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Penguins Report: 3/30/11

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Penguins GM Ray Shero says Crosby is rejoining the team for morning skates (starting Thursday in Tampa Bay), but not full practice. Shero has no expectations for his return in the regular season (12:22 PM).
  • Jeffrey to undergo surgery Tuesday, damage to his knee is still unknown (12:40 PM).
  • Article on Crosby's progression (1:48 PM).
  • Bylsma talks about Crosby (1:05 PM).
  • Pens lines – Comrie and Asham have flip-flopped (11:04 AM).
  • All of the Pens who skated Tuesday morning have been accounted for; Jeffrey not on the ice (11:00 AM).
  • Bylsma, Fleury, Kovy and Martin talk about Thursday’s potential Round 1 playoff matchup (1:55 PM).
  • Nick Johnson and Matt Cooke skated at 9 a.m. this morning (10:45 AM).
  • Letestu and Michalek get some face time with PensTV (2:27 PM).
  • How many goalies does it take to...(6:25 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:21 AM).
  • “You spin my head right round, right round...” (10:33 AM).

6:25 PM:
Let's end the blog with a funny occurrence from this morning's practice that we weren't able to post earlier.

You think trying to get the puck past one goalie is tough? Try getting it through two...

In this drill, a player would line up on the top of the circle and shoot a puck through the first goalie's legs on the second goalie. In this case, Johnny was the screen while Flower was in net. They switched on and off a few times. It made us laugh watching this. Hopefully you get a chuckle out of it as well.

2:27 PM:
PensTV caught up with Mark Letestu and Zbynek Michalek...



1:55 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room (and coachspeak with Dan Bylsma) on Tampa Bay...

Dan Bylsma

On the possibility of playing Tampa Bay in the first round changes anything at all in the way he approaches Thursday's game:
It’s not just game 78. It will change some things about the way we coach, the way we play the game, the way we go into it. We understand it’s a very likely first-round matchup. That will be different than if it was not a team we would play in the playoffs. So there’s a lot of factors and there’s a few things that will change, some of the things that happen in the game will probably change. Also, we may want to see how they react to some things we do in the game, just to see how some of the matchups might be in the playoffs. So there will be a fair amount of things that will be significant about the game because it is a possible first-round matchup.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On getting a chance to scout Tampa Bay, a possible playoff opponent:
I think it goes both ways. I think its good that we have a chance to play them there at the end of the season like that and hopefully let them know what we’re all about. It might help us. We play them during the season, but we don’t know everything about them, so I think that should help us.

On how much he already knows about Tampa’s skilled forwards:
I’ve played against them for a couple years now. They have a consistently good group of forwards. I think it will be a good challenge.

On how much of a lift it is to have Sidney Crosby skating again:
It’s pretty cool. I think first, we’re just happy for him. It seems like he’s been having fun and smiling. So that’s great, and hopefully this keeps getting better and he’ll join the team when he’s ready.

Alex Kovalev

On adjusting to Pittsburgh’s system:
Since I got here, there are certain things system-wise that I had to get used to with all of the guys. But I just try to follow the game plan and add my game to it. I’ve felt really comfortable for the last four or five games.

On going from a non-playoff team to Pittsburgh:
Well, every team has the goal to win the Stanley Cup, but certain teams don’t have as much success as other teams.  But I’m definitely excited to make the playoffs and hopefully have a good run. I’ve been here before, I know what it feels like in the locker room. There’s different personnel, but it’s still the same. It’s pretty exciting to come back in this locker room again and get going with the guys – trying to have a good run in the playoffs, it’s been a while for me.

On playing Tampa Bay before the playoffs:

For us, what we have to focus on is how we play, and make sure we fixed the mistakes we made (Tuesday) night. Those are the kinds of things we have to work on before the playoffs start, because in the playoffs, those mistakes would cost us.

Paul Martin

On playing two meaningful games right in a row:
It’s a little different. Usually by now, you kind of have it figured out, and we seem to be playing teams that are usually either a division rival or fighting for a playoff berth and fighting to get in. It’s good to play those types of games before the playoffs because that’s the style that it’s going to be. So I mean, it just makes it a little tougher down the stretch, but for us, it’s important just to make sure that we’re doing the things right. We had a good game (Tuesday), we just got away from what we were doing a little bit and it cost us. So hopefully (Thursday) we have a big game and we can kind of seal up that spot and home ice.

