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Penguins Report: Back in Blue

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins


For the ninth time this season, the Penguins will be wearing their blue third jersey Thursday night when they face the Ottawa Senators in the season series finale.

Quick hits (injury updates and game status):
Alex Goligoski - undisclosed, did not practice, out vs. Ottawa
Max Talbot - lower-body, practiced, expected to play vs. Ottawa
Bill Guerin - undisclosed, practiced with "no contact," status to be determined Thursday morning
Tyler Kennedy - undisclosed, did not practice, status to be determined Thursday morning
Eric Godard - undisclosed, did not practice, no status update

See Bylsma's quotes from Wednesday's media scrum on injuries at 12:50 PM entry.

2:47 PM:
More sounds from the locker room:

Bill Guerin
On his condition and doing sit-ups instead of push-ups at practice today:
I feel good. I did all my push-ups yesterday, so I had to work a different part of the body. It is part of the game – it’s all tough.
On playing Ottawa Thursday night:
They’re playing great. We’re going to have to be on our A-game to beat them. They’ve got some players back. They’ve got their captain back whose been playing great since he’s come back from his injury. They seem to be firing on all cylinders, so we have to be ready.
On their talented goaltender:
That’s always good to have – a hot goaltender. He’s been just that. Again, I think it’s just most important for us to realize that they’re playing well and focus on what we have to do to be successful.
On what the team figured out on the road against Philadelphia and New York:
I think we just got to our game early in both games, and we just kind of stayed with it. We went through some highs and lows with some penalty trouble in Philly. If you’re not in the lineup, then it’s kind of tough to tell. So, I wasn’t really sure about the Ranger game. It just seemed like we were more ourselves and playing our system, playing our aggressive style.
On what it means for players from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to come up and make big impacts:
It’s been great to be able to have young guys like that in the system that can come up and make an impact as our guys have done. They come up, and they fit right in and do their job. Unfortunately, they go right back down, but that’s the way it is nowadays, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of them soon.
On if he will play in Thursday night’s game:
Honestly, I’ve been fortunate enough to have good health this year, and this is just a little bump in the road.  We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.

Brooks Orpik
On the Penguins’ special teams improving:
You have to look at the special teams to dissect the top teams from the bottom teams. That’s the way the league is now. If you don’t have good special teams, then you’re not going to make the playoffs. If you can squeeze into the eighth position, you’re probably not going to last long unless your special teams improve. It’s definitely something that we put a lot of video effort into and then hoping that translates onto the ice. The last few games have definitely been indications that it has.
On Fleury returning to his game after Johnson filled in for him:
I think both guys – Johnny was coming off an injury and obviously the Washington game wasn’t exactly what he wanted, but he bounced back real well in Philly. He would have had a shutout if it wasn’t for that fluky power-play goal that he got at the beginning. Marc played real well especially with three PKs right in a row in the third period. I think it’s more being mentally strong when he bounced back from injuries like that. With this injury, he was kind of lucky with it, because he could still get on the ice and work on some of the stuff with (goaltending coach) Gilles Meloche. So, when we came back, he was pretty sharp.
On the current NHL standings:
Hopefully when you get to the last 20 games, you hope that there’ll be some separation from teams. If you look at the last couple of years, it came right down to the last couple of weeks. We were in 10th place last year at this time and moved all the way up to fourth place. If you look at the standings, it’s still so bunched up. I don’t think anyone’s too far behind you or too far ahead of you. When you look at the overtime games and shootout games, we have three points at stake. It just bunches it up even more.  With the pairing in the league these days, I don’t really see that changing too much. I don’t see someone getting way too far ahead or dropping too far out.
On playing Ottawa:
They’ve been playing really well. They got those three guys back. Even when they were out, they kind of weathered the storm – stayed .500 there. Now, they have them back, and they’ve won seven in a row. We’ll definitely have our hands full tomorrow night.

Matt Cooke

On what he thinks about Ottawa coming in on a seven-game win streak:
They’re going well. They’re playing a team game, and everybody’s chipping in. That makes them a dangerous team, and obviously you don’t put seven wins together in this league without being a good team.
On what it takes to get the penalty kill back to where it was last year:
It’s a mindset. It’s being confident that when your team takes a penalty that we’re going to be able to go out and kill it off. It’s everybody being on the same page and just really focusing on – rather than the fact that we got a penalty – focusing on what we can do to kill it. For the most part, Jordan (Staal) and I kill together. 

