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Penguins Report: Game Day at NY Islanders

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Malkin is a game-time decision tonight vs. NYI (12:27 PM).

  • Pens lines (11:37 AM).
  • Evgeni Nabokov will start in goal for the Isles tonight (10:37 AM).
  • Bylsma to coach 200th NHL game tonight (5:39 PM).
  • Today's edition of the Verizon Game Day Report (2:34 PM).
  • Park and Fleury chat with PensTV (3:22 PM).
  • Bylsma discusses a myriad of topics (2:30 PM).
  • Capuano talks netminders and coaching with Bylsma (10:37 AM).
  • Pics of the Pens at morning skate (12:13 PM).
  • Isles goalies got a workout despite a canceled skate (10:44 AM).
  • How the Pens plan to adapt without Michalek (9:30 AM).

  • 5:39 PM:
    Quick note entering tonight's game: tonight will be Dan Bylsma's 200th NHL game as a head coach!!! Ironically enough, he will reach that milestone in the same arena that he made his head coaching debut in on Feb. 16, 2009. I talked to him a few minutes ago about the milestone, click here to see what he had to say.

    Here's a photo of coach from that night (thanks to Getty Images):

    3:22 PM:
    Sounds heard around the Nassau Coliseum visitors locker room...

    Richard Park (actually spent four seasons with the Islanders from 2006-10, scoring nine of his 15 shorthanded goals with them and putting up 30-plus points in each of his final three campaigns. Tonight marks his first game back since that time).

    On his four years with the Islanders:
    I had a wonderful time here. People always ask me about my experience here, I’ve got nothing but good things to say. That’s the truth. Whatever the perception may be from people on the outside, I had a great time here. Obviously making the playoffs there was a very nice feeling, the way we went about doing it and the whole process, that was involved. I’ve got nothing but fond memories.

    On if tonight will be strange with it being his first time back facing the Islanders:
    I don’t know (laughs). It’s always nice to see some familiar faces, that’s for sure.

    Marc-Andre Fleury

    On carrying the team through injuries:
    I think we’re kind of used to it from last year. I think we’ve found ways to play as a team. Everyone contributes the way they can. For me, it doesn’t matter if they’re there or not – I’ve still got to stop the puck. It’s nice to see that we still can win even though guys aren’t there, but it’ll be nice to have them back.

    On not trying to do too much:
    Yeah, definitely. The coach has a good system for us and guys have been playing hard in it. It’s been paying off.

    On the first game Bylsma coached:
    It was here. It was a rough time for us. We lost in the shootout when he came in, but it was the start of a better second half for us and everything went well from there.

    2:34 PM:
    Here's Game Day Report from back in Pittsburgh, brought to you by the one and only SK. Poor guy has to hold down the fort with both Mearsy and I in Long Island (Steve is calling the game tonight on the radio, as Hall of Famer Mike Lange has a family event).

    2:30 PM:
    Pre-game coachspeak with coach Bylsma...

    Player status updates:
    In terms of updates for us, Marc-Andre Fleury will be going in net tonight. Everything else will be game time, including Evgeni Malkin.

    On what factored into Malkin being game-time:
    I just like to have a secret over you guys for the next six hours or so.

    On if he believes these two clubs have moved beyond what happened last season:
    I know we have. I know we’re focused on where we’re at as a team and the importance of the divisional games and where you sit in the division. While it looks right now as if we’re ahead by a margin points-wise, they have four games in hand. That shouldn’t be giving us a false sense of security. The Islanders have shown they can play good hockey and they’ve got a lot of good, young, skilled players. These are two big games, two divisional games that are big for us in the standings.

    On wanting to be better in divisional games:
    It definitely is. It’s a focus for us.

    On if Malkin looks like he’s close to being back to the way he was before his injury:
    Strength-wise and lower-body-wise, he’s doing very well. The strength is there. I think his skating this year that he’s demonstrated was stronger than what we saw from him maybe last year.

