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Penguins Report: 3/26/11

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Orpik to play Sunday (12:08 PM).
  • Letestu back at practice (11:17 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Orpik, B.Johnson and playing in OT (1:48 PM).
  • Orpik, Comrie, Kunitz, Letestu spit knowledge (1:15 PM).
  • Practice pics (11:30 AM).
  • Panthers practice pics (1:40 PM).
  • “Life is the most precious thing you can lose…” (11:05 AM).

1:48 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On Orpik returning to the lineup:
His skating ability is underrated because he is a physical presence and tough defender. In getting ready for game shape, some of the drills we put him through with how he could skate, defense and be physical. Penalty kill wise, he is a big part of our penalty kill. Him going out it was an adjustment and we haven’t been as good there. He’s a big part of that as well. The presence back there physically, adding an edge to our defensive game, that’s a big part of what he brings. He’ll be matched up with Kris (Letang). With (Michalek) and (Martin) gives us two really solid, in your face, defending groups against other teams’ top forwards.

On with defenseman will sit Sunday:
I know who is going to come out of the lineup right now. Both Lovejoy and Engelland have done a real solid job of defending and playing more minutes and being a part of a group that has limited other teams’ opportunities, time and space. They’ve played well and done a good job, but one of them will have to come out.

On Brent Johnson:
I don’t have an update for you. He’s still day-to-day with an upper-body injury. If nothing else, it’s more just calming, and making sure he gets back to full health and not having him out there aggravating an injury.

On the chemistry for the Kunitz-Staal-Kennedy line, and how Kunitz meshed quickly:
I think we saw that two years ago, for a very short period of time, and it happened almost right away then, too. After the trade and the lineup situation, they got played together for a handful of games. Chris scored some goals, he was at the net and he was a presence physically. So it’s not surprising to have them get back together. I think maybe you do notice Chris a little bit more speed-wise (with Staal and Kennedy) than when he plays with Crosby. But I think you’ve seen it in the last few games – his speed, his physicality, he’s shooting the puck and he’s a factor in the net. I think he’s really fit in the offensive zone, where he plays well and he’s also working really hard defensively. He’s tracking back and you’ve really noticed that in his game. So I’m not surprised to see them get together and do some damage, and they’ve really taken a big load, going against other teams’ top lines and still being effective offensively.

On if playing a lot of overtime games could be a good thing:
I think playing tight games and being comfortable in those situations has been great for our team. In a game like last night, you have to expect that from the New Jersey Devils. Being patient, continuing the play, having to kill a penalty in the third period and going into overtime – it’s all those things we have to be comfortable with and winning games that way. Our guys have done that over and over again. That’s not something we had earlier in the season. We lost some leads, and there were times where we maybe made some poor decisions and came unraveled. Look at the Detroit game. They were able to tie it up and we still had another ten minutes to go. We had to right the ship and in overtime, we were the team that had the opportunities to score goals. I think on our bench and in our room we’re comfortable playing that way. We’d like to win 5-1, but that’s tough so we have to be comfortable going out and playing that way. Our team is comfortable with how we play.

On how he assesses James Neal and Matt Niskanen’s first month in Pittsburgh:
I don’t think there’s been an immediate bang that you’d like to feel, but I know that the way they play and what they add to our team has been a part of us having success in the last month. And I see a lot of good things in what they bring to the team and the way they play. And I think it’s going to be a matter of time before we may get the results that you kind of look at when you see the statistics. It’s just a matter of time. Neal has been in those situations, but it just hasn’t happened yet, but he’s added to the team game and added to the way we play. They’ve done it on both sides of the puck. So I’m pretty pleased and I know we’ll see the name on the scoresheet as well.

Baby Dinosaur: Tony Jovenitti

1:40 PM:
The Panthers are practicing at Southpointe right now.

1:15 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Brooks Orpik

On returning:
I told Dan I felt comfortable. I’ll just go from there. As players you just make yourself available. It’s my first game back so I’m just trying to concentrate on getting back into it.

On re-entering the lineup:
The team is playing really well. It’s a tough situation trying to get back in with the team playing so well. There are a lot of bodies here> I guess that’s how the thing works. It’s tough taken any of those guys out, that’s for sure.

On his feeling on coming back:
I’m excited. It’s been a month of sitting around, skating. There is meaning behind it. It’s been a long time. I tried to stay in as good of shape as possible and making sure it’s completely healed so that it doesn’t set me back anymore.

On staying in shape with the injury:
I’ve had knee injuries before. With that you can’t stay in shape. With this at least you can stay in shape and as soon as it’s healed you can get right back in there right away. It’s never not frustrating being hurt. But with this you can at least take something positive out of this.

