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Penguins Report: Game Day at Buffalo

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
6:06 PM:

As is often the case in the Penguins locker room, the players have a little fun. Although this picture from a camera phone is not the best quality, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury places a piece of the tape from his pads on the back of FSN Pittsburgh's Dan Potash:


5:56 PM:
Around the rink at HSBC Arena:






3:55 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room today:

Dan Bylsma

On landing in bad weather when you visit Buffalo:
It has been the history of the Penguins coming to Buffalo where you are going to experience some wintery weather. It is expected.
On getting back to their game:
I think that is one of the concerns and focuses we have tonight. Our execution level and our puck management haven’t allowed us to get to a fast game, put the other team back on their heels and allow us to get to the offensive zone. As a result we have played some 50-50 games the last three or four (games). We have won some of those games but that doesn’t mean he have played our type of game so we have brought attention to that. Execution-wise, puck-management wise we need to do a better job of going north and getting into the offensive zone, forcing them to deal with our speed, forcing them to go back for pucks and then we have to establish some offensive-zone time to establish our game.
On the forward units for Tuesday:
It’s more than my opinion going in. There is a lot of talk between the coaches. Mike Rupp has been a force when he gets his opportunity to play so he is going to play alongside Geno and Billy Guerin tonight. Chris Kunitz is going to go back alongside Sidney Crosby there so we have a straight-line game and a physical presence there. The whole team, we weren’t happy with the way we executed last game. We need to adjust our execution-level, our puck management and hopefully this will give us the best chance to get to our game as quickly as possible tonight.
On Rupp maybe thinking he is now a sniper:
He would be reminded real quickly if he was going to change his mind. Mike knows exactly what his game is. A lot of his success has come with Sid and Geno at different times of the year. If you think back a few games he was out there with Geno and (Ruslan) Fedotenko. He was the guy who chipped (the puck) in and took two guys out to establish our forecheck and allow Geno to make the play to Feds for that goal. That is what he brings to a line. That is how he is effective for those guys. That is how he creates space. He has been doing that with regularity so I don’t expect him to change.
On how Thomas Vanek changes the Sabres when he is in the lineup:
He is certainly an individual to be aware of and where he goes. Where he resides on the power play is a part of his effectiveness for the team. You talk about a speed team, part of that is execution, part of that is the way they manage the puck and part of it is how their D activate into the play causing speed north. Their skill level goes up when Vanek is in there. It is something to be aware of and pay attention to. We are going to pay attention to the attributes of this team and what we can do against them.
On the Olympics:
I think (talk) has been brought in because of those announcements. I think it has been pretty consistent throughout the year. There hasn’t been a ton of talk within our room. You get reminded by the media, you get reminded because Steve Yzerman is in the building or whatever reason there have been some reminders. Within our room there hasn’t been a lot of talk or banter. We announced in our room that Geno and Gonch were going to be on the Olympic team and congratulated them.

Sidney Crosby

On success on the road:
We are confident. I think we are more thinking about trying to bounce back from last game. We don’t look too far back or too far forward. We try to make sure we worry about what is going on right now. We are playing a good team here that plays well at home. We are going to have a good test here tonight.
On the bus trip:
We kind of caught in some snow there. We got stopped at a light and it kind of dug in a bit. Basically the front half of the bus got out and pushed. It’s not something we haven’t seen before. We have all been down that road before I think. You don’t usually see it happen a whole lot these days but sure enough we had a lot of guys out there pushing. It was a good little team-building here the day before the game.
On who decided who was going to get out and push:
It was the front half of the bus. There were some coaches out there, actually. Whatever it takes. It had kind of been a long day up until that point so I think everyone was just willing to do whatever it took to get to the hotel and relax a bit.
On getting trapped in the snow in Buffalo:
We have seen a lot of that the past couple years. Last year we had to bus here because of the weather. It always seems like we bring a lot of snow here but it’s good hockey weather so no complaints.
On Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers:
He is a solid guy. He is a pretty good all-around (defender). He is big, he can skate and he can move the puck. He is getting a great opportunity at a pretty young age to play some quality minutes. He is also playing the first power play and things like that. He is only going to get better from that. My first impression was that he is a complete defenseman and brings a lot to their team.
On thinking about Wednesday’s Olympic announcement:
Not a whole lot. It’s something that I have kind of dealt with the whole year and now that it’s coming up it’s something that you approach the same way. I will be anxious tomorrow when the announcement is made but it has been pretty easy to focus on our thing here and playing. It will be exciting and we will all be huddled around to see what happens.
On the announcement being so close:
I am probably just a little happier that it is coming along. It’s been talked about for a while now and there has been a big buildup. We are getting close and it will be nice. It hasn’t really been something that I have thought about a whole lot. 
On what getting selected would mean to him:
I will let you know when it happens if it does happen. I am not there yet so I will let you know.
On how it will feel actually having the team picked:
I think for everyone it will be great to put names and faces together and things like that. I don’t think it is going to change a whole lot. It is exciting for fans and for everyone to get to the next step in the process to get familiar with who is going to be there. I think for players and for me personally you try to make sure you are playing your best so if and when that time comes you are ready to go. I don’t think you can really allow yourself to think about it. You can ask guys who are in that situation who are maybe thinking about it a bit, it doesn’t really help things to think about it. You kind of worry about what you need to do and how you need to play and then things usually take care of themselves.
On how the players will feel if Goligoski, Guerin and Orpik are named to the United States team:
Oh it will be great. I think everyone is happy for one another to be able to get that experience. We (were happy) when we found out Geno (Evgeni Malkin) and Gonch (Sergei Gonchar) were named to the Russian team. It’s a thing where you are representing your country at the Olympics but you have a team here that has played a lot together, the past few years especially, so you want to see your teammates do well and be a part of that. I think it’s nice and everyone is really proud of the guys that are able to have that opportunity.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On whether his play has impressed Team Canada officials:
I don’t know. It has been pretty well. I have gotten some wins and we are up there in the standings. That is what matters the most to me, that I have a winning team. I don’t make decisions so I just wait and see.
On what it will be like tonight after the game waiting for the announcement:
It is kind of weird. We have hearing about it for a long time and we are here now already. I think I will be excited to find out what is going on. We have to play the game first.
On talk about the Olympics in the locker room:
Not that much. A little bit here and there. Gonch and Geno were named to the (Russian) team so it is always nice when you see your teammates getting picked like that.
On how he will sleep tonight:
I guess we will see. I will be pretty excited about tomorrow to see what will happen.
On what the Penguins need to do to get back to playing their game:
That was a tough one against Toronto but I am not too worried and the team is not too worried so when we play our game the way we should and we can we are going to have a good battle.
On Buffalo’s quickness:
They have a couple of good, skilled players up front – guys with good shots. They work hard in our zone. They will cycle down low with the puck behind the net and pass out front. They use the D a lot for shots. We have to make sure we are on our game tonight.
On how Vanek changes the way the Sabres play:
He is good. He has good hands and a good shot. I have to keep an eye on him to make sure I know where he is on the ice.

