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Penguins Report: Game Day at NY Rangers

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Letang and his coach/teammates discuss his return (2:28 PM).
  • Letang returns to lineup; Asham with concussion-like symptoms (12:20 PM).
  • Letang's full comments (1:34 PM).
  • Pens lines (11:32 AM).
  • Mearsy wraps up the news in the Game Day Report (2:37 PM).
  • Bylsma on Malkin, Tortorella and the C revolution (1:58 PM).
  • Orpik and Michalek on their fellow D-man's return (2:11 PM).
  • My photog skills on display at morning skate (2:02 PM).
  • "Concrete jungle where dreams are made of…" (10:00 AM).

2:37 PM:
A lot going on today. Steve Mears has it covered in the Verizon Game Day Report.

2:28 PM:
I've got more of Letang's thoughts on returning from injury and how excited his coaches and teammates are for him to be back. Click here for more!

2:11 PM:
Sounds heard around the visitors' locker room...

Brooks Orpik

On Letang being back helping the defense:
It will take him some time too to get his timing back. You can’t expect him to be back to where he was when he got hurt. I know he worked hard to get back and did a lot of conditioning to try and get back to as close as you can to normal. The six guys that were playing were playing really well. Anytime you get a guy like him back, he’s a tough guy to replace.

On an emotional or physical lift with Letang back:
A little bit of both. We took on that attitude, with so many key guys out this year, we try to just go with what you’ve got in the room. You can’t wait for guys to get back. We have guys like ‘Geno’ and ‘Tanger’ coming back, no Sid or Staal. It’s uplifting for everybody. You don’t want to wait for him. You just keep doing what you’re doing, and hopefully he fits right in.

Zbynek Michalek

On Letang being back:
I’m so happy for him that he finally feels better. Everybody on our team is excited because he’s a great player and we miss him. Any time he feels 100 percent and comes back into the lineup it’s a big boost for everybody and a big help. I’m looking forward to having him back in the lineup.

On all the guys coming back:
We’ve been going through some tough times. It’s nice to see players getting better and healthier as we go along. Tanger is a big piece on this team. We’re happy to have him back. Hopefully, the other guys can get back in the lineup soon. Hopefully, we can move forward and stay healthy for the rest of the season.

On the Rangers:
We have to play a full 60-minute game. We can’t have any letups. They’re a team where everybody plays the same style and system, they’re a well coached team. They go about their business for a full game. We have to match their intensity. It’s going to be an intense game. They want to win bad. It’ll be a tough battle out there. We have to make sure we play our game and play for 60 minutes.

2:02 PM:
Here are some pics from the Pens morning skate...

Kris Letang (left); Linemates Malkin and Neal (right)

Michalek stretches (left); Martin and Dupuis stare down the camera (right)

Neal stares (left) at Kennedy (right)

Kunitz (left); Kunitz again with coach Bylsma (right)

His name is Geno (left); Kunitz, yet again, stretches (right)

1:58 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Byslma…

On getting an emotional lift with Letang back:
It’s good to have your top-4 defensemen back on the ice, that’s for sure. We certainly missed his presence back there in a lot of ways, defending, ability to play the puck, power-play. To get those four guys, who haven’t been together a significant amount this year, will be a lift for our team. It’s also getting a good player back on the ice as well.

On Crosby update:

Nothing new on Sidney. He’s currently in Atlanta and there isn’t anything new beyond what we’ve reported.

On Malkin improving his game:
His last two months have been maybe the best hockey he’s played in the regular season ever. It really elevated our team game. It’s a dangerous line with Chris Kunitz and James Neal. They’re tough to deal with. The power play with the three of them out there together is a factor for our team. He’s been able to, at times, lift our team offensively as he did in Tampa Bay. Even with his last game with a goal late in the first. He’s been outstanding and it’s been all over the ice. You see him in a lot of different situations. He’s getting heavy matchups, playing against other teams’ top lines. Last game he blocked a shot with 20 seconds to go as well. He’s doing a lot of great things for our team. It’s been a big help considering the injuries we had.

On the team wearing the C:
There is cause and effect there. When you’re losing hockey games there are cracks and holes and people try to point them out. I think we played a really good game in Washington. We really liked the way we played. We felt that way going into Florida. I think you saw us play that way in Florida and Tampa and bring it back home. That’s what we have to have. It’s been with an attitude and edge to our game. That’s always been a part of how we need to play. That’s what we’re going to be doing against a Ranger team that we’re staring up by 10 points.

On coaching against Tortorella:
We had a conversation away from the rink, which is not something Torts would normally do. We had a conversation and at the end he said, “I’m still going to kick your butt tomorrow night.” That’s how it is coaching against Torts. There’s fire and always an edge to it. That’s good.

1:34 PM:
Here's more of what Letang had to say about tonight's game...

On if he’ll play:
There’s a good chance. I’ve been talking with the coach. I had a few good days of training with the guys and felt pretty good.

On how he feels about the game:
Excitement. When you’ve been out of the lineup for a long time like this you just want to get back out there with your teammates and be part of the team.

On taking a hit:
It’s just going to come. I’ll probably be hit before I hit somebody. I’m just focusing on the way I play the game and that’s it.

On his conditioning:
I stayed home during the trip because I was conditioning, practicing everyday, working out everyday. I felt pretty good out there.

On talking to Crosby about concussions:
Pay attention to how your body reacts out there and make sure I’m 100 percent ready, not taking any chances because you need your head for the rest of your life. It was a question of feeling good and being confident that I can do the job out there.

On getting his game back:
It’s the first time I’ve experienced a long-term injury like that. I’m looking forward to see what goes wrong (laughs).

12:20 PM:
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma confirms that defenseman Kris Letang will be in the lineup tonight.

"Kris will play tonight," Bylsma said. "It's a situation where you're not looking to get him too many minutes. He'll still be used in a top-4 role against their good players and on the power play. He's going to play a fair amount of minutes in tonight's game."

Bylsma added that Asham, who hasn't skated for three days, has concussion-like symptoms.

"Arron Asham, who had an illness, also has some other symptoms that are concussion-like and we are treating it as such."

11:32 AM:
Pens defenseman Kris Letang is skating on a shift with D-partner Brooks Orpik at morning skate. Arron Asham is the only player missing. The lines were as follows...


(Lovejoy-Engelland-Niskanen rotating)

10:00 AM:
Good morning from the Big Apple! My trip here with the team marks my first time ever in New York City. I don’t know how I never managed to make it here before now, but somehow I didn't. And to be totally honest, it’s everything I expected and hoped it would be. There’s just something about the energy and the people and the hustle and bustle that goes on all day and all night, not to mention the shopping and the food. It really is the City that Never Sleeps.

The Pens are scheduled for an 11:30 a.m. morning skate here at Madison Square Garden. Stay tuned to the blog for all of the day's coverage.


The first song that comes to mind when I think of New York is "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. I know I already played this in the Pens Report once this year, but it's a favorite of mine...and it's the song that kept going through my head as I was exploring the city last night after dinner on the way back to my hotel (with stops at TImes Square, the Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center, of course).

So let's start the day with that.

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