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Penguins Report: 4/9/12

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Neal & Sullivan will be "ready to go" for Game 1 (12:15 PM).
  • Neal & Sullivan talk return (12:55 PM).
  • Full injury updates (12:30 PM).
  • Neal & Sullivan return to practice (10:55 AM).
  • Lovejoy back; Cooke & Niskanen absent (11:02 AM).
  • Lovejoy discusses his progress (1:10 PM).
  • Pens' lines (11:10 AM).
  • Grossmann returns; Briere uncertain (12:45 PM).
  • Grossmann & Briere practice (11:15 AM).
  • Flyers' lines (11:34 AM).
  • Playoff schedule and TV listings (10:40 AM).
  • MacIntyre sent to WBS (10:45 AM).
  • Big Screen returns (3:15 PM).
  • Cooke may have big impact on series (3:17 PM).
  • Crosby named NHL’s Third Star of Week (11:50 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on matchups, goals & minutes (3:00 PM).
  • Series storylines (10:30 AM).
  • Pens pics (11:28 AM).
  • Interview backdrop (2:30 PM).
  • “I hate you so much right now…” (10:00 AM).

3:17 PM:
There are a lot of players that will handle the headlines in the Pens-Flyers series. But as's Alan Robinson points out, the biggest impact may come from No. 24.

Matt Cooke has changed his game and his mindset. Perhaps in doing so, he has begun to alter the once very negative perception of him around the NHL.

To Cooke, the Pittsburgh Penguins forward who has long had the reputation of being a player with a pronounced edge and nastiness to his game, it's encouraging that he has made others around the League realize he does more than look for the big hit.

What Cooke would most like to do is be a game-changer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he has had mixed success. Cooke's ability to shift roles seemingly from shift to shift -- he can transform instantly from a goal scorer to a blanketing defender -- might just allow him to be an impact player during the postseason.

Full story here.

(Getty Images)

--Sam Kasan

3:15 PM:
The legendary big screen is back!!!

The 16’ x 9’ high-resolution LED video board will be set up in the parking lot of the Epiphany Catholic Church adjacent to Washington Place and positioned toward Fifth Avenue. Fans may gather on the CONSOL Energy Center lawn near Washington Place and the American Eagle plaza.

Full details here.

--Sam Kasan

3:00 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On the matchups between the two teams:
It’s pretty clear which matchups them want, lines and D-pairings against Evgeni (Malkin’s) line. They showed us who they’ll play against Sidney (Crosby’s) line, Jordan Staal’s line as well. I don’t think there are a lot of secrets heading into this in terms of which matchups they’re looking for, whether it’s home or on the road.

On balancing individual and team goals:
Malkin is the best example. He talks about not really being interested in scoring titles and MVPs. It’s about winning the Stanley Cup. Malkin wanted to get 50. Although he doesn’t say it I’m pretty confident he wanted to win the scoring title as well. Those are things you do want. They’re individual things. But all along there is no question he wants to help our team be as good as we can. We saw that last year when he wasn’t with us in the playoffs, trying to get back, how painful that was for him not being able to be there. You see that in training camp with how he worked this summer. It’s not so he can win a scoring title or get 50 goals. That’s what we’ve got ahead of us. Sixteen wins ahead of us to be Stanley Cup champions. There are 16 teams left and that’s what it’s all about right now, no matter what happens or who scores. That’s what it’s all about. The first four are against the Flyers and we have a great challenge getting those first four.

On distributing minutes among Crosby, Malkin and Staal:
It’s a little tougher with three centermen, but those three centermen will play on the power play. After a power play we need a centerman. That centerman is going to have to be a checking-line mindset type of centerman, being (Vitale). Crosby and Malkin will be on the first power-play unit. Staal will go out for the second half of the power play. Vitale slides up a slot when that happens. We’ll get back into a normal rotation after that, which will allow Joe to be on the ice a little bit more. He’ll be used as penalty kill, especially with his faceoffs. If he’s the best guy in the right dot, then he’ll be used in that situation. He’ll be getting some ice time in that area as well. He’ll be a factor at his game. You may see Malkin and Crosby move down into a fourth-line center position and Joe moving to wing. That’s a possibility, which we’ve done in past years. We did that in Philadelphia when Malkin scored at the end of the period. It was a fourth-line shift that Malkin played with Joe and Arron Asham.

--Sam Kasan

2:30 PM:
It must be playoffs...

--Sam Kasan

1:10 PM:
Defenseman Ben Lovejoy participated in his first full practice since having knee surgery 13 days ago. He spoke to the media following the skate…

On how he feels:
I feel great. This is not my first time on the ice. This is my first practice. (Tuesday) is two weeks. I’m feeling good. I can’t tell you what’s going on. Things are feeling good. I’m excited to be back out there practicing. This was another step today. Hopefully, I can be a factor in this series.

On being ahead of schedule:
This is where I expected to be. The doctors were very positive right away. Our physical therapist and I have lived together for the last week and six days. We’ve been best friends. Rick Joreitz may as well have moved into my apartment. I wanted to be ready. I’m feeling very good.

--Sam Kasan

12:55 PM:
Neal and Sullivan talk return...

James Neal

On his health:
It was good to get back out there and get the legs going, get your timing back and get ready for playoffs.

