AROUND THE RINK (VERIZON CENTER EDITION)
Here are sounds from around the Penguins locker room at Verizon Center earlier this afternoon:
On chasing the Capitals:
These guys have been on top of the league all year and on top of the conference by a wide stretch. They have had a great year. We are definitely looking to see how we measure up against Washington. We just need to focus on bringing our best game.On Crosby winning a gold adding to the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry:
I don’t know because I am not in Washington’s dressing room. I am not sitting next to Ovechkin. I know Sid is proud of what he has accomplished but he doesn’t brag about it. He doesn’t even talk about it, which is pretty amazing. He has certainly accomplished a lot in his short career.On where the Penguins are as a team:
I think there is definitely still room for improvement. I guess the word that has been following our team around for the last little while is consistency. We just want to find our game. We want to play our game every night. I think it is more a mental thing than a physical thing. We just have to work harder to get there.On getting juiced up for Washington:
I think you do for every opponent now. We are trying to solidify the best playoff position for us. It doesn’t matter who our opponent is these are all big games for us.
On wanting to play better against Washington:
No matter who we are playing at this point it is important that we are playing the best that we can. Most of the teams are playing desperate hockey. Even though Washington is solidified in the playoffs it’s always emotional with these two teams. On where his game has been the past several games:
It has been a little inconsistent. We have had some good games but unfortunately haven’t been able to win as much as we want. It’s the time of year where you have to buckle down and make sure over the last nine games you are ready for what lies ahead. On Washington being the best team the Penguins have faced this season:
They are one of a bunch probably. I don’t think there is one clear-cut No.1. It’s a pretty competitive league. Offensively they can put goals up pretty quickly. They have a ton of depth and play a fast game. They have a dangerous power play which can score. That is something that has been their identity throughout the whole year.On this being an emotional week after also playing Detroit:
I think it is a good thing. I think personally and as a team that is what you want. You want these types of games down the stretch. If you look at last year, we were fighting for our playoff lives from January and February on. The good thing about that is it gets you into the mentality that every play is important. We need to have that mentality from here on in.
On defending Mike Green:
They have guys like (Nicklas) Backstrom who are so good at entering the blue line and hitting guys late. (Alexander) Semin is the same way. For defensemen, it’s about having a good gap. One of the things we try, even going back to the playoffs last year, is to hit their defensemen down in their zone. As a defenseman, if you get hit, the last thing you are thinking about is jumping up into the play. On Green struggling in the playoffs last year:
You can see guys getting frustrated. Those skilled guys, especially in the playoffs, you have to be physical on them. Nobody likes getting hit no matter how big you are. I thought our forwards did a really great job forechecking him. A lot of it is making good dumps. If you can put it soft behind him then he can’t get a lot of speed going back. That is big. I don’t think he played as well as he wanted to but I am not in that locker room. A lot of times in the playoffs you’ll have fans who are critical of guys but you have no idea what a guy is going through. A lot of guys have injuries at that time. Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. He is still young. He has a lot of good years ahead of him. I’m sure he learned from it.
Head Coach Dan Bylsma
On what changes for Crosby with Malkin out:
I don’t think the defense pairings he sees change at all. I don’t think in terms of who he sees on the ice things change. Our power play is a little different with Geno not there. That is typically the most time they are together. I don’t think who he sees and his opportunity to play with good players changes much because he doesn’t see a ton of time with Geno.On how Malkin looks when he doesn’t feel well:
I think younger players, when they aren’t feeling well physically it is harder for them to be on their game. I think if the older guys waited for their bodies to feel good they would never play good. As a maturity level happens you understand that a little more. Geno is a guy who gets on a roll and feels good about his game and is very productive in those time periods. We have seen that throughout his career and last year in the playoffs when he was so productive for us. We just have a situation right now where he just has to get back to being as close to healthy before he gets back on the ice.On a target date for Malkin’s return:
I don’t have a target. It’s not a long-term situation at this point.
On a possible post-Olympic lull for Crosby:
I actually think the opposite. He spent five games or so at a real high level coming back from the break. I didn’t see a lull. He’s a guy like the other Olympians who didn’t get breaks physically. That is a lot of hockey and a lot of travel. Mentally they have all been sharp coming out of the break after spending time at the Olympics whether they did or didn’t do well and won or didn’t win. On these emotional games coming at an opportune time:
When you play against Detroit or you play against Washington there is history and there is a rivalry. You want to win. There are emotions. You see that in almost every game we play against those teams. We are searching to get our game to a higher level. That is a consistency in how we play the game over 60 minutes and how we play emotionally. We like these games. We want to be tested by Detroit. We want to come into Washington and play this team. We wanted to play against New Jersey the previous week. These are games where we are exposing ourselves and want to see if we can up our game and up our emotional level and our consistency. That is the way we are approaching these games – as a test. On where Backstrom ranks:
Rating him 1-10 I haven’t done. When you see him play every night and you see what he does power-play wise and you see what he does for his wingers. Even with Ovechkin out of the lineup you have seen him do some pretty interesting things. That game in Chicago he did some pretty amazing things with Ovechkin not in. He has done some good things. His talent and what he can do with the puck and the space he gets, it puts him up there in the mention with the top players in the league without a doubt.
The Capitals lineup tonight is expect to look like this:
NHL.com is reporting that Laich will not play
tonight against Pittsburgh.
No Evgeni Malkin
on the ice for Pittsburgh's morning skate. It looks like he'll miss his fourth game in the past five contests. The line combinations looked thus: