes in that game, and we don’t get upset about those other mistakes. We understand the penalty, and we understand that we don’t like the hit – it was a bad time in the game – but our players still tried to win that game, regardless of the penalty. We were ready to battle in Detroit and play against a very good team the next night. We miss a lot of what Matt Cooke brings to our team, but we’re still going to keep going and keep playing the way we think brings success. Whether we agree or disagree with the hit, our guys are ready to go out there and are ready to play. And we’re going to do it against Philly.

Three-pointer at the buzzer: Tony Jovenitti

1:34 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma gave updates on a few players:

"Matt Cooke has been given a few days away from the rink. He will return to practice later on in the week.

"Sid skated today and worked out. Again, there’s no timetable for a progression from that standpoint. He’s always in contact with the doctors and his daily schedule is set in the morning.

"(Evgeni Malkin) is nine weeks into his rehab at this point in time.

"Nick Johnson is still experiencing symptoms.

"Brooks Orpik and Eric Tangradi were with us for a full practice with the team today. Both of them have some conditioning to do and timing to do. Eric could play, but is not in the greatest shape right now. But he’s working towards that. Brooks is seeing how he reacts to practice timing-wise and physicality-wise."

1:19 PM:
Sounds heard around the Southpointe locker room...

Jordan Staal

On if he watched the Flyers-Capitals game Tuesday night:
A little bit, yeah. It was a pretty exciting game, and it was obviously back and forth. We’re excited about the challenge we have against Philly. I thought it was pretty exciting hockey to watch.

On if it’s good to face a goalie that got pulled in the last game:
It doesn’t really matter. We’re just going to focus on just getting as many shots as we can and getting in front of the goalie as much as we can.

On if Thursday is a must-win game:
Yeah, it’s a big game – a four-point swing. It’s another big challenge to our team to see where we’re at. We want to come out with a strong effort.

On missing Matt Cooke:

There’s definitely a hole on our team that’s going to be tough to fill. He’s a player that does a great job on the PK and other things, like creating room for our players. But (Chris) Kunitz has been playing really well with us, and I’m really happy to have him on.

On Cooke’s penalty killing:
He reads plays well, and he does a great job of getting in lanes and getting in front of shots. I’ve been on the PK with him for a long time and he understands the system we have and he does it well.

James Neal

On the Penguins-Flyers rivalry:
I’ll get to experience it tomorrow. I’ve watched the Penguins and Flyers play. I know it’s a good rivalry. It’s always a great game, so I’m excited for (Thursday).

On possibly catching the Flyers in the standings:
Of course you want to get the team ahead of you. And I haven’t seen the Penguins-Flyers rivalry yet, so I’m excited for (Thursday). So when there’s a team ahead of you like the Flyers, of course you want to catch them.

On his shootout winner in Detroit:
Coach gave me a chance to go out there and win the game. I hadn’t scored in the shootout in a while, but going down and being able to put one in with a quick shot felt great. It’s good to get that win, especially with the way we kind of let them back in the game there. We’ll take the two points.

Arron Asham

On if he will try to fill in for Matt Cooke at all:
I’m just going to go out there and play my game, use my body, and play smart hockey. I’m not much of a yapper, but if I have to get dirty – if that means fighting – then I’ll do whatever I can to win.

On how he felt against Detroit:
I felt a little rusty last game, but it’s always like that. It takes a couple games to get my timing back and shake the rust off. But I didn’t feel too bad, so hopefully I’ll keep getting better and better and get rolling for playoffs.

On Sidney Crosby:

I haven’t really talked to him much. He’s been off doing his own thing. Hopefully he’s getting his noodle straight. We definitely need him back and we want him back, but we don’t want to rush him. We want to make sure he’s safe and healthy. Hopefully he’ll be back soon.

On if the new concussion policy (taking a player to a quiet room for an exam) is a smart move:

Yeah, I think it is. But some of those tests you get are pretty tough with or without a concussion.
They’re trying to make sure guys are safe, and I think they’re going about it the right way.

On the Flyers:
They got a lot of talent over there and a lot of grit. They have everything. They’re a good team and they’ve proved it this year. We’re going to go in there and play hard and come away two points.

Bracket busted: Tony Jovenitti

1:15 PM:
Injury updates from Brooks Orpik, Eric Tangradi and, thanks to PensTV, Mike Comrie...

Brooks Orpik

On if practicing today was sooner than he anticipated or right on schedule:
Well, I’m just getting back to practice. I don’t know when I’m going to play. But this is four weeks. They told me somewhere between four and six weeks, so I think it’s right on schedule.

On how he feels:
I felt good. I’ve been skating a lot. So the conditioning stuff didn’t go away, it’s just kind of the timing and a pain tolerance thing. So hopefully that gets under control and (I’ll) just kind of deal with as best as possible.

