JOKINEN FOCUSED ON DRAWS
Jussi Jokinen filled in at center last season when Sidney Crosby was sidelined with a broken jaw, and now he’s been called upon again to do the same for the Penguins’ other superstar center.
With Evgeni Malkin currently day-to-day with a lower-body injury, Jokinen has slid over to play center next to winger James Neal. He made the transition seamlessly in Thursday’s game against San Jose, winning 7 of 11 faceoffs (64 percent) while skating a season-high 18:19 minutes.
Playing center is certainly different than the wing – in addition to taking faceoffs, which are important in terms of puck possession, there’s a lot more responsibility in the defensive zone. But one of the main reasons the Pens acquired Jokinen at last year’s trade deadline was because he’s comfortable at any position. He may be one of the most versatile players in the league with his ability to play any forward position from the first to the fourth line.
“Jussi is a guy that’s played those positions and played them well throughout his career at different times,” Bylsma said. “It’s not like he’s not a centerman and it’s not a natural fit. He is a centerman. He’s played the wing a lot.
“He’s comfortable in a game if we get into a situation where we need a centerman for a shift or shifts in a game, he ‘s ready to do that. It’s not an adjustment period for him. After the (Thursday) morning skate he was making the shift to center it was not an issue at all.”
What he’s been most focused on being back at center, Jokinen said, are faceoffs.
“You have to be prepared to battle right from the start,” he said. “I think that's a huge part of the game and it's something with San Jose and Boston, they're probably the best two teams in faceoffs in the league. So it's a big challenge for our whole group.
“And then just try to be reliable there, a good two-way player. It will be a big game for both teams tonight. It will be fun to watch.”--Michelle Crechiolo
BYLSMA TALKS CROSBY-CHARA MATCHUP
The Pens did not have Evgeni Malkin on Thursday against the Sharks, but even without the NHL’s second-leading scorer in their lineup and going up against a team with depth down the middle, the Pens still scored five goals against San Jose as the Sharks could not contain Sidney Crosby. The NHL's leading scorer recorded three assists in the 5-1 win.
The Pens will be without Malkin again tonight, meaning all of the attention is going to be on Crosby for a second straight game. And while he was able to perservere against what coach Dan Bylsma called the best group of forwards they've played against from 1-12 on Thursday, he’s going to have one tough challenge ahead of him this evening at TD Garden.
Because not only are the Bruins strong at the center position – led by a pair of the best two-way centers in the game in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci – they have Zdeno Chara on defense. Without the normal matchup conundrum the Pens present when their two superstar centers are both in the lineup, you can bet Bergeron and the towering 6-foot-9 Bruins captain will try and key in on No. 87 all night without Malkin to worry about. That’s what coach Dan Bylsma is expecting their focus to be, at least.
“This team, maybe better than any, changes their D-pairings from faceoffs and different situations to get the matchup they want,” he said.
And while it’ll be difficult for Bylsma to try and get a matchup HE wants, especially being on the road and not having the last change, he said there’s a way to try and get Crosby away from Chara.
“If we start Sid from a faceoff, they’re going to get the matchup they want. The only way to have some way to try and get away from him is to do it on the fly,” Bylsma said. “And that really, always when you play the Bruins, is when you have the opportunity to take advantage of when their matchup pairs are on the ice. (Dennis) Seidenberg, Chara – you’ve got to try to keep them on the ice and then counter with your next line or counter with the next guys.
“That’s really one of the challenges we’ve put out there in our keys to the game is being aware of who’s on the ice and making them play. If you can get situations where now you can counter with a Crosby or Malkin or the line you’d like, a lot of times Chara will go back on the ice and you have to take advantage of those situations.” --Michelle Crechiolo
VERIZON GAME DAY REPORT
We went outside into the Boston Commons (which is way colder than TD Garden was this morning) to bring you the latest from the Pens/Bruins morning skates... --Michelle Crechiolo
LOCKER ROOM INTERVIEWS
Brooks Orpik --Michelle Crechiolo
Here's the chatter out of both locker rooms...--Michelle Crechiolo
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said that this morning's skate was optional, so we wouldn't read too much into Crosby and Neal not skating. He added that the lineup will be game-time, so no update now on whether Dupuis will play. And Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal.
