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Penguins Report: Game Day at San Jose

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Verizon Game Day Report...holla (2:34 PM).
  • Staal & Letang game-time decisions; Fleury starts in net (12:46 PM).
  • Pens lines & practitioners (11:36 AM).
  • Pens recall Picard (8:05 AM).
  • Scouting the Mighty Shark (7:50 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on the lineup, Sullivan and defending Thornton’s line (1:16 PM).
  • Orpik, Letang & Staal spit knowledge (1:14 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:58 AM).
  • Sharks pics (10:58 AM).
  • Mears gets rewound (7:55 AM).
  • “We’ve been on the run, riding in the sun…” (7:45 AM).

Here is today's Verizon Game Day Report. I love that new anchor, Veronica Corningstone. Although it is anchorman, not anchorlady. But I'm all for diversity - which if you don't know is an old, old wooden ship used during the civil war era.

Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

Updates on the lineup:
‘Flower’ (Marc-Andre Fleury) will be starting in goal tonight. Brent Johnson, we hope, is capable of backing up – otherwise it will be between Jim Britt and Gilles Meloche for backup duties (laughs). Kris Letang and Jordan Staal both will be game-time (decisions). Alex Picard was called up in case Kris cannot go tonight.

On if he’s still satisfied with Steve Sullivan’s play even though he hasn’t scored:
We had a conversation of what he brings to our team and how he’s performing in that role – both power play and playing on a top-two line with Geno (Evgeni Malkin), for the most part, and what he’s added. If you’re looking for goals to be an indicator of whether you’re playing well or not, then he’s not going to be feeling too well about his game, obviously. But if you’re looking at the other factors that he’s done both power play and five-on-five, he’s done a number of good things and provided what Steve Sullivan can bring to a club. He’s going to get a goal go in the net for him. That will happen. Just because you score doesn’t mean you’re adding those things that you’re supposed to bring as well. So we’ve talked about him and he’s certainly looking for that first goal. That opportunity he had in Toronto to score, I think he’d already put that one in the column but (Jonas) Gustavsson got the glove on it. But he’s gotten and done a lot of good things for us and he’s a big part of our power play success so far to this date. I think he’ll feel a little bit better when he gets that first goal, but he’s still doing a lot of good things for us.

On using Paul Martin and Letang against Joe Thornton’s line:
I think even more so tonight with Kris not being in practice for the last few days, if he plays tonight, then it will be a three-man job with (Brooks) Orpik in that mix as well. Even possibly going Martin with (Matt) Niskanen as a pair to be used in a top-four role against their top two lines.

On the problems San Jose poses:
I think they play a very north game and a speed game with their guys getting up the ice, both on rushes and coming out of the D zone. You see (Thornton) leaving the D zone and getting a breakaway against Detroit, a good execution. You see (Patrick Marleau) pushing the pace coming out of the D zone and scoring a goal against Detroit with that speed. That’s good north execution and it’s good north speed. That’s a combination of both execution and their players. That’s a tough thing to deal with in the offensive zone. They’re a five-man unit with (Brent Burns) and (Dan Boyle) kind of being active coming down the walls and keeping pucks in, and with (Martin Havlat) popping out and taking a shot from the high F3. They can be a real dangerous group that way. So in addition to a power play that’s clicking and has a dangerous unit, they have some other factors five-on-five that – in addition to their skill – they also have in their game. We got to be aware of those situations and minimize their opportunities to play that type of game.

Lookin' out for No. 1: Michelle Crechiolo

Sounds heard around the visiting locker room...

Brooks Orpik

On the Thornton-Marleau-Pavelski line:
That’s three good players right there. They’re a lot different too and they come together pretty nicely. They fit nicely with each other. The big thing with those guys is that you don’t want to give them opportunities that they don’t earn as far as turnovers and stuff like that. You want to make them go 200 feet as much as possible. And stay out of the box. Those three guys are especially good on the power play, as is their team. We’ll try to give them what they earn and anything after that is on us. We’ll try to limit their opportunities.

On Pens PK:
Hopefully it’s a good bounce back game. There were two perfect plays in Toronto that beat us. People say you let up one all year, and let up two there. We watched the video and there wasn’t a whole lot different we could have done to be honest. We were in good position. It’s just one of those games. Tonight’s a good challenge here tonight too.

Kris Letang

On if he needs the OK from coach to play:
I’m always waiting to hear from coach.

On if there are physical issues holding him back:
No, not at all.

Jordan Staal

On how he feels about tonight:
It felt pretty good again. It will be a game-time decision. I’ll talk to coach and see how he feels and how I feel, and go from there.

On having issues after yesterday’s practice:
No, it felt pretty good this morning. I’m still unsure. We’re not quite sure what to do. We’ll see how it progresses the rest of the day.

On what their unsure about:
The time and how it feels. We’ll see how it feels after this morning skate. We’ll go from there. It’s a questionable injury that you don’t want nagging for too long, especially reinjuring it if it’s weak. Those are the questions we need to find answers to for tonight’s game.

Pens coach Dan Bylsma said that Letang and Staal are still game-time decisions heading into tonight. He added that Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net.

Pens defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who's missed the last 3 games with a broken finger that has a projected 4-to-6 week recovery time, took the ice after the team's morning skate. Good sign!

We caught Sharks coach Todd McLellan after his team's practice this morning. See what he had to say...