2:25 PM:
Below are pictures from the Penguins morning skate, including the returns of Chris Kunitz and Alex Goligoski to practice. Both players missed Monday's practice at Mellon Arena.







2:02 PM:
Almost 18 hours passed from the time the Penguins rescued their own bus from the snowy streets of Buffalo and the open locker room session following the morning skate. Instead of subsiding, the story has only grown. Players, coaches and team officials were all asked by Buffalo reporters to describe their once-in-a-lifetime run-in with Mother Nature.

"It was fun," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "That was old-school time. Growing up you do that a couple times a winter it seems like. I haven’t done that in a while so it was kind of fun. I was just happy we didn’t get sprayed by the tires."

Bylsma was one of the brave souls who ran of the bus and helped with the efforts, along with his assistant coaches, Mike Yeo, Tony Granato and Gilles Meloche. They were joined by Vice President of Communications Tom McMillan, Senior Director of Team Operations Frank Buonomo, Head Athletic Trainer Chris Stewart and Video Coordinator Jim Britt.

"I think when you are a coach, trainer/anybody there is more on the job description than just doing what is on the resume," Bylsma said. "We were two blocks away and we needed to get out of there. That meant that most of us got out and pushed the bus."

"It was the coaches, the PR guys and the website guys … the real strength of our team," Bill Guerin said.

Actually Billy the website guys did the photography and documenting ... but we appreciate the shout out.

In a developing twist to the story regarding people who actually deserve the credit, three players, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, defenseman Sergei Gonchar and forward Matt Cooke, were each credited by Bylsma for also jumping off the bus to offer their assistance.

"Actually the two players were Sergei Gonchar and Marc-Andre Fleury who made it out," Bylsma said. "They will be starting tonight."

And what about potential punishment for the players who stayed behind?

"Some of the best discipline you can administer as a coach and as a fellow teammate is just some good old-fashioned letting them know they were sitting on their duff when there were some other people out pushing," Bylsma said. "We have had a laugh about it."

Bylsma said he only feared for anybody's safety once during the whole ordeal.

"I was a little concerned when it was a full-speed bus and Matt Cooke jumped on," Bylsma said. "I was a little concerned at that point."

Guerin, who made sure to point out he was not one of the people getting the bus back up to speed, called the entire experience a new endeavor, even for a player who has been around long enough to suit up for 1,224 NHL games.

"We have had buses break down and buses not show up – all sorts of things like that," Guerin said. "I have never had a bus stuck in the snow. I never pushed a bus out of the snow. I didn’t push a bus out of the snow but I should say I have never seen that before."

Click here to read more about the many adventures which surrounded the team's experience getting to Buffalo.

1:54 PM:
Here are some pictures from the Sabres morning skate:

Sidney Crosby talked after the morning skate how he was impressed with his first impression of Sabres rookie defenseman Tyler Myers, who is tied for the lead among all first-year blueliners with 20 points (3G-17A).

Jason Pominville, left, scored the lone goal against the Penguins in the first meeting. Thomas Vanek, right, leads Buffalo with 11 goals, and will dress on Tuesday after missing the Dec. 19 game.



1:30 PM:
Defenseman Mark Eaton did confirm following the morning skate that he will be returning to the lineup on Tuesday night against the Sabres after missing the past three games with a knee injury.

"Yes, I will be playing," Eaton said.

Eaton hasn't dressed since Dec. 19, also here in Buffalo, when he left the ice in the second period following a collision with the Sabres Mike Grier after stopping him on a one-on-one rush. The two became tangled and fell to the ice behind the Penguins net. Eaton is looking forward to resuming game action.

"Whether you are out a day, a week or a month it feels like forever," Eaton said. "There’s nothing worse for an athlete than having to watch. It’s been long enough and I am excited to get back in there."

11:51 AM:

The Penguins have taken the ice at HSBC Arena for their morning skate session. There were quite a few changes to the forward combinations during the skate. Chris Kunitz was reunited with Sidney Crosby, while Mike Rupp was elevated to Evgeni Malkin's line.

The forward lines looked as follows:


Defenseman Mark Eaton, who said that he feels he is ready to rejoin the lineup after missing the previous three games with a knee injury, skated with Kris Letang. Eaton rotated shifts with Martin Skoula.

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