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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Atlanta

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Game day final thoughts….

  • Letang is having an awesome start to the year (11:35 AM).
  • Interesting pre-skate pics: Malkin and Ramsay (10:48 AM).
  • Pens lines, still no change. Stick with what is working (10:35 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Atlanta, Byfuglien and the CONSOL Energy Center ice (12:17 PM).
  • Words of wisdom from Crosby, Malkin and Fleury (11:37 AM).
  • Thrashers pics (11:58 AM).
  • Pens pics (11:02 AM).
  • “I’m just see-through faded, super jaded, out of my mind…” (10:08 AM).

12:17 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On Atlanta:
They are playing well. They’re moving up in the standings. So we have a chance to see two teams that are playing well go head-to-head. I think as a coach, you always look for ways to give meaning to the games, and certainly that is one of the ways. We know we’re playing against a good team that is playing hot. This team is a dangerous team from several different areas. The goaltenders are playing well, so I think it brings a heightened sense of awareness and meaning to the game.

On Dustin Byfuglien
I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to see this guy play for a number of years now. He played in Norfolk when I was in Wilkes-Barre. He played defense there. So I actually have a pretty good feeling for how he plays defense. He’s a force, physically. He’s tough to knock off the puck. He’s tough to deal with in the offensive zone. He skates really well. He’s got a cannon of a shot and he’s a little bit unpredictable in what he does out there. So it’s not like you can say ‘this is what his three tendencies are so look out for him.’ He could be behind the net in the offensive zone, he could be in front of the net, or he could be flying in the neutral-zone transition up the ice with speed. And he’s going to be real dangerous on the power play. So he’s a guy we will have marked.

On Byfuglien’s shot and how players deal with facing it:
It’s only a couple miles an hour faster than the other guys in the league. That’s the way I look at it. It’s five miles an hour faster than the other guys. He is dangerous with it. He does get it off, and he gets it off on the power-play and five-one-five. Sometimes, being aware of the shooting lane and letting the guy know you are going to block it is enough to deter him from taking it as often. That’s a key on our penalty-kill tonight.

On if, as a shot-blocker, he approaches heavy shots differently:
There is a difference. Physics-wise, I don’t know if there is, but if you ask the goalie, I think there is a difference and (Byfuglien’s) got it. I think when you talk about our PK and our guys who are going to block his shot, I think they’ll wear it as a badge of honor if they get a bruise from it. I think that’s the mentality you try to have. You gotta wear the bruise as a badge, and hopefully we get a couple of them tonight.

On what the ice is like after the City Game was at CONSOL Energy Center late Wednesday night:
I was interested in asking the guys that after practice. I thought it was fairly good compared to some other turnarounds they had. They got the stuff off the ice pretty close to practice time. I thought the ice was good. It has been pretty good and we’re hoping we continue to see that for tonight’s game, especially after last night’s turnaround.

On when he expects to know the measure of the team after 15 or 25 games:
Maybe it will happen a little later than some years. But I think going back two weeks ago, to a time where we were playing well and doing a lot of good things but weren’t winning games and had areas that were costing us in close games to surrender leads, I think we’ve used that adversity to learn how we were going to win games. And I think more than in years past, we’re seeing a team that can play a fast game. We’re pinning teams back, we can get in the offensive zone, but we’re also a team that can defend and play that way. I think our longevity is starting to be there, maybe a little differently than we saw in previous years, but I think we’re right around the time where you can start to say ‘This is what we’ve seen from the Penguins over the last 15 games, this is who we are and how we play and what we can expect from them.’

Assist: Tony Jovenitti, Michelle Crechiolo

11:58 AM:

Dustin Byfuglien (left) and Ondrej Pavelec (right) have fueled the Thrashers' recent surge

11:37 AM:
Sounds from around the locker room...

Sidney Crosby

On why the team is playing well
I think we’re just all competing and capitalizing on our chances that we’re getting. I don’t think there’s any secret. We’re just working hard and generating some good chances and executing when we get them.

On how Dustin Byfuglien plays so well with his size
Probably because of (his size). He’s a big guy, and when he builds up speed he’s hard to stop. He’s got a great shot and soft hands. He sees the ice well, so he makes for a dangerous player. He’s playing great and he’s a big part of their defense.

On if Byfuglien is a better defender than he gets credit for
Yeah, when you’re able to handle the puck like he can and skate, you’ll play defense well. When he has to defend, he has a long reach. He’s probably known a little more for his offensive skills, but of course he’s a great defender as well.

Evgeni Malkin

On Atlanta:

It’s a good luck team for me. We are playing great right now and the whole team is playing great. Sid is playing very well and I hope he can continue. I will try to score, too, of course.

On always playing well against the Thrashers
I just try to play every game that way, not just Atlanta. I try to play hard every night, and I try to score.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On his success in the past eight games:
My teammates. I think they do a great job every night, they’ve been playing really hard blocking shots and helping me out. I think we’re playing the way that Coach (Bylsma) wants us to, and we’re playing hard and it’s been paying off.

On if he’s practiced on anything specific since the Thrashers have been hot offensively:
Yes, I think there was a couple of spots we had to watch but now they’re a solid overall team. We’ll watch some tapes today about how they’ve been playing lately and make sure we’re ready and focused for tonight.

On Byfulgien’s shot:
Yeah, I think he’s up there. He’s up there with the guys that have big cannons. We played once this year and then last year, so it’s a little hard to say but I’ll make sure I’m aware when he’s out there and prepare for the big slapper.

On how the defense has been playing in front of him:
It’s been great, actually. They’re playing hard and we don’t stay in the zone too long. Guys get the puck and everybody can skate very well and make that first good pass, so that first one has always been quick. The guys have been diving in front of shots, so they’ve done a good job blocking shots also.

Assist: Tony Jovenitti

11:35 AM:
Kris Letang has elevated his game at the start of the season. And the fans are noticing, as he has received unbelievable support in write-in voting for the All-Star Game.

11:02 AM:

Pens coach Dan Bylsma chats with Atlanta's Dustin Byfuglien before the morning skate (left)

10:48 AM:
Before the Pens morning skate forward Evgeni Malkin took the ice to test out a new pair of skates. Also, Thrashers head coach Craig Ramsay took a morning job on the steps at CONSOL Energy Center.

Evgeni Malkin (left); Craig Ramsay (right)

10:35 AM:
No changes to the team's line combinations:


10:08 AM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma is already on the ice at CONSOL Energy Center. He's skating some laps solo, no doubt getting fired up for tonight's showdown with Atlanta. The Penguins and Thrashers are the two hottest teams in the NHL right now with each boasting consecutive winning streaks (Pit - 7; Atl - 6). For a preview on tonight's game, check out Michelle Crechiolo's report.

Let's get the day going with some Alice in Chains. "Heaven Beside You" wasn't their big hit, but it's always been one of my favorites. RIP Layne Staley.

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