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Penguins Report: Game Day at Florida

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

1:29 PM:
Sounds heard around the visitors locker room...

Maxime Talbot

On the team’s mindset going into tonight’s game after a loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday:
We’re going to have to be better tonight if we want to leave this building with two points.

On the Panthers being a dangerous team to play because they feel like they have nothing to lose:
For sure. They’re going to come out and work. For them, I’m sure there’s a couple young guys there that are trying to prove themselves and leave this season with a message for their coach and stuff. They’re always a tough team to play. They’re going to come (hard). They’re a fast team and they played us a week ago when they were already out of the playoffs, but they came to work and they came to win the game.

On how important is it to string some wins together over these last few games for both home-ice advantage and momentum heading into the playoffs:
It’s always important to finish the season on the right foot and you want to get momentum into the playoffs. The home-ice advantage for us is not secured yet, so we’re going to need to get points and kind of bring the two things together. You need to play well to get points and you need to play well to get momentum going into the playoffs, so they’re big games for us right now.

On if he is thinking about cutting a Mohawk like Craig Adams did:
Not as of now, no. But Craig Adams looks pretty good with a Mohawk. He looks tough, tough as nails. So yeah, I’m not sure. It’s not a definite no, but I don’t think I’ll go with a Mohawk.

Mike Rupp

On how important is it to string some wins together over these last few games for both home-ice advantage and momentum heading into the playoffs:
You never want to limp into the playoffs. I don’t think that’s what we’re doing by any stretch, but you want to be playing the right way and a way that you’re proud of walking into those playoffs, because you can’t flip a switch and get it going. So these last four are very important for us.

On if Florida is one of those teams they just can’t underestimate:
Yeah, they took it to us last game. They controlled a lot of the aspects of the game. We know we’ve got to be better. They’re a team that’s working hard and we expect them to do the same tonight. So we have to go out tonight and take them a little more seriously than we did last time and know that we’re in for a game.

On if they’re trying to carry the way they played in the last two periods on Thursday into tonight:
Yeah. If we play (tonight like we did) those last 40 (minutes) in Tampa, we like our chances. That’s our goal, is to build off that. You always hear that you have to play a 60-minute game, and unfortunately we didn’t put that together there. I think the results were evident of that. So we have to go out tonight and get to it early and stick with it all 60 (minutes).

Doghouse: Michelle Crechiolo

1:14 PM:
Craig Adams was sporting a new haircut for practice, although it wasn't his usual look. Adams had his hair cut into a mohawk, something that we had to talk with him about.

On what is behind his new Mohawk haircut:
Nothing really. Just, you know, we had some time yesterday and I needed a haircut, so I figured I’d go for it.

On if the guys are going to go for Mohawks instead of playoff beards:
No, I don’t think so. I had a couple guys say they might step up and join me, but we’ll see.

On if there was a reason behind his haircut and if he expects any followers:
No, there’s no reason behind it. Max Talbot said that he’ll do it, but seeing is believing, so we’ll see. (Talbot chimes in: I never said that.)

On if he had ever had a Mohawk before:
Yeah, once before.

On if that was in his younger days:
Yeah. Well, I mean, not too young. It’s all relative, right? Just a few years ago.

On if it takes a special kind of gel:
No, well, not as far as I know. I might have to check into that. But we’ll see. It’s a little more maintenance than I’m used to, but we’ll see how long it lasts.

On how long he thinks he’ll keep it up:
I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes, see how we do tonight.

On having a Mohawk with a playoff beard:
Yeah, well hopefully we’ll all have big bushy playoff beards. So that’s something I’m looking forward to.

On if he’ll spike up his haircut:
I don’t know, we’ll see. Again, it’s lots of maintenance, you know. That’s not really my style, so it’s day-to-day right now.

On if his family knows:
Yeah, they saw. I sent them a picture. They said they liked it, so I’m not sure what else my kids would say. We’ll see when we get home.

On how his son Rhys would look with the same haircut:
Yeah...I think he’d look good, but I don’t want to cut those curls off.