On teams being lethargic in their first home game after a long road trip:
I hoped you weren’t going to remind me, because I don’t buy into it one bit. Just like being tired in New York was thrown out there a lot to me (Wednesday) on the street and we had a day off. When you’re supposedly tired, you tighten up a little bit and you don’t play as loose as we did. So I’m not buying into those theories.

On if the Sharks had a good start:
We would have preferred more. When you look at the games, I think we lost some games where we played well enough to win. I think of those three – the two against Anaheim and the one against St. Louis – somewhere in that three-game set we probably should have won a game that we didn’t. But I do believe those even out throughout the year. Maybe we saw that on the Island the other night when we weren’t the better team and came away with a win. When you look at our team as a whole there are some areas still of concern that we have to continue to grow in, but I do believe the new players are fitting in well. They’re starting to understand what we want to do. That’s what you do in that first tenth of the season.

On spreading out the offensive production:
Our third and fourth lines have to be better. I can’t make it any clearer than that. When I said that, I didn’t say they need to score a bunch of goals. They need to create some momentum. They have to hold onto pucks in the offensive zone. They have to draw penalties. They have to be heavy and hard to handle. They have to be responsible defensively. They can’t get involved in too many men on the ice penalties. I can go on and on. They have to be better.

On how he views his system and if it’s difficult for new players to learn:
I don’t think the system is difficult. I think it’s similar to what Detroit plays and what even Pittsburgh plays. The principles are there. There’s things that we believe in, that it has to happen this way 100 percent of the time. There’s no cheating. With any new player, when he goes to a team, the biggest problem he’ll have with a coaching staff or with a system is the language. Until the player learns the language and what certain words mean and descriptive words mean, he’ll be a little confused. I think any coach will tell you that. We sometimes make it a little more difficult with choice of words. We used to backcheck; now we track. I don’t know what the difference is, but that’s a prime example. So for the most part, our guys have been around long enough. They know what we mean when we’re using those key words.

On if there’s any significant differences between his system and Pittsburgh’s:
Not a lot. One, I think Dan (Bylsma) does a tremendous job. I think the rest of his staff has that team well-prepared. They’ve learned to play without (Sidney Crosby). That can only help them when he does come back. They base their game on work ethic to begin with, and then everything else falls in line. We’d like to think that we do the same.

On what he’s preparing his team for tonight:
Work ethic. They won’t give us anything for free. If we think we’re coming and cruising through certain phases of the game, we’ll be chasing it the whole night. So first of all, we better buckle ‘em up and be prepared to work. A very strong north-south game. They don’t fool around a lot in the neutral zone. They get the puck into the offensive zone and they go to work. A very good penalty kill team. Excellent goaltending. A top-notch team in the league.

Gotta get us to the show: Michelle Crechiolo

Pens morning skate pics...

Coach Bylsma: "I'm telling you guys, In-N-Out Burger is THAT way!" (left); Johnson was back at practice to replace video goalie Jim Britt (right)

Behind you Niskanen!! The killer is behind you!! (left); Staal looks over his shoulder for safety, but only his own shadow is there (right)

See Picard pass (left); See Picard skate (right)

Letang will be a game-time decision (left); Fleury hugs the boards with his feet (right)

Pens have taken the ice for their morning skate (or afternoon if you're reading this from Pittsburgh). Both Staal and Letang are skating again, as is Picard. TK and Johnny are both on the ice as well.


Sharks morning skate pics...

Coach McLellan gives out the orders (left); Dan Boyle wants to play with four sticks. Silly Dan. That's illegal (right)

Joe Thornton yawns before his on-ice nap (left); Joe Pavelski has notched more goalie victims this year than Jaws (right)

The No. 2 - Patrick Marleau - and No. 1 - Joe Thornton - picks from the 1997 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh (left); Check out the uber epic hair flow on Douglas Murray. For a second I thought that was Sebastian Bach (right)

Aqualung (left); Antii Niemi stretches like a Stanley Cup winner (right)

The Pens started the morning with a roster move, recalling defenseman Alexandre Picard from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. He has 3 assists and a plus-7 for WBS in 9 games.

It's time for your daily dose of Steve Mears. In today's Radio Rewind, Mearsy chats with Pens asst coach Todd Reirden, which initially aired on Penguins Live.

As always, Michelle Crechiolo scouts out the Pens' opponents. Here's the rap sheet on the San Jose Sharks.

Good morning from San Jose! Tonight the Pens open their 2-game West Coast swing with a battle against the Sharks at HP Pavilion.


I would tell you what San Jose means, but I don’t know. To be honest I don’t think anyone knows what it means anymore. Scholars maintain that the translation was lost hundreds of years ago. And if you think it means Saint Jose, then we’ll agree to disagree. #anchorman

Let’s start the day with some music. Wednesday I played “West Coast” by Coconut Records, which was a solo project of Jason Schwartzman. But he actually began his musical career as the drummer of the SoCal group Phantom Planet.

Phantom Planet’s song “California” was their big hit and was used for the TV show O.C. (I have never seen the show, but an old roommate of mine was obsessed with it...I'm talking about you Steve. Update: Michelle Crechiolo wanted me to add that she was also obsessed with the OC). But honestly other than this song I haven’t heard much of their music.

Since we are on the West Coast and in the Golden State, not to mention it is undeniably catchy tune, let’s start the day with Phantom Planet’s “California.”

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