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Penguins Report: 4/14/12

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Niskanen injury update (1:00 PM).
  • Niskanen practicing with the team (11:40 AM).
  • Trib Total Media Playoff Update (4:00 PM).
  • All of the Pens accounted for at practice (11:44 AM).
  • Pens' line combos (11:49 AM).
  • Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma (1:55 PM).
  • Crosby, Letang, Fleury and Neal give their thoughts (1:45 PM).
  • Pens pics (12:20 PM).
  • One game at a time (11:05 AM).

4:00 PM:
Steve Mears brings you today's Trib Total Media Playoff Update on what is a travel day for the team.

1:55 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On if he believes that there are only small mistakes to fix:
We’re down 2-0 and we’ve made some mistakes with the puck. We’ve made some situations occur that gave them opportunities. When you’ve given up leads in games and gone into third periods with leads, you feel like you’ve let things slip away and maybe made one or two situations occur that gave them opportunities. That’s the sentiment. 

On the probability that Matt Niskanen will be in the lineup on Sunday:
Today was his first day back in practice. That was a step in the right direction. He certainly has to have the ability to play with the strength that he needs to have to play. That will be the deciding factor. If he can go in, that will be it – If he has the strength in his injury to go back and play.

On if the manner of the losses affects the mindset:
If you are asking does it affect the mindset, I think it does. You can say that losing 4-3 is a 4-3 loss no matter how it goes down. In an overtime game it’s painful for anybody who’s losing 4-3. We know several other teams that had that happen to them in Game 1. I think we understand we had leads and 3-0 leads and two-goal leads, and they were able to come back. That’s something we talked about before the series started. We knew that was going to be the case for this Flyer team. We knew that they were going to play and I don’t think there has been a lot of surprises in that regard. I think it’s difficult to deal with those losses. At the same time, we have to put it behind us. We have to get ready for one game, which is Sunday at 3 o’clock in Philly.

On Evgeni Malkin and his line’s performance:
I would say their play has been good. Last game they played in the offensive zone. They were effective there, had shifts there. They scored two power-play goals. We talked about the PK goals against, which nullified the two power-play goals. They’re in a tough matchup right now and I thought last game was a lot of what we need. In the offensive zone they were effective there. We know that’s going to be a factor moving forward in Games 3 and 4. They’re going to have that matchup and they are going to be faced with that situation. They’ve got to keep playing, play through it and be effective. We as a team have to do a better job of being in game situations where we manage the game. If we had won those two games we’d think (Evgeni Malkin) was playing better than when we are down 2-0.

On if it is against his system to go into a trap:
We play and have always played a 1-2-2 trap. We did it for maybe two games before the playoffs started. The 29 games that we did, we’re 26-0-3 in the regular season going into the third. We played a trap.

On if they tried trapping in Games 1 and 2 and didn’t execute it:
I think they are two different games in how we’ve given up the goals. We gave up three special teams goals to them last game. Their two shorthanded goals were a big factor in the game. That’s kind of a different game. We have to do a better job with the lead. We have to do a better job of the mindset with the lead with games played. I think the two games were different. We still gave up the leads that we had. When you are up two goals or 3-0 in the playoffs, those are games that you have to keep the right mindset, play with the lead and find ways to limit opportunities, which we have not done.

--Brittany Goncar

1:45 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room…

Sidney Crosby

On using past experience of winning series after being down 2-0:
I think you always try to use those experiences and understand what you need to do. That’s something that I think will help. At the end of the day we need to be our best in the next game.

On the team’s defensive adjustments:
I don’t think we need to change a whole lot. We’ve made a few mistakes. If you look at last night, we gave up two goals on our power play. You can’t do that and expect to win a hockey game. Little mistakes that we have to clean up. We want to manage the puck a little bit better, hold onto it a little bit more and possess it. That’s really where it’s at, managing the puck and not allowing them to get up ice.

On if defensive execution problems carried over from the end of the regular season:
It had it’s moments. There were some games finishing the season where we did a pretty good job, too, playing well defensively. It’s not something you can just turn on. All year we’ve made a conscious effort to play well defensively. We’ve been good with leads. We know what to do. It’s just a matter of making sure we do it.

Kris Letang

On using past experience of winning series after being down 2-0:
You want to make sure you’re focused on what you’re supposed to do. You don’t start questioning what worked in the regular season. It’s a key for our success. We have to keep doing the same thing and take it game by game.

On the atmosphere in Philly:
It’s going to be tough. They have a good crowd. They’re pretty loud, especially in their building with the lead 2-0 against us. It’ll be a good atmosphere. It’ll be fun to be a part of.

On if being hated by the crowd helps motivate them:
No matter what, in the playoffs you have to win on the road. A good rivalry like that, you get a lift from those games. It’s fun to be a part of. We’ll see the true face of our team. We’ll see the guys’ character.

On dealing with adversity:
You don’t want to (to be down 2-0). Sometimes in life you’re forced to go through adversity. That’s what we’re facing right now. It’s a good hockey team. They’re really skilled. They scored eight goals against a team that played well defensively this year. You have to give them credit but at the same time we have to correct those mistakes.