On if he’ll play:
Yeah, I’ll be ready to go Wednesday.

On if the injury could linger:
No, it’s fine. I’ll be all right. I had a good week of rest. That’s what I needed. I’ll be ready to go, 100 percent.

On staying away from the Flyers’ post-whistle scrums:
We just have to stay confident with our play. We can do a lot of great things out there and they can still turn around and score a couple goals on us. Stay disciplined, stay confident with the way we play. If we stay consistent with it we’ll have a successful outcome.

On coming home between Games 3 and 4:
Everyone likes to be at home with their families. It’ll be a busy time so any time you can get home and gets some rest is good.

Steve Sullivan

On how he feels:
Awesome. I’m ready to go.

On if he is fully healthy:
I thought I could have probably played Saturday, but those extra couple of days didn’t hurt. I thought I was good to go by Saturday. I knew today would be a non-issue.

On the chance to make a run for the Cup:
It’s probably the best opportunity that I’ve had. I think I’m very excited, energized and ready to go. These opportunities don’t come along very often so I’m going to make the best of my opportunity here.

On being home between Games 3 and 4:
I don’t think it changes anything. Sometimes you play back-to-back games in the playoffs, sometimes you get an extra day off. It’s out of our control.

--Sam Kasan

12:45 PM:
More updates on the Flyers...

     "Grossmann says he healthy and ready to go. Briere did not talk but may be avail. after team meeting"


--Sam Kasan

12:30 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma had a few updates on player injuries...
  • Niskanen continues to skate on his own
  • Lovejoy is ahead of schedule on his rehab from knee surgery
  • Neal and Sullivan will be ready for Game 1
  • Cooke given maintenance day; expected back at practice Tuesday

"Matt Niskanen is still skating on his own. We saw Sullivan and Neal return to practice and play on the lines they played on three games ago and will be playing on for the start of Game 1.

"Ben Lovejoy was out there, too. That was good. He’s a little ahead of the schedule that was given a couple weeks ago. He’s been doing well. This is his second day in practice. His first day was Saturday.

"Just a maintenance day for Matt. He should be joining us (Tuesday) in practice."

---Sam Kasan

12:15 PM:
Neal and Sullivan have both said they will be "ready to go" for Game 1 Wednesday.

(Getty Images)

--Sam Kasan

11:50 AM:
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was named NHL ‘Third Star’ for the week ending April 8 after tying for the league lead with six points (3G-3A) in three games – all Pittsburgh victories.

Full story here.

(Getty Images)

--Sam Kasan

11:34 AM:
More news from the enemy front. Flyers using the following lines/D-pairs...



Info provided by Sam Carchidi (Philadelphia Inquirer) and Dave Isaac (Philadelphia Journalist).

--Sam Kasan

11:28 AM:
Pens pics...

Staal displays the long strides (left); Staal shares a laugh with asst coach Tony Granato (right)

The Reverend Ben Lovejoy returns to practice the day after Easter. Coincidence?

Neal teaches Staal how to choke up on his stick for better control (left); Dupuis had his 17-game scoring streak snapped by the evil schedule makers (right)

Sullivan also returns to practice, skating with the captain (left); Letang skates on one foot, such a risk taker (right)

Crosby juggles the puck (left); It's playoff time!! (right)

--Sam Kasan

11:15 AM:
The Philadelphia media is reporting that Grossmann and Briere are practicing with the Flyers today. Here's Randy Miller of the South Jersey Courier-Post.

     "Grossmann and Briere practicing with #Flyers today"


--Sam Kasan

11:10 AM:
Pens' lines/D-pairs from practice...

(Tangradi, Jeffrey)


--Sam Kasan

11:02 AM:
More good news on the injury front. Ben Lovejoy returns to practice for the first time since having knee surgery. Matt Cooke and Matt Niskanen are the only Pens missing.

--Sam Kasan

10:55 AM:
James Neal and Steve Sullivan hit the ice for practice. Neal missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, while Sullivan has been out the past three contests. Sullivan also had a lower-body injury.

--Sam Kasan

10:45 AM:
The Pens have re-assigned forward Steve MacIntyre to WBS.

--Sam Kasan

10:40 AM:
The Pens will open the Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center, hosting the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series. The game will be seen locally on ROOT SPORTS.

For the full schedule and TV listings for Round 1 click here.

--Sam Kasan

10:30 AM:
When the Pens and Flyers get together there isn't much that needs to be said. The rivalry and history speaks for itself. That being said, Michelle Crechiolo has a lot to say about the Round 1 matchup between the two intra-state teams. She breaks down some of the intriguing storylines to watch as the opening round unfolds.

Click here for everything you need to know about the matchup.

(Getty Images)

--Sam Kasan

10:00 AM:
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center! Today the Pens are back to business with an 11 a.m. practice after having a day off Sunday. And the business is about to get real. In two days the postseason will officially kick off against Pittsburgh's most-hated rival: the Philadelphia Flyers. I can't think of a better way to start the best time of the year than playing the Flyesr with everything on the line.


So who's ready for Pens-Flyers in the playoffs? I think I can sum up the feelings on both ends of the Commonwealth with this video below.

--Sam Kasan
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