On if he’s still dealing with pain at this point:
A little bit, but I think that’s expected. It just gets a little bit sore. You just try to deal with it and move on. I’m sure once I get to the games I won’t even think about it as much.

On if holding the stick is what’s painful for him:
Yeah, it’s my top hand, so holding the stick is a little bit tougher. But it’s really just taking slapshots and receiving hard passes, stuff like that. Obviously I haven’t been in any battling, so I don’t know how that’s going to be. I think it’s as expected. Like I said, it’s just kind of something you have to deal with.

On how many games he would like to play in to get ready for the playoffs:
As many as possible. I wouldn’t have liked to miss any, but it’s just the way it goes. Like I said, with a hand injury, at least the good thing is that you can keep skating and stay in good shape. Usually your timing comes back pretty quick.

On how his cardio is:
It’s a little bit different. You get a little more time to spend on it because you’re not playing in games and your body’s not getting beat up like it usually is. So you try to find some positives when you’re hurt just to keep you motivated. But four weeks is a long time to be out of it. You kind of feel like you’re out of the loop. So it’s good to be back in it.

On if that time away from game action could prove to be beneficial heading into the playoffs:
Yeah, well it’d be nice to go into playoffs healthy. I don’t think a lot of guys can say that most years. Most years, I mean, it’s such a long schedule and you get beat up usually when you get to the playoffs, you’re just kind of going on adrenaline. So like I said, you try to find positives and that’s probably one of them. Try to rest up your body and get it back as healthy as possible going into the playoffs.

On how he gets clearance at this point:
I’ve been cleared by the doctors. Now it’s just getting timing back, the conditioning’s pretty good. So I’ve just got to get a couple of practices in and get comfortable.

On if he has any idea about a return game or if it’s too early:
No, I have no idea. Just try to get a couple of practices in and that’s up to the coaches, not me.

Eric Tangradi

On what his road to recovery has been like:
Early on I had some trouble with lights, and I was just always tired. I didn’t really feel like myself. The last couple weeks, I’ve come a long way. I’ve gotten my heart rate up to almost max (and) I haven’t had any repercussions from that. I feel 100 percent right now.

On if conditioning is the last step:
Yeah, I’ve been on the ice for the last week. Early on, it was definitely difficult. I don’t think I’ve ever taken an entire month and a half off in my career. So it was definitely something new. It’s been a tough process. It’s been a grind for a week. Being out there today, I actually felt really good.

On if he has talked to the other three players that have been through the same type of injury:
Yeah. I mean, everyone’s situation is different, you know, with the head. Everyone’s symptoms are different; everyone’s recovery is different. We’ve all talked about what similar symptoms we’ve had and how we’ve gotten through them.

On if they root each other on when one becomes symptom-free:
Yeah, we almost had a little team out there of injured guys over the last couple of weeks. We’ve done nothing but try to pick each other up out there and we’ve pushed it pretty hard. I think talking to ‘Brooksie’ today, he said he felt pretty good, and the same with (Mike) Comrie and (Arron) Asham. We’ve definitely worked hard the last few weeks and it’s paid off for us.

Mike Comrie

11:37 AM:
Pens pics from practice:

Visual evidence of Orpik's practice

Orpik (left), the rink at Southpointe (right)

Comrie takes a shot (left), Neal skates up ice (left)

Tangradi's back with the team on the ice

11:15 AM:
The Pens are using the same lines they did in Detroit, with Tangradi, Comrie and Godard making up a fifth line.


The seven defensemen are rotating.

10:56 AM:
The players are filtering onto the ice for their 11 a.m. practice, and among them is Brooks Orpik and Eric Tangradi.

It is Orpik's first full practice with the team since breaking his finger on Feb. 23 versus San Jose when he was hit with a Patrick Marleau shot. He has missed 11 games since.

Today also marks Tangradi's first full practice with the team since sustaining a concussion on Feb. 11 versus New York Islanders. He has missed 16 games since.

Great news on the injury front!!!

10:25 AM:
When we got here around 10 a.m., Mark Letestu was on the ice doing some skating and stickhandling drills with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar. Letestu has been sidelined for the last two games with an upper-body injury that has him listed as day-to-day. It's good to see him on the ice.



10:22 AM:
Good morning everyone! We're currently posted up at the Penguins' practice facility at the Iceoplex at Southpointe, waiting for the players to start filtering onto the ice for their 11 a.m. skate.

After a 5-4 shootout victory over Detroit on Monday (which was one of the wildest games I've seen in a while and had me wondering if we had somehow fast-forwarded to the playoffs with the intense effort both teams put forth), the Pens will now be jetting off to Philadelphia following practice to prepare for a Thursday showdown with their cross-state rival. It's the first time the two teams have faced off since Dec. 14, and there's a lot on the line, as the Pens are chasing the Flyers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
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