On Tampa Bay being a potential first-round playoff opponent for them and how helpful this game could be if that’s the case:
We haven’t played them in a while and they have a good team, a lot of good players. For us to get in there and play them and hopefully get a good win and two points to kind of just let them know that if we do play them, that we’re ready to play.

On how to handle a forward lineup like Tampa Bay’s from a defenseman’s perspective:
It’s tough when you have a lot of talent that plays on the opposing team, but we’ve been doing a good job not spending too much time in our own end. That’s not just the defensemen, but the forwards too, and ‘Flower’ has been playing great. So hopefully we realize how important that is, to get out of our D zone as quickly as we can. With those talented guys, the less time they have with the puck in there, the better. Hopefully we’ll be disciplined and stay out of the box and hopefully that’ll give us a chance.

Club can't even handle him right now: Tony Jovenitti

1:48 PM:
Here's our story on Crosby that summarizes what Shero had to say about his progression. Click here to read it.

1:05 PM:
Bylsma on Crosby...

On how big Crosby traveling with the team is for their mindset:
I think the biggest thing is for Sidney. I think this has been a long process, and it’s a daily process and it’s a gradual process, so to have some progression where you are getting better and you know that – that’s a good thing. He’s still cautiously optimistic about the future, but really, there’s no timetable going forward. This is just one more step. There’s probably another three steps after this that have to (happen) and there’s no timetable for any of those. So it will be good for Sid. It will be good for his mind frame. But I think for the team, I think Sid’s been skating and we’ve been watching YouTube of him breaking water bottles for the last few weeks. So I think this is probably just a continuation of that for the team.

On the compressed nature of Crosby trying to get ready for the playoffs and if there’s enough time for him to get in shape and get his timing back for the end of the regular season:
If you’re talking about things unrelated to the concussion, the answer is the timing and the conditioning are not things we’ve even thought about or are concerned about, really. There’s the progress that he needs to make and the steps that he needs to have (timing and conditioning-wise) is not even on the radar yet. And he’s dealing with the doctor in terms of when that is going to be and how that is going to be. So Ray and I have not had discussions about the start of playoffs, first round, second round. There’s no discussions on those fronts from Ray and I or the team and the coaches and I. So we’re just happy to see him get on the ice with a few teammates now. He’s going to progress for the morning skate and we have no anticipation for when the next step is and where that might be down the road, if at all this year.

On what he and Crosby would need to see doctor-wise to be cleared for a game and if there is an extra risk on coming back for a playoff game due to the amped-up nature:
You are talking to the wrong guy. And just to be real clear, his daily progression and each step along the way, each workout, he’s dealing with the doctors and he’s talking with the doctors about how he’s feeling and where he’s at. That’s the progression we’re following. So to say when contact comes, we’re not telling the doctor what to tell Sid. The doctor (would not have cleared) him for this step if he was not ready for it. He would not clear him for a regular, full practice, nor would he clear him for the later step of contact in practice, nor would (Sid) think about returning to the game if the doctor wasn’t 100 percent sure about where Sid’s at. Again, there is no timetable from us, there’s no dialogue with us with Sid about maybe we should try contact – that’s Sid and the doctor and what he thinks the next step is. Going on the trip and being around for a morning skate is something we’ll start with (Thursday).

12:40 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma said that Dustin Jeffrey has a scheduled surgery Tuesday and the damage in his knee is still unknown.

"Dustin Jeffrey has a scheduled surgery Tuesday," Bylsma said. "The extent of the surgery and the damage in his knee is not known. We’ll have an update after the surgery. I don’t have much more information on that other than that Tuesday he will be having surgery."

He also said Eric Tangradi will not be going on the trip to Florida.

12:22 PM:
Penguins general manager Ray Shero addressed the media about the status of captain Sidney Crosby.

Crosby will be rejoining the team for morning skates (starting Thursday in Tampa Bay), but no for full practice and Shero has no expectations for Crosby's return in the regular season.