On if he’ll have confidence issues:
You don’t want to come back too early. We’re not in a situation where the team is trying to make the playoffs. The team wasn’t putting any pressure on me to come back. I just stayed patient with it. Sometimes when you rush it that’s when you have a lack of confidence, but that’s not the case here.

Mike Comrie

On coming back from his injury:
It’s always tough when you go through injuries, but I feel good. If we can continue to play the way we’re playing, I think we’ll all feel pretty good.

On getting his confidence back after an injury:
That can be (an issue), but I worked hard just to get back, with a lot of long hours doing controlled motions and cardio and that kind of stuff. It’s been a long road, but hopefully I can stay healthy:

On if coming back in a defensive game like the Devils game is good for him:
In a way, it’s good because (the Devils) are a team that plays more positional. These games mean so much, so you have to play hard and control where you go.

Chris Kunitz

On his relatively healthy career:
I had a little bit of an injury in the lockout year, but other than that I’ve been pretty healthy until last year, having to have surgery. You just knock on wood and try to stay healthy. Part of the job criteria is that you’re going to get injured and you’re going to have to play through things, and also you’ll have to see the doctor quite a bit.

On coming back from injuries in a timely manner:

You just try to give yourself enough time to get fully healthy. You don’t want to have to come back early and re-injure something or not feel 100 percent. You try to take as long as you can without too much time. Obviously, it’s tough enough just getting back in the lineup and picking up the speed, but hopefully it comes quick.

On if he feels like he’s back up to speed:
Yeah, playing with (Staal) and (Kennedy) kind of put me right back into the style of hockey I play, and I don’t get away from things I excel at, like getting in on the forecheck and going to the net. We’ve had some chemistry early on, and it gives you confidence.

On the differences between playing on a line with Staal or Sidney Crosby:
I don’t really change my game, we just kind of work well together. I have enough speed in my game so I can keep up with Sid, but I can be physical and work the puck down low with Staalsy and TK. I don’t change my game, but it’s nice to be able to play with centermen who are talented.

Mark Letestu

On if he feels good mentally and physically:
Yeah. I mean, this is not my first time this year, going through this. So any time you get back on the ice with the guys, you know, be a part of the group, for however long it is, it’s nice to be out there with them.
On what skating today means in terms of his recovery:
It’s getting better. Strength is something that is still coming, there’s still a little bit of things that need to be worked out. But for the most part, it’s come along pretty good.
On if there’s a timeline:
Nothing yet. It’s just kind of working itself out, and when I’m available, then it’s up to the coaches to stick me in there.
On if it’s important to get a couple of games in before the playoffs:
Yeah, I would like to get in as many as possible, obviously. Playoffs are something important, I think, to be going (into in) top condition. It would be nice. But however this works itself out, I’ll be ready to play whenever called upon.

Support System: Tony Jovenitti & Michelle Crechiolo

12:08 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma said that defenseman Brooks Orpik will return to the lineup Sunday against Florida. Orpik, who has missed the past 13 games with a hand injury, will be paired with Letang. Bylsma wouldn't tip his hand on which D-man will be taken out of the lineup.

Here are a few other updates from the coach...
  • Maintenance day for Kovalev
  • Letestu practiced for first time
  • Crosby had a scheduled day off
  • Still waiting to hear on Jeffrey

"Brooks Orpik looks like he'll be playing (Sunday) for us," coach Bylsma said.

11:30 AM:
Practice pics...

The equipment guys cart out the water bottles for practice (left); Another packed house here at Southpointe for practice (right)

The team eagerly waits to get on the ice

Michalek (left); Fleury stretching it out (right)

Thiessen in the Crease (right)

Engelland (left); Letestu (right)

11:17 AM:
Mark Letestu is on the ice for practice with his teammates. This is his first practice with the team since suffering an upper-body injury March 15 at Ottawa. Also of note, Kovalev and Jeffrey are not on the ice. We'll get an update from coach Bylsma following practice.

11:05 AM:
The Pens are making their way onto the ice at Southpointe for their 11 a.m. practice. The team is coming off of its third straight shootout victory after Friday's 2-1 win against the New Jersey Devils. Pittsburgh will host the Florida Panthers Sunday for a 1 p.m. afternoon matchup.

For today's music, I'm going to start the day with Pennywise's "Bro Hymn." Anyone who has lost a loved one in their life will understand the power of this song. It was recorded by the band as a tribute to lost family and friends. Pennywise re-recorded the song for their album Full Circle following the death of bassist Jason Thirsk.

Today I'm dedicating this song in honor of my cousin Jimmy Bilski. Words feel so powerless in times like these, but you're memory lives on with us forever. You'll be missed, but never forgotten.

Pennywise also recorded a beautiful hidden piano track on Full Circle. It's truly a wonderful piece of music. Enjoy.

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