    On how he explains the success the team has had with the injuries:
    Our players have shown the ability to do the right thing. They have a high standard within that room for each other. On top of that, we’ve gotten very good goaltending. Our special teams has won a lot of hockey games for us and given us a chance to win a lot of hockey games. Our five-on-five scoring hasn’t been that good, but we have gotten very good special teams and that has helped us be in the situation to win games. The Minnesota game in particular I think was probably our hardest-fought battle. Guys were in some tough minutes, some tough spots on the road and in back-to-back games, and that was probably a really hard-fought game by the guys in that group. You saw a lot of great efforts and leadership by (Jordan) Staal and (Chris) Kunitz, (Paul) Martin and (Zbynek) Michalek. In that game, they were particularly big. But you’ve seen it the next nights from other people as well in getting Brooks Orpik back, Jordan Staal stepping up, again special teams. It’s allowed our team to play and have success in certain areas and to have the chance to have success. We’ve played some tight games. We’ve played some good defense in some tight games and gotten big goals and big efforts.

    On how tough it is to evaluate his team as a whole with all the injuries:
    I think you’re asking a question on the potential of the team and where we’re at, but in terms of play on the ice, it’s something we go through at pretty much every point in the season and every time of the year: what do we do well, what do we need to get better at and how do we want to play? That’s a process where we’ve won some hockey games, but there are a lot of areas we need to get better at and we’re still focused on. We spent the last week-and-a-half with the understanding that there’s some areas we need to get significantly better at as a group to put us in the situation to have success in games and play our type of hockey where we put teams back on their heels with where the puck is at and the speed of which we play. Regardless of who’s there or not, we identify those areas of what we’re doing well and what we need to work on. We still have a long way to go as a group.

    On James Neal’s comfort level:
    I think especially younger players who are getting the first trade experience and who have kind of been with one team their whole career, it’s a tough move from wearing one color to a different organization. To add onto that, it’s a lot of different people, a lot of different coaches and a lot of different things in the city. In addition, James came to a team where we were getting a guy who was going to add goals in the wing position. I know for James, walking in our city and getting recognized as James Neal, a guy who’s going to come in and score for us, added that pressure coming in last season. I think he felt that. I think he pushed for that. He still played a lot of good hockey for us – played fast, physical and was good around the net – just didn’t bury the puck. I think he felt that having the summer and having a great summer of working out, he came back confident. A lot of those other things go away in terms of being a new guy in a new city with new coaches and new teammates. He had familiarity with the people. I think starting the season, I don’t think he thought oh, I have to score for this team to be successful. He’s coming in and you have Malkin, (Sidney) Crosby, Staal and (Kris) Letang, and he’s a guy who’s now coming in to be on the Pittsburgh Penguins, not a guy who’s being counted on to score goals. I think he’s been able to come in and really be confident in his surroundings, has confidence in his teammates and in what we’re doing and is going out and playing. He’s playing very similar to the way he played last year. It’s not a lot different. He’s skating, he’s good on pucks, he hunts pucks down, he’s physical and he’s around the net. He’s getting pucks to go in the cage this year for him. It’s not just shooting it in. He’s tipped it in, he’s got rebounds, he’s been around the blue paint, he’s taking the puck there, he’s finding soft areas for his teammates to get him the puck. It’s been a lot of different ways and those are a lot of the different things he did previously, just didn’t have it go in for us.

    On Crosby needing to have more practices with contact:
    It’s not just having enough practices that have contact, he’s still in the process of his rehab. While we’d all like to put a timetable on it, we haven’t. It’s not about missing games or projecting when that game might be, he’s just got to continue to go through the process. He’s doing really well. You see him on the ice – his level of compete and his speed and his skill is great to watch. We’re still going through that process. I think everyone would like to know when Game 1 is or when a timetable is, but we’re still in the process of going through his rehab. That doesn’t have a timetable on it.

    12:27 PM:
    According to head coach Dan Bylsma, Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal tonight. The rest of his lineup – including Evgeni Malkin – will be a game-time decision tonight against the Islanders.

    When asked why that was so, Bylsma quipped, "I just like to have a secret over you guys for the next six hours or so." So there you have it, folks.

    12:13 PM:
    Hey peeps. Sam here, with Michelle Crechiolo running around like a madwoman on Long Island she's asked me to fill in with some photo captions. So here you go...

    @malkin71_ hasn't been ruled in or out of the lineup yet...or has he? #SinisterLaugh (left); Cooke pushes a marble statue of Fleury to the ice. Luckily, it didn't crack (right)

    Jordan Staal action figure - just $9.99 while supplies last (left); Letang ties his skates - pull laces tight, make two bunny ears, then cross..... (right)

    Players gather in the runway after strength coach Mike Kadar blew the conch (left); Get ya some net-front presence (right)

    Sources tell me there is no truth to the rumor that the Islanders have pre-emptively awarded a goal to James Neal just to get it out of the way (left); HC Dan Bylsma frozen in time...forever. And by forever I mean a split second. (right)

    Fleury looks like he's taking a note from Britney and dancing till the world ends (left); Niskanen giving a puck the death stare (right)

    -Sam Kasan

    11:37 AM:
    Here are the lines from the Pens morning skate:


    11:33 AM:
    The Pens are making their way onto the ice. Evgeni Malkin is out for the morning skate.

    Only players missing are Tyler Kennedy, Zbynek Michalek and Brian Strait. Sidney Crosby did not make the trip with the team.

    10:44 AM:
    The Isles didn't hold an official morning skate, but a handful of their players did hit the ice. The purpose, I believe, was to give goalies Nabokov and DiPietro a pregame workout.

    Nabokov gets the nod from coach Capuano for tonight

    DiPietro's beard? Seriously epic. I think he missed his calling to be a lumberjack.

    The player shooting on the two netminders

    10:37 AM:
    Islanders coach Capuano announced that Evgeni Nabokov will be starting in goal. Rick DiPietro will be backing him up.

    UPDATED 2:46 P.M.: Here are a few tidbits from Capuano's conference...

    Coachspeak with Jack Capuano…

    On if he liked the way Nabokov played the other night:
    Yeah, he played real well for us. We’ll go right back with him. Ricky (DiPietro) will back him up tonight.

    On (Milan) Jurcina:
    He’s getting close. Practiced the first full day with us yesterday. Nino (Niederetter) is starting to skate as well. You know it’s obviously probably next week before he skates with the team, I think. Maybe a little sooner. Jurcina is right now.

    On if everything that happened between these two teams last year is in the past:
    I think it’s in the past. For me, I mean, I think I said this (Monday) – we’re trying to win a hockey game. We’ve lost two in a row. I’m not so concerned about what happened last year. That’s in the past for me. We want to go out and try to play well tonight, 60 minutes, and try to win a game.

    On if John Tavares is different this year and if his effectiveness is the result of experience:
    I think some of it’s maturity. I think a lot of it is his personality and his confidence, the way that he plays the game. He’s a real confident guy. He’s a total team guy. He’s just a guy that is a student of the game that works extremely hard in practice, which leads obviously to his performance on the ice. That’s just the way he is. It’s his personality. He’s a winner.

    On if he can maintain the pace he’s on:
    I think so. I think not only this year, but through his career because that’s the kind of person that he is. He’s always been gifted offensively, but his overall game, the intangibles, his defensive play, everything is really starting to come for Johnny.

    On spending a year with Dan Bylsma as assistants in Long Island:
    I think as a coaching staff, you complement one another in different ways. Obviously not only do I learn a lot from coaching with different coaches, but I learn a lot coaching against coaches as well, whether it was in the American League or the National league. So coaches have made me a better coach, for sure. Dan has done a great job. His work ethic – his teams play hard. They play the right way. They spend a lot of time in the offensive zone, for sure. Penalty killing is one thing I spent some time with him on here. He’s done a great job there and he deserves all of the credit that he’s gotten.

    9:45 AM:
    Note: the Islanders will not be holding a morning skate this a.m. Their head coach Jack Capuano will be addressing the media at 10:15 a.m. We'll bring you any noteables from that.

    9:30 AM:
    Good morning everyone! We're coming to you from Long Island, NY this morning, where the Penguins are preparing to take on the New York Islanders for the first game of a home-and-home series.

    The team received more bad news on the injury front Monday morning (I know, surprise surprise) when head coach Dan Bylsma announced that defenseman Zbynek Michalek has a broken finger and will be out 4-6 weeks. "Z" had been averaging a team-leading 3:34 shorthanded minutes per game before he went down. Sam Kasan has more on how the Pens plan to adjust without one of their top shutdown defensemen and PKers.

    But the good news? Coach Bylsma added that Evgeni Malkin hasn't been ruled in or out for Tuesday night's game against the Islanders. He's on the trip, so stay tuned as to whether Geno will play tonight.

    This is my first Penguins Report on the road and I know Sam does a great job with these, so I'll try to live up to his standards! (And who knows...maybe he'll make a guest appearance or two).
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