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Penguins Report: Game Day at Colorado

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Sullivan will play tonight (12:08 PM).
  • Game Day Report (2:35 PM).
  • Quick lineup update from coach Bylsma (1:18 PM).
  • Pens' lines (11:35 AM).
  • Combating the high altitude (10:20 AM).
  • What to watch for vs. Avs (10:10 AM).
  • Malkin schools the Avs (10:30 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on the Avs, Landeskog & more (1:20 PM).
  • Staal & Engelland spit knowledge (12:05 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:55 AM).
  • Av spics (10:50 AM).
  • Around the Pepsi Center (10:40 AM).
  • “There’s a light inside of you and there’s a light inside of me…” (10:00 AM).

Michelle Crechiolo wraps up this morning's events in the Verizon Game Day Report. Take it away Meesh...

Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On the Avalanche:
The Colorado Avalanche have the rookie of the month and the highest-scoring rookie with (Gabriel) Landeskog. Their line is playing real well with the addition of (Steve) Downie since the trade deadline. They’ve been very effective. Everything I hear from reports on the Avalanche from several sources is that they play a fast game. They’re a real fast team. They come at you with a lot of speed. We saw that in Pittsburgh and we’re expecting that again tonight. Special teams is a strength. Their power play is first at home and has a little bit of moving parts with some guys there. It’s something that we have to be aware of tonight. Goaltending, it looks like it’s J.S. Giguere in net tonight. Both (him and Semyon Varlamov) have been outstanding and have outstanding numbers. They’re playing really well for them. J.S. Giguere is an old friend. I know him pretty well. I always like to see him in the net. But he’s been playing really well and solid and we are going to have to try to find a way to get by that guy.

On what they did to have success late in the game the last time they played Colorado:
I think we took care of the puck. It really was a big difference in the game. We’ve talked about it already with the team this morning. If you give them opportunities to transition and to play with speed, they’re going to make it really hard on you. That last game – especially the first period – we gave up a lot of free offense. We gave up a lot of pucks and they transitioned really quick and used their speed. It leads to the offensive zone for them. Their D are real active, maybe more so than most teams we see. They’ll have four guys down low. They scored a goal that way against us in that game as well. What we did in the second half was play with the puck a lot better. We took care of the puck. We played with speed. We got pucks behind their defense and that led to us getting more success in that game. That’ll be a factor tonight.

On what stands out most about Landeskog:
Most of what I watch is highlights, but even watching him in the last two games he’s played is his skating speed is somewhat deceptive with how fast he is. He can drive wide. It’s almost like Jordan Staal’s speed, where he doesn’t look super fast but he has the ability to get by guys with his body position. (Landeskog) beat a defenseman last game with a little bit of that speed, a little bit of that body position, drove the net and had a great chance. That’s something he has in addition to the skill. You also see the compete in the guy’s game. You saw that last game as he tried to spark his team. He’s pretty mature for a young rookie in the league, to be playing like that and to be playing with that kind of grit and tenacity as well.

On the teams playing well against the other conference:
There are teams like ourselves this year that have done well against the West and in previous years we haven’t done well against the West. I don’t have a real solid explanation for that. I hope our trend continues over their trend, I know that. We’ve had a lot of success. We’ve played big games against teams out West. We’ve gone out at the start of the year and played good teams right off the hop. We had to be ready for them. We played a Dallas team that had won four in a row, was playing really well and fighting for a playoff spot. It’s a big game. It’s a physical game. It’s a playoff type of game, and we were ready for that situation. We’ve had St. Louis come into our building playing really well. We’ve had different situations that have led to big games for our team, and we’ve been ready and prepared for those. We feel like we’re playing another team tonight who is right on the edge of being in the eighth spot. They’re 7-3-2 in their last 12 and playing really well. That’s what we’re expecting tonight.

On the Avs being strong on faceoffs:
For us and our team, winning and losing (faceoffs) is not the most important thing. We certainly are better in the winning category, but always being aware of what we’re doing, win or lose, is really important when it comes to faceoffs, especially 5-on-5. This team has been good on faceoffs. They also run a lot of plays in the offensive zone, something we talked to our players about this morning. It’s something we’ll be ready for in the game. So win or lose, knowing what we’re doing, what they’re doing and reacting appropriately is real key in a faceoff whether we win or lose. Because 52 percent to 48 percent is just a handful of draws in a game. Knowing and reacting to the win or loss is really the most important thing. You have to be ready against this team because in the offensive zone, they run many plays much like we do. We have to be ready to jump on that and execute.

--Michelle Crechiolo

In regards to tonight's lineup, Bylsma said following the morning skate that "Steve Sullivan looks like he’ll be in the lineup this evening. The rest of it will be game-time. We have six defensemen with Kris (Letang) not being on the ice tonight. Marc-Andre Fleury will be in the net.

