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Penguins Report: Game Day at Detroit

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

4:25 PM:
Kris Letang has been tapped as one of tonight's "Players to Watch" in the NHL's Blackberry All-Access Show.

3:18 PM:
Sidney Crosby is continuing to progress in his recovery from the concussion he suffered in early January. He skated this morning at Southpointe, the Penguins practice facility. Click here for details.

PensTV got an exclusive video of Sid hitting the ice at Southpointe this morning! Watch it now:

3:12 PM:
We caught some of the Pens partaking in a game of "don't let the soccer ball touch the ground" while waiting for the locker room to open earlier this morning. Here's the photographic proof:

Michalek, Kunitz, Neal and Staal (left); Kunitz (right)

Kunitz and Neal (left); Staal joins the fun (right)

Neal's out after letting the ball touch the ground (left); Perhaps seeing someone else let the ball touch the ground as well? (left)

2:14 PM:
Sounds heard around the visitors locker room...

Kris Letang

On how they refocus for today’s game:
I think we played well five-on-five (Sunday). We got undisciplined, it cost us the game. But I think overall, we were satisfied with our game five-on-five. You just have to forget about it, especially that we were up 2-1 and ended up losing 5-2. So you just regroup, talk about the other team and make sure you get ready for them.

On how the defense prepares for an offense that will be without Pavel Datysuk and Johan Franzen:
The same way. They have other powerful guys out there. (Henrik) Zetterberg, they have (Todd) Bertuzzi, who’s having a great year. (Valtteri) Filppula, all those guys are still really dangerous. So we prepare the same way, you try to deny them scoring goals.

On their familiarity with each other over the past few years helping them prepare:
Obviously we know a lot about them from the two finals we played against them. They’re always really dangerous, especially with their back end. They can score goals.

On Niklas Kronwall saying that the two teams play a similar style of hockey:
We’re a little different. But obviously we want to manage the puck in the offensive zone. We try to keep the puck in there as long as we can like they do.

Chris Kunitz

On if he got to play games at Joe Louis Arena a lot when he played for Ferris State University:
We didn’t have too many. I think it was in my senior year, we played two or three games here. It was a definitely a pleasure to come down to the Joe when you’re in college and play games (here).

On how he keeps his hot streak going into these next few games down the stretch:
It’s a team game. We have to play to our systems and that makes our team play a better game. We’re putting pucks in deep, we’re forechecking. It kind of helps and exemplifies my game of going to the tough areas and being a physical component around the net. So as long as we play a good systems game and don’t create turnovers, it just plays into how I want to play the game.

On the emotional factor of coming into this rink:
It’s been a few years now, but it definitely still has a good feeling anytime you’ve had success in a place (where) you have memories for life. You have a good feeling when you come in, but you know it’s another year, a different team. We don’t have the same guys in our locker room; they don’t have the same guys. But still, they’re one of the best teams in the league, one of the best organizations. So it’s nice to challenge ourselves against a team like that.

Arron Asham

On if there is any concern about being tentative with the type of injury he’s coming back from:
I don’t think so. I think it was a fluke accident when it happened. It was the first one of my career and I’m definitely not going to let it change my game. I’m going to play like I always have. It’s not even in the back of my mind, getting that again.

On how frustrating the recovery process has been and how good it is to get back into the lineup against a team like Detroit:
It’s been one of those years for me. The first one, really of my career, that I’ve been injured this much. But I’m back to the last 10 games, and playoffs. Hopefully I can get my game back and help this team.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On playing on the same team as Nick Lidstrom the last time they were in the same building and if they’ve talked at all:
No, I haven’t seen him. When I got in, he was on the ice already and is probably gone now. (The All-Star Game) was a good time though. It was a win, also, so it was fun.

On if this game is more emotional than other games with the history between the two teams:
Walking in, you know, you get that smell from the Joe Louis air. It bring back great memories. This dressing room, where we were. It’s always fun to come back and play here.

On what their game plan is against such a deep squad:
I think we’ve got to focus on the way we play. Last night was a tough loss, but I still think the team played very well and our systems didn’t allow much. They just scored some goals on those power plays. So I think if we can focus on the way we know we can play, then we should be alright.

