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Penguins Report: Game Day at Atlanta

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

5:12 PM:

Around the Rink at Philips Center:





3:27 PM:
Long before Atlanta had Philips Arena and the Thrashers, there was the Omni Coliseum, which housed the NHL's Atlanta Flames from 1972 until the team relocated to Calgary following the 1980 season. The NBA's Atlanta Hawks also called the Omni home from 1972 until the building closed in 1997.

Omni Coliseum 
Credit -

Omni Coliseum was located at Omni Complex, which has since been renamed CNN Center. Many of the accompanying buildings house the CNN headquarters. Philips Arena, the current home of the Thrashers, was built on the site of the old Omni Coliseum.

Inside the Philips Arena concourse is the original scoreboard which hung inside Omni Coliseum. Here is a comparison between the Omni scoreboard on the left, and the Philips Arena version on the right.


While we are breaking down the dynamics surrounding Philips Arena, another characteristic of "The Phil" is the arena's luxury boxes are all located on the same side of the arena. Below is a picture depicting Philip's Arena's odd symmetry.

Special thanks to FSN's Dan Potash and Wikipedia for contributing to this report.

3:01 PM:
For those hockey fans who enjoy watching the stars of tomorrow, a pair of Penguins' prospects, defensemen Carl Sneep and Philip Samuelsson, will be in action tonight as their Boston College Eagles squad takes on the Wisconsin Badgers in the championship game of the NCAA Frozen Four tournament. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. at Ford Field and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

Boston College, which defeated Miami of Ohio (7-1) in the semifinal, also has a pair of Pittsburgh products on their roster in freshman goaltender Parker Milner and blueliner Patrick Wey. Earlier in the week caught up with Sneep, Samuelsson and Milner.

2:56 PM:
Sounds heard around the Penguins locker room earlier today:

Head Coach Dan Bylsma

On the Ponikarovsky suspension:
I immediately thought after the game that it would be something they would look at. With some of the other situations around the league I figured they would be looking at it right away. I didn’t anticipate two games but the league has made it pretty clear they are going to look at every one of these hits and determine what every situation is going to be. We will deal with it.
On how his absence complicates getting ready for the playoffs:
I think Alexei in particular – he hasn’t played a lot with the centermen. It’s not a huge complication. It gives him a chance to work on some things that he can work on. As far as getting comfortable with Geno – I think he has played enough.
On Talbot taking Ponikarovsky’s place:
I would anticipate Max being up there and (Mike) Rupper being up there in different situations.
On what his lineup could look like with everyone available:
You are talking about a hypothetical world and I have not dealt in a hypothetical world. Clearly we have decisions to make with what the lines will be. I think it is easy to look back at last year and say that the lines were the same way the whole time. They weren’t as much as we think they were. Max was up with 71 (Malkin) and 26 (Ruslan Fedotenko), but 9 (Pascal Dupuis) was also there and 81 (Miroslav Satan) was also there as was Petr Sykora as well. I think it will be a situation where there are a couple guys who get some time up on the top-two lines, but will be on the fourth line as well.
On having Kunitz ready:
That’s the hope – that he will be starting for us the first game.

Sidney Crosby

On whether he is thinking about leading the league in goals and points:
I want to play well. That is something that will come with it. For us it has to be about these next two games. We have to make sure that we put ourselves in the best position possible and hopefully get some help to get second place.
On wanting to know the results of the other games while the Penguins are playing:
We have to win ours.  That is our focus. I don’t think we want to get caught doing that. I think you want to make sure you take care of yourself. We have to take care of our game. We will have a little bit better idea after tonight but at the same time we have to take care of business.
On the dangers playing teams out of the race:
I am sure they are going to want to play spoiler. I think for us, we have a lot of motivation. There should be no shortage of that in the next few games. We have to be aware of that but we have to be prepared that they are going to be playing loose. We have to be ready for tough games here.
On what has made Kunitz such a great fit on his line:
He brings that physical presence. He has speed and he goes to the net hard. That is a guy who does a lot of the things that are not always noticeable. Everyone has to pick up their game when a guy is out of the lineup.
On where he ranks among linemates:
He is probably one of the guys I have played with the most along with Billy (Guerin) and early on with Army (Colby Armstrong). I have played a lot with him so I think there is a comfort level there. We have built some chemistry.

