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Penguins Report: Game Day at Ottawa

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Game day final thoughts…

  • Jordan Staal (and his hair) was with his teammates for the morning skate (11:51 AM).
  • Staal Speaks!!!! Crosby and Fleury too (1:20 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Staal, Gonchar and lots on Crosby (1:32 PM).
  • Jeffrey re-assigned to WBs (10:23 AM).
  • Early morning flight (7:20 AM).
  • Around the rink – Scotiabank Place (5:37 PM).
  • A look at the last time at Scotiabank (7:28 AM).
  • Pens pics (12:09 PM).
  • Sens pics (10:52 AM).
  • “Follow me into the desert as thirsty as you are. Crack a smile and cut your mouth and drown in alcohol…” (7:20 AM).

5:37 PM:

Daniel Alfredsson is honored for his 1,000th NHL game played. Meanwhile, the Sens are assembling an army. Could a military coup be in the works? Keep your head on a swivel Alfie.

1:32 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On Staal:
There is no timeline right now. It’s the first step after skating on his own, to get back with the team. We’re going to see how his hand reacts to an increased level of contact. We didn’t go full-out with him today, but we’ll adjust as we go along.

On Gonchar’s struggles
I think he can turn it around. He’s a guy we’ve had to replace on our power play. We’ve had some guys step up this year in Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski, and Paul Martin as well. We missed him right away in that capacity. We missed him in our dressing room and on our back end. To see him struggle a bit, that’s not the guy we know. That’s not the guy we expected Ottawa to get. He’s had some adjustment issues and problems. That’s a guy who’s got good hockey sense, he’s a good defenseman, he’s great on the power play. Hopefully after tonight, Ottawa can expect him to do much better.

On Crosby’s 23-game scoring streak
It is a big deal, but at the same time I almost said it’s not a big deal. He comes to work every day with a high work ethic and intelligent work ethic. He works in practice. He hasn’t gotten these points on the streak, he hasn’t gotten there by cheating or mistakes or lucky bounces. The things he’s done, he’s worked on in practice. He’s probably gotten seven points just within the structure of our team game. He’s a central player of that structure. It’s all team oriented. He’s blocking more shots and playing better defensively than he maybe ever has. It’s not a surprise to see him go out and be effective in those situations every night. Some of the ways he does it and the consistency that he does it, you do shake your head a little bit. The tip at the side of the net against Washington is an exceptional play. But that’s probably the sixth or seventh goal he’s gotten from that spot and he does it everyday in practice.

On if the bench relaxes when Crosby gets a point:
No, not really. There was one game where it was late in the third. There is no thinking that we need to get him a point. I haven’t had that sense on the bench yet. I don’t think the guys are approaching it that way. He goes so much about his business to play the right way. It doesn’t have that feeling with his teammates.

On how much better Crosby can get:
One of his best strengths is that he continues to work to get better. I don’t see that stopping until he’s done playing. He may change somewhere down the road in his game. He might lose a step. I don’t know where that’s going to be. He’s going to continue to try to get better no matter what age or where he’s at. That’s one of the strengths that he has an it applies to his game. That’s the amazing thing to watch, that he continues to work and try to get better.

1:20 PM:
Sounds heard around the visiting locker room...

Jordan Staal

On skating:
It was great just to get out there and fool around with the guys. They have a big game tonight, but it’s nice just to be on the ice with the guys, and feel the puck a little bit.

On what joining the team means
It’s a big step. A couple days ago I jumped on the ice and started shooting. It started to feel really good. It’s a pretty big jump to start skating with the guys, starting to get the feel for a team game, getting my hands back, my legs back. It’s a good time.

On timeline:
I feel really good. I can tell you that much. I’m not really sure what the deal is. I want to go slow with the way things have been going. We want to take it one step at  a time. It’s very hard to tell.

On playing in the Winter Classic:

I feel really good and things are going in the right direction. If all goes well, you never no.

On if his hand had a second break
No, it just needed more time. It was a long healing process, a lot longer than I expected. That’s the way things go. It takes time and I’m glad I’m feeling better.

Sidney Crosby

On his 23-game scoring streak
I feel like I’ve played well. There were times where I didn’t play so well, but got some bounces too. Our line and a team have had a lot of success lately.

On Gretzky’s 51-game streak
It’s hard to imagine that, someone doing that every night. For people to be used to that too, that’s pretty scary. That’s pretty hard to imagine. He set the bar pretty high.

On how his mustache would look after a 51-game streak
Probably not much more than this. I think it’s peaked.

On if he’s competing with Stamkos for points:
I watch games to see what guys are doing. I don’t think I need to change anything. I won’t do anything different. Everyone is their own player. I always try to do my best. It doesn’t always mean you’ll have great results. There are times when the puck goes in for you. It’s so hard to compare yourself to other guys. You do the things that work for you. That’s all I try to do.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On the travel day:
It’s a little bit different, earlier than usual. A little more tight. It was a good skate. I stretched it out and got the gear wet. I should be loose for tonight.

On coming off his game at Washington:
It made Christmas a little easier. It was a fun night. Tonight we have to worry about Ottawa.

On the Senators struggling this season:
Last time we played them it was a really tight game. It was close from start to finish. That’s something we expect from them. They’re a very solid team. Guys will show up and play hard all night. We have to be really focused for them.

12:09 PM:
Staal wasn't the only Pen at the morning skate at Scotiabank Place.

Maxime Talbot

John Curry and his former coach in WBS Todd Reirden (left)

11:51 AM:
The Pens are on the ice for their morning skate, and they were joined by a familiar face. Center Jordan Staal was on the ice. Though he didn't participate in the lines, he is doing some drills and one-on-one work with the coaches.

More importantly, he also looks like he hasn't cut his hair since Jean Chretien was in power (some Canadian political humor since we are in the capital).

10:52 AM:
Sens morning skate. Life changing.

Sergei Gonchar (right)

Jarkko Ruutu makes his way to the ice

Alex Kovalev lines up a slapper (right)

Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa's captain since 1982 (or something like that)

Head coach Cory Clouston (left); goalie Brian Elliott (right)

10:23 AM:
We've landed safely and have arrived at Scotiabank Place. The Senators have a 10:30 a.m. morning skate scheduled, and Pittsburgh will hit the ice at 11:30.

The Pens made an early morning transaction, re-assigning forward Dustin Jeffrey to WBS.

7:28 AM:
The last time the Pens were in Ottawa was the 2010 playoffs. Pittsburgh eliminated the Senators with a third-period comeback, and an overtime series-winning goal from Pascal Dupuis. It was a joyous occasion.

7:20 AM:
A long day for the Penguins today. The team is currently on the plane and waiting to take off for the Canadian Capital - Ottawa - to take on the Senators. The Pens will fly out this morning, head straight to the rink for the morning skate, hit the hotel for lunch/nap, back to the rink for the game and fly back to Pittsburgh following the game.

We are set to take off at 8 a.m. Normally the team travels to a visiting the city the day before a game, but the NHL allows teams to travel the day of a game on Dec. 26 because of Christmas (by the way, hope Santa treated you all well!).

Let's open the morning with Soundgarden, "Burden in My Hand." See you in Ottawa shortly. Get the passport stamped!

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