Dustin Jeffrey

On what his feelings are coming into a rink like this as a rookie:
It’s huge. There’s been a lot of history in the playoff series between these two teams in the last few years, and for myself, it’s one of the closest rinks to my hometown. So it means a lot coming back here.

On how the team regroups and refocuses for this game:
I think it’s easy to refocus when you’re playing against a team like Detroit. Obviously they’ve been good for a long time, we’ve always seemed to match up against them in playoffs. So I think it’s easy for us to get excited and focused for this game.

On why he thinks the Penguins match up so well with the Red Wings:
I don’t know, I think we both play kind of a puck-possesion game. Obviously they have a lot of skill at forward, but we do a good job of getting pucks in deep into their zone and spending time in the offensive zone. So I think that’s why we always match up pretty well.

1:45 PM:
The rest of coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On how the team would adjust if they have to play without Matt Cooke tonight:
I think Matt adds a lot to our team when he plays within the rules and as a presence in the offensive zone. Penalty kill is a big part of that. I think the biggest adjustment would be on the penalty kill. He plays a major role for us there. Blocking shots is a big part. If we get to the five-on-three or four-on-three, he’s a big part of that success there. So that would be the biggest adjustment for our team.

On seeing him play in the past and how he can be an effective player without committing infractions like the one on Sunday:
It’s disappointing to see that kind of hit in that situation. Given the timing and the circumstances, that’s a hit we don’t want in the game. Considering the timing on the clock in the game, it makes it that much more of a disappointing sequence of events and put our team in a bad spot with 10 minutes to go in a 1-1 game.

On how much he has talked to Cooke about staying disciplined and what he has done/can do as a coach in addition to what the league decides to do:
I think we do a fair amount of video with our players – all our players. Matt, in the video we’ve seen of him, (we have) talked a lot about where he can still be physical and where he should be (and) areas of the ice where he shouldn’t be as physical. I think Matt has spent a lot of time – maybe too much time – on the ice thinking about ‘I shouldn’t hit this guy. It’s a bad spot.’ And that’s crept a lot into his game. If you watch 10 games in a row, you’d see those thoughts are going through his head. They go through his head in this game too. He’s been dealing with it a lot, and we’ve talked to him a lot about those situations on the ice. It’s unfortunate he’s caught himself in two situations where he’s had illegal hits.

On if Cooke wearing an ‘A’ is voted on by the players, is given by the coaches or part of a rotation due to injuries:
It’s a rotation with the injuries and given out by the coach.

On that labeling him as a team leader and how that plays into this situation and if he would take it away:
I’m confident he won’t be with us tonight, so another player will have it tonight. It’s been rotated around with some other players as well given the amount of injuries we’ve had, and so tonight, he won’t have it.

On if Cooke is a little bit confused on how he can play and still be effective:
I think it’s a learning curve. I think especially for Matt Cooke, he’s played on the edge, he’s played on the edge physically and been an effective player playing that way. And now, a lot of him is rethinking where he can hit and where he can be effective. He’s not been all that comfortable within those situations. Again, last night, he clearly was in a situation where the result is an illegal hit to the hit.

On if there’s a point where the negatives outweigh the positives when it comes to Cooke and what he brings to this team:
When Matt Cooke plays within the rules, he has been very successful for us and helped us be successful and (was) a big part of that going into the Stanley Cup run. So that’s the rub. It’s gotta be within the rules and we’re dealing with that now.

On if Cooke was able to explain what he was thinking on that hit Sunday and if he talked to him:
I did talk to him about it, yes.

On if there are any Sidney Crosby updates:
Sid was scheduled to skate this morning.

On if that was for 15 minutes again:
The protocol is based on his interaction with the doctor, not with our trainers. So based on what his interaction with the doctor is, he would be on the ice today, and that was the schedule, as well as off-ice stuff. Arron Asham will return to play tonight, Brent Johnson will be starting in goal for us tonight.

On how the team regroups and refocuses coming into a building where they have a lot of memories:
Well, we like a lot of the way we played last night’s game. That’s what we’ve talked about. It’s disappointing that we leave losing 5-2. There’s not a good taste in your mouth given the undisciplined penalties we took and gave the Rangers an opportunity. But a lot of the way we played that game is how we want to play and how we’ve been playing. It’s very important for us to get back that way of playing tonight against the Red Wings, to have success here in this building.