The Bruins also held an optional skate this morning. Defensemen Johnny Boychuk (back sprain; out 3-7 days) will not play tonight against Pittsburgh and neither will Adam McQuaid, per Caryn Switaj of the Bruins.--Michelle Crechiolo
PENS SKATE PICS
Good to see Super Duper back on the ice after leaving early in the second period of Thursday's game and missing yesterday's practice
Brooks Orpik also skated after having a maintenance day yesterday.
Jussi Jokinen will have a big challenge tonight playing center against Boston, one of the NHL's deepest teams down the middle
Jayson Megna moved up to play left wing next to Jokinen and Neal last game
Harry Z. got shipped up to Boston
For some reason I always seem to get pictures of these two together
Last year's Norris Trophy finalist with his mentor, Todd Reirden
Close-up shot of Niskanen (I shot from between the benches today. Taking a page of out Bob Errey's book).--Michelle Crechiolo
MORNING SKATE INFO
Winger Pascal Dupuis (lower body, day-to-day) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (maintenance day Friday) both participated in Saturday's morning skate, as did forward Harry Zolnierczyk, who met the team in Boston after getting called up.
Captain Sidney Crosby and winger James Neal were the healthy players who did not practice. The Pens did not do line rushes or power-play units, probably because of the key players missing.--Michelle Crechiolo
"If it's another one-goal game Saturday it should surprise nobody. The past five regular-season games between the Penguins and Bruins have been decided by a single goal, as well as the final two games of Boston's sweep in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final."
...Get the full NHL.com preview here
, and watch my scouting report on the B's below.
START THE DAY
Good morning from Boston! Tonight the Pens will play the Bruins for the third time this season. The Bruins are scheduled to skate at 10:30 a.m. while the Pens will hit the ice at 11:30 a.m. here at TD Garden as they prepare for their final regular-season matchup.
The Pens will be without Evgeni Malkin in this game, as he did not travel with the team to Boston. He missed Pittsburgh's last game against San Jose with a lower-body injury and is currently listed as day-to-day. Pascal Dupuis is also day-to-day with a lower-body injury. However, Dupuis did travel with the team and has a chance to play tonight. Stay tuned to see whether or not he participates in the morning skate.
Additionally, forward Andrew Ebbett was placed on IR and is out indefinitely with a broken ankle. The break occurred Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks while blocking a shot. There is no timetable on his recovery, so the Pens called up forward Harry Zolniercyzk yesterday morning and he met the team in Boston. Harry Z. is in second stint of the season with Pittsburgh. He was scoreless in three regular-season contests earlier in the year. He scored a team-leading nine goals in 18 games with WBS this season.
Games between the Pens and the Bruins always seem to be battles, and the last one was especially fantastic as Sidney Crosby tied the game with 0.3 seconds left in regulation before Bruins defenseman Torey Krug got the winner 34 seconds into overtime. Here's a few notes going into this meeting...
- Pittsburgh enters tonight’s game riding a season-high five-game winning streak and a six-game unbeaten stretch (5-0-1).
- The Penguins have won three straight road games and they are unbeaten in their last four road contests (3-0-1).
- A win tonight would allow the Penguins to finish with a winning record against the Bruins for the third straight year and the fourth time in the past five seasons.
- Pittsburgh has an eight-game unbeaten streak (7-0-1) against Boston dating back to Feb. 4, 2012.
- The Penguins have gone 9-1-1 in their last 11 regular-season matchups with Boston. Pittsburgh has held Boston to two or fewer goals in eight of the 11 games. The Bruins have 24 total goals in those 11 games.
- All five regular-season games between the Penguins and Bruins dating back to last season have been one-goal affairs.
- Pittsburgh enters tonight’s game with a seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1) at TD Garden dating back to March 18, 2010. In those seven games the Penguins have outscored the Bruins 22-14.
Stick tap: Pens PR--Michelle Crechiolo