On how Fleury is playing:
Marc-Andre has been great for us. Last night he had three breakaways and a 3-on-1 at the end. He’s been playing great. Every time he steps into the cage he gives us a chance to win. I’m looking forward to seeing him in Game 3.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On his mindset:
I feel good I guess. It’s not what we planned to start with, but at the same time we can’t panic right now. We have to play hard, play our best and get some wins.

On the Flyers’ offense:
I think that’s something we expected from them. They are quick and have a lot of skill on the power play. That’s something we talked about tightening up a little bit, From me, make more saves.

On his game:
I don’t know (how I feel). It’s two losses. That’s what bothers me a lot. Some of the goals were tough ones, bad bounce. But it’s too many goals. I’m not happy with that. That being said I just want to forget about it, put it behind me and get ready for tomorrow.

James Neal

On if their neutral zone play led to the Flyers’ scoring outburst:
They had an empty-net goal, two shorthanded two goals. I didn’t put much thought into that.

On how well his line has been defended against:
I’m not surprised. We knew it was going to be tough with Couturier and Talbot. They have other guys that want to shut down our top line and they stay on us. They’ve done a good job so far. We need to go into Philly and do the job. That’s going through that line and being physical with them and doing the right things. As soon as we got away from our game they capitalized a lot. That takes a way from us. We need to be better on the power play. We can’t give up shorthanded goals like we have been. We need to take the errors out of our game.

--Sam Kasan

1:00 PM:
Niskanen said after practice that his injury is getting better slowly and his status is "kind of a day-by-day thing" right now. Both he and head coach Dan Bylsma said what will be the deciding factor in whether he plays Sunday for Game 3 is whether he'll have enough strength in the injured area to be functional and be able to play the way he needs to play.

It's not so much a matter of pain tolerance. As Niskanen said, "Right now, it’s just a matter of strength and being able to do what I need to do out there. Everybody plays through pain. That’s not going to be an issue. It’s going to be a functional thing and if I can play the way I need to play without anything holding me back."

Here's the rest of what Niskanen had to say...

On how he feels and if he’ll be ready for Game 3:
The injury is getting better slowly. It’s kind of a day-by-day thing right now. It felt good to be out there with the guys today. I was able to do a lot of things that I wasn’t (Friday). So progressing. I guess we’ll find out (Sunday) morning.

On how frustrating it’s been for him watching:
It sucks. It’s just killing me being in the press box. You play your butt off all year to be in this playoff series and try to help your team any way you can. Especially with the way things haven’t been going right so far. It really hurts to watch. But I’ve got to get back when I can and have confidence in the guys that we’re going to turn it around.

On if being behind in the series will impact his decision to return:
In a perfect world, I’d say no, you’re ready when you’re ready. But our backs are against the wall. As soon as some of the things that have been keeping me out are ready, I’ll be in as soon as I can. A lot of players play with pain this time of year. Aches and pains, injuries – I’m no different. I’ve got to get ready and as soon as I’m physically able, I’ll make sure I get out there.

On if it’s a matter of pain tolerance or if there’s still a risk of reinjury:
I think there’s always that risk when you’re coming back from an injury. But right now, it’s just a matter of strength and being able to do what I need to do out there. Everybody plays through pain. That’s not going to be an issue. It’s going to be a functional thing and if I can play the way I need to play without anything holding me back.

--Michelle Crechiolo

12:20 PM:
Pics of the Pens at work...

--Brittany Goncar

11:49 AM:
Pens kick off practice with line rushes. The combos remain the same...


The eight defensemen are rotating.

--Michelle Crechiolo

11:44 AM:
With Niskanen joining team practice, all of the Pens are accounted for this morning. Nobody is missing.

--Michelle Crechiolo

11:40 AM:
Defenseman Matt Niskanen just stepped onto the ice for practice. He missed the last two regular-season games and the first two contests of this playoff series with an upper-body injury. Until today, he had been skating on his own before practices.

(Getty Images)

--Michelle Crechiolo

11:35 AM:
The Pens are starting to filter onto the ice for practice.

--Michelle Crechiolo

11:05 AM:
Good morning from Southpointe. Today the Pens will hold an 11:30 a.m. practice. Afterward, they'll fly across the state to Philly for Game 3, scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. and televised nationally on NBC.


The Pens will get back down to business after a wild 8-5 loss to the Flyers in Game 2 last night at CONSOL Energy Center that gives Philly a 2-0 lead in the opening-round series. As my colleage Sam Kasan wrote in his game recap: "The game featured 13 total goals, two hat tricks, two goals scored in the final 20 seconds of a period, the teams twice trading goals less than 20 seconds apart, three power-play goals, two shorthanded goals, 59 shots, 74 hits and enough back-and-forth action to cramp your neck."

It was a tough setback in what's already been an emotional rollercoaster of a series, but the Pens are a veteran group with plenty of postseason experience. They've found ways to battle through all different kinds of adversity the past few years, and they'll find a way to bounce back from this. There's a reason why playoff series go seven games. All the guys can do is stay the course and take it one game at a time, starting tomorrow in Philly.

Here's something to keep in mind: the last time the Penguins dropped the first two games at home was the 1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington. They rebounded to win four straight games to capture the series, 4-2.

--Michelle Crechiolo
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