On what the organization has tried to do to get Cooke to modify his game:
Well, I think he’s fully capable of playing a physical, hitting game within the rules, within whatever the new rules (are) and new focus (is). I think I’ve talked to Matt most of last night, and we’re going to have to go through and establish exactly where those situations are that you can still play a hard, physical game and play within the rules. It’s something he’s going to have to worry about going forward.

Homecoming queen: Michelle Crechiolo

12:48 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma gave a few key updates.

"Arron Asham will return to play tonight, Brent Johnson will be starting in goal for us tonight."

Bylsma also gave an update on Sidney Crosby. He said that Sid was scheduled to skate this morning, but was unsure if he actually had.

"Sid was scheduled to skate this morning," Bylsma said. "The protocol is based on his interaction with the doctor, not with our trainers. So based on what his interaction with the doctor is, he would be on the ice today. And that was the schedule, to do his off-ice stuff as well."

Bylsma also stated that Brooks Orpik would return to game action before the regular season ends.

"Brooks will definitely play. He’s going to have a full practice with the players today in Pittsburgh and will return to practice with the team next week. I don’t have a timetable set for his return, but I expect he’ll definitely play in short order here."

He was less sure about Mike Comrie, who returned to full practice on March 15 after undergoing hip surgery in December.

"Mike Comrie, a little more uncertain," Bylsma said. "He’s got a lot of strength building up to do and skating-wise."

11:45 AM:
Pens pics...

Engelland passing out pucks (left); Jeffrey stickhandling through them (right)

Tanger caught in the act of tying his skates (left)

Johnny's getting the nod tonight (left); Adams stretching (right)

Tanger adjusting his gloves (left); Tanger and Flower chatting while Ben Lovejoy waits for the next drill to begin (right)

Adams and Niskanen (left); Granato giving instructions (right)

11:40 AM:
Rupp, Asham, Jeffrey, Conner, Adams, Godard, Letang, Lovejoy, Engelland, Niskanen, B. Johnson and Fleury are the only Pens partaking in the optional skate. Assistant coach Tony Granato is leading practice.

11:34 AM:
The Pens are starting to filter onto the ice for their optional morning skate.

10:51 AM:
We arrived at Joe Louis Arena just after the Red Wings took the ice for their 10:30 a.m. morning skate. Pics soon to follow Here they are:

Ageless captain Nick Lidstrom (left); Brian Rafalski and Henrik Zetterberg sharing a laugh (right)

Brad Stuart wearing a protective shield over his jaw (left); Mike Modano (right)

Tomas Holmstrom in his office in front of Jimmy Howard (left); Chris Osgood (right)

Wings coach Mike Babcock and Zetterberg (left); Darren Helm and Kris Draper (right)

10:00 AM:
Good morning from Detroit! We're getting ready to board the bus to the historic Joe Louis Arena. When we landed last night, it was rainy and cold here in the Motor City. But this morning, the clouds have (mostly) dissipated, the sun is peeking through and it looks like it’s shaping up to be a great day for hockey.

The last time these two cross-conference rivals faced off back on Jan. 18, the Penguins skated to a decisive 4-1 victory over the Red Wings and Chris Conner converted on a penalty shot – Pittsburgh’s first successful penalty shot in a four-year span. Let’s take a little trip down Memory Lane:

Both teams had injury-thinned lineups on that night, and it looks like that will be the case again tonight as the Detroit Free Press reported that the Red Wings will be without the services of Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body soreness), Johan Franzen (slight groin pull) and Jiri Hudler (fever and upper-body soreness) for tonight’s 7:30 p.m. tilt at Joe Louis Arena. But despite that, it’s always an electric atmosphere when these two clubs collide, thanks to their recent history.

Also, here's a funny clip I discovered yesterday that's fitting to post since we're playing Detroit. In the Wings' last game, a 3-1 loss to Columbus on Friday, Detroit was killing a penalty when Patrick Eaves was felled by a scorcher from the stick of Shea Weber before the Wings cleared the puck. That's when defenseman Niklas Kronwall chose to "shovel" Eaves to the bench in order to avoid a stoppage of play. You've gotta watch this. The best part is the "What are you doing?!" look on Eaves' face.

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