Click here to read the full transcript.

"I just want to take a couple minutes here to address the latest on Sidney Crosby. There’s been a lot of speculation out there since he returned to skating a few days ago. He will be rejoining the team tomorrow in practice – but not to get ahead of ourselves, I just want to be clear on a couple things, as an update from myself. While he’s cleared to return to practice, we don’t anticipate him practicing with us all the time. It’s going to be a situation with game day skates. It’s a natural return for his progression here. His rehab has been ongoing. He’s doing well with it, but at the same time, as a manager, I have no expectations of him  coming back and playing in the regular season. That’s not going to happen.

"In terms of playing in the playoffs for us, that’s something that’s still two or three weeks away. I don’t want to take any hope away from the players, but to return to game action for the Stanley Cup playoffs takes a certain type of fitness and (being) game-ready. He is certainly not close to that at this point. While he is doing well, he’s making steps and he’ll be on the ice (Thursday) for a game-day skate with team. It’s another step in the progression for him to get him on the ice with 20 other players. This will not be happening every day.

"So just to be clear as to where we were two weeks ago – there was talk about him retiring, which was ridiculous. There was talk about him coming back April 5, not happening. So I just wanted to make sure there’s not any miscommunication here as to where we’re coming from. There’s no strategic plan from myself and Dan Bylsma to reintroduce him in our lineup at any certain day or time. This is a complex injury. I think we all know that. I think we’re happy as to where he is in terms of getting back on the ice. His off-ice program is continuing, which is good. That’s really where we are. We look forward to having him back on the road trip with us. I know he’s excited to get on the plane with the team this afternoon and get on the road for the first time in a little while with the guys.

"So, it’s another step. But I just want to take a step back and kind of temper some of the enthusiasm for any certain date that he’s coming back to play. That’s not expectation of the manager, and it’s not the expectation of the coach."

Shorthanded game-winning overtime goal: Tony Jovenitti

11:21 AM:
Pictures are worth 1,000 words...

Letestu and Lovejoy sharing secrets? (left); Rupper (right)

Talbot and Engelland (left); Staal dancing? (right)

Comrie rockin' the yellow (left); Godard and Talbot with a little back-and-forth passing down the ice (right)

Staalsy again (left); Nealer testing out a new piece of equipment before practice (right) – don't worry, he's on the ice in full gear for practice now.

11:04 AM:
Bonus – the Pens are wearing their color-coded jerseys this morning! Which makes it easier for us to bring you their line combinations in a timely manner.

Mike Comrie has moved up to the fourth line with Adams and Rupp. Asham is on the fifth line with Tangradi and Godard. Here's the exact combinations:


11:00 AM:
All of the players who participated in Tuesday's morning skate are on the ice and accounted for – or as Tony Jovenitti just said, "The gang's all here!" The only player not on the ice is Dustin Jeffrey. We're still awaiting an injury update on him. As head coach Dan Bylsma said Tuesday, Jeffrey had an MRI that revealed damage, but the degree hasn't yet been determined.

10:45 AM:
Nick Johnson and Matt Cooke skated around 9 a.m. this morning with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar. Johnson was wearing full equipment for a second-straight day. Good sign on the injury front!

10:33 AM:
Hello all. We're currently at CONSOL Energy Center, waiting for the Pens to take the ice for their 11 a.m. skate. After a tough 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers last night, the Pens are now heading to sunny Florida following practice for another big game that holds lots of meaning, as they take on fifth-place Tampa Bay Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.

With their win over Ottawa Tuesday night, the Lightning have climbed to five points behind fourth-place Pittsburgh and are just one point from clinching their first playoff berth since the 2006-07 season. 

Since the team will be jetting to Sunrise after Thursday's game for their Saturday game against the Panthers, we've got to start the blog with a certain musical artist whose name is oh-so-fitting in honor of the Pens' two-game road swing through the Sunshine State. Yep, you guessed it – FLO RIDA. (I must admit, I didn't realize for the longest time that's what his name meant. Whoops). And I'm going to start with "Right Round," because Sam Kasan and I's favorite female artist – Ke$ha – is actually the woman singing the chorus in the song. 

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