Jordan Staal
On their ability to draw penalties:
That is our game. When we’re playing in the offensive zone, there’s more than a likely chance that they’re going to get a penalty on us. Our job is obviously to create momentum and create chances when playing in their end. We try to do that every night.
On getting those rare opportunities on the power play:
It’s an opportunity, and it’s something that I need to work on as a player – to get better on the power play. I’ve never really been counted on to be a power-play guy, but in the future hopefully I can get there.
On what he thinks about the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton guys coming up and making an impact:
We’ve had a lot of players in this organization that can step up – all the way down to the AHL. We had a great team, and that’s big for us, especially with the way things are going right now. We have some injuries again, and it’s something that it’s always nice to know that we have a good backup. 
On if the team changes anything when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton guys come up:
We don’t change too much. They play a much similar system as we do down there, so it’s a pretty easy adjustment for them. They make it look easier than it probably is.

Assist Caitlin Kasunich

2:02 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room:

Dan Bylsma
On the surging Senators:
They were winning games before they were totally healthy so it’s not just completely getting back to health. I know Cory Clouston likes to have his teams play hard and with a good structure defensively. Right now that is how they are playing. It is allowing them to limit what other teams can do. Some of their players are stepping up and it’s not just their main guys. They are playing a good team game right now. They are getting good goaltending from (Brian Elliott). That guy is riding a winning streak. I think every team in the league would like to win seven in a row. They are playing real well and they have beaten some good teams. It should be a good matchup tomorrow.
On why the Ottawa power play has been struggling:
It’s a special teams battle and there are two sides to that coin. You can win hockey games without your power play getting goals. Your penalty kill has to step up. They have been doing it with not just special teams. They are not getting a lot of power play support but their goaltending has been good and their team game has been good. Their lineup has been stepping up with (Alex) Kovalev and getting (Jason) Spezza back.
On Conner getting two goals and being sent down:

The situation is such that you can’t read too much into getting sent back down after the game. It wasn’t so much what he did or didn’t do. It seems a little bit easier to say now after the kid has such a great game and gets two goals, including the game-winner when the kids helps us win the game versus if the kid didn’t play well and we sent him down. I think he understands he came in and did a good job. He came in and showed what he can do with his speed. He made the most of his opportunity. When you make the most of opportunities like that you usually get another one again.
On being confident bringing guys up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:
I think a little of it is the comfort level. The two organizations run the same system with the same talk and the same expectations on how we want to play. It’s also a credit to what they are doing in WBS with (head) coach (Todd) Reirden and coach (John) Hynes and the players. They are getting players in and creating an atmosphere where you are going to get better and you are going to compete. If you do compete and play well, you are going to have a chance to get called up. I think those players have done a great job, not just the ones who have come up and scored goals but the ones who have come up and played seamless hockey for us – Mark Letestu, the defensemen (Ben Lovejoy, Deryk Engelland and Nate Guenin) and Luca Caputi. They have all really added to what we have done on the ice. That is a huge asset to have. It’s not just one guy and it’s not just the forwards. The whole crew who have come up have done a great job. That is a testament to what the organization has done in a lot of areas.
On the play of Letang:
Kris Letang, I think he is pushing and we are pushing for him to keep stepping up his game. I think the area of the game he has picked it up the past few (games) has been the defensive side with his gap and physical play. He has been knocking guys off the puck in the defensive zone. I think maybe that is showing up at the other end. I think it’s that defensive game we saw from him at the end of last year in tough situations in the playoffs. Hopefully he can end up being a shutdown guy for us with his skating ability and the way he plays defense. It is translating at the other end.

Sidney Crosby
On putting in extra work:
Yes, we had an off day (Tuesday) and didn’t have a chance to practice. We don’t have much of an opportunity to practice. In a few days we might have that chance but for now we don’t have many so I try to make the most of them.
On the power play doing anything different:
The puck is just going in. We had power plays a couple of weeks ago where the other team couldn’t get us out of their end and we would have five or six scoring chances. Now, it’s not taking much and it’s going in. The main thing throughout the whole time has been our work ethic. You get rewarded for that.
On being almost unbeatable when they score on the power play:
Special teams are big. We have a lot of guys who are dangerous five-on-five. If our power play can give us a boost or an extra goal or two, that is going to help us a lot. We have seen the difference here the past couple games.
On what he has seen from the Senators recently:

I think they are healthy. They lost (Jason) Spezza there and they had (Anton) Volchenkov out for a little bit earlier. They are just healthy. This is the time of the year when you start seeing teams pick it up a little bit. We all realize the games become bigger. Hopefully as a team we are improving but other teams are too. I think you are going to see teams make pushes here and see some teams gain momentum.
On Malkin getting hot:
Geno is dangerous whenever he is out there – whatever the situation is. When he is out there letting it rip on the power play that is trouble for the other teams. He is a big part of our team. He has done a great job.
On having fun at practice:

I think we are pretty good at doing that throughout the whole year. If you start trying to change things later on then you start to lose your routine. We have always been a team which works hard in practice and takes it seriously. I enjoy working hard – that is important – but our coaching staff likes to have fun. We are definitely lucky.
On the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton guys stepping up:
Big time. It’s nice to see (Nick) Johnson get his first goal. That is always fun seeing guys get their first goal. Chris (Conner) came in and had a great night at Madison Square Garden. That is always fun to see in sports. That is pretty refreshing to see guys come in working as hard as they do and getting rewarded. You love to see that. It says a lot about every in WBS and that they know what they are doing there. Guys who have been coming in have done a good job.
On Johnson and Conner being sent back down:
That is not an easy situation. There is a lot to be said for guys who are able to do that. Nick came in, then he went back to WBS and played a game there and then he came back with us. To be traveling like that – that is not easy, especially when both of them were expected to come in and play on the top two lines. That takes a lot of guts and character to do that. They deserve a lot of credit for what they go through and the job they do.

Maxime Talbot
On getting back out there:
It feels great. I had been skating by myself for a little bit. It feels good to be out there with the guys.
On how close he is to playing:
I am really close. I think I will be in there on Thursday.
On the Senators’ surge:
(Daniel) Alfrdsson came back and they are a different team. They are playing really good. They beat the Devils in their last game and that means a lot. We are going to have to be ready. They are always interesting games against Ottawa.
On the young guys coming up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:
(Nick) Johnson played great on the right wing. He is a great player. He did some great things. Scoring in his first game was awesome. (Chris) Conner came up the last game and he was amazing. He scored two big goals. It was nice to see they were ready.
On having fun at practice:
(Head coach) Dan (Bylsma) always brings that kind of stuff. It is good for us and it keeps us loose. Even when we were losing this was the stuff that he brought. For us, it’s great. It keeps it fun. We always have the shootouts at the end and that kind of stuff. For us, it makes it interesting. It’s a long season. January and February comes and guys get a little tired. It’s good to have a little fun out there.

Marc-Andre Fleury
On how the glove felt:
It wasn’t bad at all. I had a couple of shots go into my glove. I caught them and I wasn’t swollen, so that was good.
On the save against Brandon Dubinsky being a true test:
I was happy when I caught that one to know that (the finger) felt good. That was good confidence for me.
On noticing the injury during games:
Sometimes there was a little pinch but it’s not bad. It’s good enough to play.
On the new glove doing the job:

Yes it was good.
On the Senators:
They have been playing good lately. There goaltender (Brian Elliott) has been doing awesome. It is going to be a good challenge for us. We have played well. If we play the same way then we will be fine.
On breaking the glove in quickly:

Usually it is pretty stiff at the beginning but it felt OK. 

Assist Jason Seidling

12:50 PM:
Here are all the injury updates from head coach Dan Bylsma:

"Alex (Goligoski) probably won't be on the ice tomorrow (Thursday). Max (Talbot) we expect to return tomorrow, He was better today and ready to go. Billy Guerin is day-to-day still still. We'll wait until tomorrow to see what the situation is. TK (Kennedy) is in the same situation as Billy Guerin. We'll find out about those guys tomorrow morning."

11:49 AM:

Evgeni Malkin (left) and Ruslan Fedotenko (right) stretch for practice

Maxime Talbot (left) participated in the full practice

Bill Guerin, who missed the team's last game, wore the baby blue "no contact" jersey. It will be a shame come Feb. 1 when Guerin shaves off his impressive moustache.

Head coach Dan Bylsma (left) frees up some pucks, while Pascal Dupuis (right) puts on the foil (actually just tape).

11:14 AM:
The Penguins were given a day off Tuesday after a successful 2-0 showing on the 4th Annual "Dad's Trip," earning victories over Philadelphia, 2-1, Sunday and NY Rangers, 4-2, Monday.

The team has taken the ice for its Wednesday afternoon practice. A couple quick notes to lead off:

- Eric Godard, Tyler Kennedy and Alex Goligoski are not practicing. Goligoski missed the team's contest in New York against the Rangers with an undisclosed injury, while Godard left in the first period of that same game and did not return.

- Bill Guerin, who also missed the New York contest, did practice but wore a light blue "no contact" jersey. Normally a player will wear a red jersey if they aren't fit for contact, but since the Penguins are going blue, Guerin donned the baby blue.

- Max Talbot, who has missed three games with a lower-body injury, practiced.

- Chris Kunitz skated prior to practice and did some work with strength & conditioning coach Mike Kadar. He is on injured reserve after having abdominal surgery at the start of December.

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