Forward Steve Sullivan (lower body) will be in the lineup tonight vs. Colorado.

"The two days off did me a lot of good, was exactly what I needed," Sullivan said after participating in the morning skate. "Everything is great for tonight."

Sullivan had not practiced Thursday or Friday after sitting out the third period of Wednesday's shootout win in Dallas with the lower-body injury.

Sounds heard around the visitors locker room…

Jordan Staal

On the challenge of being on the road and playing a team fighting for the postseason:
It’s playoff hockey for them right now. Every game is big. It makes it tough. From now on, it feels like every game is going to be like that. It’s going to be a good test for us.

On if tonight’s atmosphere will be similar to Dallas:
Yeah, I would assume it’s going to be very similar. The Dallas game was definitely more like playoff hockey. We knew that. Those two points, they’re big every time, especially lately. We’re expecting a real tough game against Colorado.

On the type of team Colorado is:
They have a lot of firepower up front. They’re a fast team as well. They play a pretty solid game, so it’s going to be a good test.

Deryk Engelland

On if a team fighting to make the postseason is even more dangerous:
Definitely. Every point is well-needed right now for every team in the standings that’s fighting for a playoff spot or fighting to get higher up. It’s going to be a battle from here on out no matter who you play. Even the teams that are out of the playoff picture, they want to spoil any team’s go at two points. It’s going to be a battle the rest of the year and it’s going to be a lot of fun.

On what Colorado does well:
They’ve got some highly skilled players. (Matt) Duchene has some good hands. You’ve got to be careful with him on the ice. Their goalies are playing well for them. We’ve got to get pucks deep and work them down there.

--Michelle Crechiolo

Pens pics...

Kunitz and coach Bylsma talk about Super Tuesday before the morning skate (left); Dupuis and Staal discuss Storage Wars strategies (right)

Players gather (left); Sullivan back  at practice (right)

Martin gets a few pumps on his skates (left); Former Avs head coach Tony Granato (right)

Forward Steve Sullivan (lower body) is on the ice for the morning skate, as coach Bylsma said he would be. The team used the following lines...


The six defensemen rotated through their pairings.

Fleury and Thiessen are in goal.

The Avs' morning skate is underway. Only 14 players took part.

Cody McLeod & Paul Stastny (left); Team stretch (right)

McGinn takes a pass in the neutral zone

Varlamov protects the goal (left); Mueller races up the ice (right)

On Friday I ran around the Pepsi Center to capture some pictures for the Pens Report. Here they are...

It's a very welcoming arena

Pepsi Center (left) is close by Mile High Stadium, or whatever this new one IS called now, Sports Authority Field at Mile High (right)

What happens if someone steals this parking spot? (left); A Pepsi ball is bursting through the jumbotron (right)

Question: Who is actually entertained by seeing how much smaller their hand is compared to an NBA player? (left); Answer: Me (right)

A Cirque de Soleil-esque sculpture of hockey and basketball players hangs above the concourse (left); There is something very, very wrong with the first fact. Paul McCartney > Celine Dion (right)

For more pics from Pepsi Center, check out tonight's In-Game Blog!

The last time the Pens and Avalanche played each other, the Pens won the contest, 6-3, at CONSOL Energy Center on Nov. 15. Evgeni Malkin scored one of the finest goals of his career in that game. Check it out below...

Playing in Denver = playing in thinner air. The Mile High City sits 5,280 feet above sea level. The Pens have a strategy to counter the altitude, mainly shorter shifts and hydration.

“You try to keep your shifts a little shorter and try not to get stuck out there for a really long shift so that you can recover better,” Park said. “I think we’re all in pretty good shape. You just make a little note to stay fresher so you can recover.”

Michalek agreed:

“During the game I’ve noticed it’s better to take short shifts at the beginning of the first period, then you get used to it. Usually after the first period, at least for me, I feel better.”

Full story here.

The Avs are fighting for their postseason lives, while the Pens are trying to close ground on the Rangers for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. Michelle gives you the details on what to watch for in tonight's matchup.

Good morning from Denver (feels like we've been here for a month)! After three days in the Mile High City, the Pens and Avs will finally meet tonight at Pepsi Center at 9 p.m. EST.


Since the Pens are in Denver, I figured it would be best to open the day with a local group. The Apples in Stereo are an indie/pop band that hails from Denver. We'll jump start the day with "Energy" from their album New Magnetic Wonder. If this song doesn't put you in a good mood to start the day, then I don't know what will.

Anyways, enjoy.

BONUS!! - In the Johnny Cash song "You Wild Colorado" he sings about the state as if were his lady lover. "If I had no love of life I'd become part of your flow, but I fear the place you'd take me, you wild Coloradoooooo." 

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