Alexei Ponikarovsky

On the hit on Bailey:
I was going back to our defensive zone and I saw the puck going into the corner so I went to help out our D. The puck kind of slid into the corner and Bailey was going to pick it up. At the last second he decided make a sharp turn. I was going through with my check. He kind of leaned forward too low. There was no way for me to turn away. Momentum was taking me right through it. I just basically finished the check and that is what happened.
On if he was surprised at getting suspended:
No. From what I know he got hurt. It wasn’t my intention to hurt anybody. I am not that type of player to do dirty things. It’s hockey and that sort of thing happens. Unfortunately he suffered a cheekbone fracture. I was hoping nothing would happen.
On if he thinks he wouldn’t have been suspended had Bailey not gotten hurt:
It was still up to the league. We know they are being hit pretty hard with all the hits like that when they happen. I explained everything to them and was hoping I wouldn’t get suspended. Circumstances that we got into just dictated that I had to be suspended. I am just sorry to hear that. I didn’t mean to do it.
On how this will hurt his postseason preparation:
For sure you want to finish the season. We have to get back to our game and prepare for the playoffs as a team. For sure it is not a good thing. Right now I just have to work hard and get ready for the playoffs.
On developing chemistry with Malkin:
He has been sick a few times and he had that foot problem. You always work on something. We will see how it will go. Maybe we didn’t play as much as we would have liked to because he was out for a little bit, but we are just going to bring it in the playoffs.

2:25 PM:
Penguins forward Chris Kunitz will miss his third consecutive game tonight with an undisclosed injury. However, Kunitz appears closer to returning to the lineup after taking part in the morning skate on Saturday at Philips Arena.

"Obviously things are still day-to-day," Kunitz said. "It’s just a matter of trying to keep your legs until you can get back in the lineup."

Kunitz said that he would like to get a game in before the postseason begins next Wednesday or Thursday, but he also knows it's more important that he is as close to 100 percent healthy as he can be.

"I’d like to get a game in but you have to make sure you are smart," Kunitz said. "We have a lot of important games coming up. If you damage something or hurt something before that – the playoffs are something I don’t want to miss out on out. But as soon as I am healthy I am going to get back in there."

2:15 PM:
Here are pictures from the Penguins' morning skate at Philips Arena:

Penguins forward Chris Kunitz, right, took part in the morning skate but will not dress tonight against the Thrashers.

Marc-Andre Fleury will once again get the call in goal while Eric Godard is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday.

Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, standing furthest to the right in the picture on the left, is accompanying the team on this trip. He lent a helping hand this morning at practice.



2:06 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma announced that Marc-Andre Fleury will once again get the call tonight between the pipes for the Penguins. He is expected to be opposed by former Penguin Johan Hedberg, who nearly stole the Thrashers two points last Saturday at Mellon Arena.

11:32 AM:

Ponikarovsky and Chris Kunitz are skating on a makeshift line with Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald. The former assistant coach is joining the Penguins on this two-day road trip.

Kunitz, whose availability for the game is unknown, has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury. The combinations looked as follows:


11:22 AM:
The Penguins are starting to filter onto the ice. The team has an 11:30 a.m. skate scheduled. Pittsburgh will not have the services of Alexei Ponikarovsky, who is serving a two-game suspension.

11:10 AM:
The Atlanta Thrashers, who played last night at Washington and conclude their season tonight against Pittsburgh, did not hold a morning skate at Philips Arena this morning. Atlanta was officially eliminated from the playoffs earlier this week.

The Pittsburgh Penguins conclude the 2009-10 regular season this weekend with back-to-back road contests beginning with Saturday's 7 p.m. tilt with the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena. Pittsburgh will commence their season on Sunday with a 5 p.m. matchup in Long Island, New York against the Islanders.
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