1:10 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On taking better advantage of offensive zone time:
When you don’t win hockey games there is talk of not scoring goals. When we were winning games 2-1 we didn’t talk about that very much. We want to continue to play the way we have been playing. I think we can do a better job five-on-five and on the power play of having a net-front presence. We haven’t been as good at that in the last five games or so. Too many times we’ve taken higher routes and swinging through the slot when shots were coming. We need to have a presence there around the goaltender. When we’ve had success on the power play and five-on-five, that’s been a real factor for us. It’s something we have to get back to. Winning hockey games you won’t talk about it as much if we score three or four or five. We haven’t done that the last few games for a number of reasons. We have four games left and a chance with Florida to get back to winning some games.

On balancing rest and work down the stretch:
Last year we talked about not being on our game and not playing well going into the playoffs. That was an issue. We’ve played hard hockey. We’ve played good hockey against Tampa Bay. We got down by two goals, but threw significant amount of pressure on them. That’s the way we’re going to play, whether it’s 5-1 or 0-0 going into the third. We’re leaning on how we play, doing it night in and night out and have confidence to play that way if it’s a 1-0 game or 2-2 games has been real important for us. It’s going to be a big factor for us going into the playoffs. I’m content to go with a 2-1 win for the next four games.

On Godard’s role with the team:
There’s a lot of competition at this point, the bottom six forwards in our group. The physical aspect of it is not as much of a factor down the stretch and heading into the playoffs. It’s really about rolling four lines and playing in the offensive zone, playing the right way, being effective physically, penalty kill, faceoff, power play. That’s where our bottom six guys have to be to be effective for our team.

On what to expect from Florida:
I didn’t like the forecheck that we put on them last game. Their D did a very good job of managing the puck under pressure in the neutral zone and using their partner and having puck pressure. They have a good group of speedy forwards. They play a fast game. They came out of D zone with a fast mentality. They chip it behind the D and get to the offensive zone pretty quickly. They have fast, attacking forwards. They put 30 shots against us last game. They’ve outshot us the previous time when we beat them 5-2. They can be dangerous in a game. I thought their D was a real factor and a little bit too comfortable out there for my liking. We need to have better puck management, better physicality in our forecheck and be a factor against their D a little bit more.

On Johnson as backup goalie:
There is a lot that goes unmentioned now. He was a factor for us in the beginning of the year and good for us. He’s won overtime games for us. As a backup guy to “Flower,” I don’t know if I’ve witnessed a better goaltender to compliment a starting goaltender like Flower. He’s also a great team guy. He’s ready to go in at a moments notice. His Detroit game was outstanding. He came in the first eight minutes and made six or seven great saves. He kept us in the game. We ended up getting the lead in that game and getting the win. He can be outstanding. He can make the big save. He battles like a bugger when he gets in there. The guys battle for him when he’s in there as well. He’s done a great job for us and we’re a completely confident team when he goes in the net that we’ll get a good game out of our goaltender. We know what he is for our team as well as team guy, team player and support guy. Johnson has won some games for us, big games for us. With Flower you need to take opportunities to get Johnson in there because he’s a capable guy and has won games for us.

12:34 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma said Brent Johnson will be starting in goal tonight vs. the Panthers.

11:49 AM:
Photographic evidence of the Pens at work...

Adams getting a stretch in (left); TK warming up 'Flower' (right)

Talbot's shot is so fast his stick is just a blur (left); Flower and Tony G. chatting it up (right)

Adams talking with Godard (left); ...before heading to the bench for some refreshments (right)

11:35 AM:
The Pens are holding an optional skate this morning at BankAtlantic Center. The players on the ice are Pascal Dupuis, Eric Godard, Mike Comrie, Mark Letestu, Craig Adams, Tyler Kennedy, Chris Conner, Maxime Talbot, Mike Rupp, Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland, Ben Lovejoy and Sidney Crosby.

Brent Johnson and Marc-Andre Fleury are both on the ice as well.

11:17 AM:
The Panthers finished up their morning skate at BankAtlantic Center.

10:34 AM:
Good morning from beautiful, sunny Florida. Tonight the Pens will faceoff against the Panthers at BankAtlantic Center. Pittsburgh has a one-point edge over Tampa Bay for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, and are hoping to build some momentum over the final four games of the season - starting tonight.

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