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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Atlanta

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Game day final thoughts…

  • Dupuis missed the skate, but will be in the lineup (11:54 AM). Engelland filled in admirable in his absence (10:36 AM).
  • The Pens alumni scrimmaged today in preparation for their showdown with the Caps (5:22 PM).
  • Pens alumni scrimmage running blog, pics and insight (1:06 PM).
  • Four Pens could start in the All-Star Game, thanks to YOU! (5:36 PM).
  • Speaking of alumni, today is the 10-year anniversary of Lemieux’s un-retirement (12:45 PM). Tom McMillan gives a behind the scenes look at the event (11:19 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Staal, Crosby and the Classic (12:08 PM).
  • Delightful words from Fleury, Crosby and Staal (11:51 AM).
  • Thrashers coach Ramsay on Crosby, Comrie and the PP (12:23 PM).
  • Mayor Ravenstahl adds a personal touch to the Heinz Field ice (5:37 PM).
  • Pens pics (10:49 AM).
  • “Hey don’t you wanna go down like some junkie cosmonaut…” (10:05 AM).

5:37 PM:
The mayor took a visit to Heinz Field. Michelle was there to get his insight.

5:36 PM:
Fleury leaped over Carey Price for starting goaltender in the All-Star voting. Four Pens may end up in the starting lineup. Keep up the good work Pens fans!!!!

5:22 PM:
Read more on today's alumni scrimmage from Tony Jovenitti. Check out the alumni scrimmage:

1:06 PM: Running Scrimmage Blog
Speaking of Mario being back on the ice, No. 66 is out there on the ice with quite a few Pens alum (Troy Loney, Rick Tocchet, Bob Errey, Jay Caufield, Bryan Trottier) for a game day scrimmage. Check out my running blog below:

Team White strikes first as Dan Bylsma rips a shot into the net. An early 1-0 lead.

Gilles Meloche makes his first save of the game in net for Team White.

Bob Errey ties the game at 1-1. He carrid the puck down the near side on a 2-on-1 before whipping  a shot stickside by Meloche.

Somebody on Team White scored (while I was just typing the previous entry). I'll try to find out the goal scorer, but regardless it's 2-1 advantage White.

Pens director of hockey ops Frank Buonomo skated in on Meloche on a breakaway and snapped a shot through the five-hole for the score. All tied at 2-2.

Loney and Caufield (left)

Pens color guys Errey and Bourque (left); Lemieux in white to the right

While I was posting the pictures someone on Team White scored again. White takes the lead 3-2. Sorry I missed the goal. I suck at life right now.

Team White scores on a great tip-in play in front to win Game 1. Lemieux's teams are undefeated in these scrimmage games.

Bourque with a great backhand pass to find Loney to the side of the crease. But Meloche makes a sliding pad save.

Lemieux gets in all alone on a breakaway. He makes a sick deke to pull the goaltender to the ice. Then softly glides the puck past the outstretched and defenseless goaltender.

Reirden moves in on a breakaway on his coaching partner Meloche. His shot was stopped by Meloche, but the puck popped into the air. Meloche lost track of the puck and Errey is able to bury a shot.

Errey does it again. Stationed to the side of the crease, he nails a one-timer. That's three for Errey! You'll hear about that on FSN's broadcast tonight.

Rick Tocchet (right)

Errey chats with Rob King (left); Mario (right)

Bourque had a breakaway. I was hoping for some razzle-dazzle, but instead he went five-hole and was stoned by Meloche.

A 3-on-0 ends with Mario having the puck on his stick. You know what happened next. Tic-tac-toe and goal!

Caufield with a goal. He slapped it from above the far circle. Hopefully, he puts that on the telestrator tonight.

Austin Lemieux had a breakaway and made a drop pass to Errey, but his shot was saved by Meloche.

Bourque makes a great play on the wall to force a turnover. He then rips a slap shot low behind Meloche.

Reirden rips a hard slap shot past Meloche. Team Black is abusing the Pens goaltending coach and may have found his weakness.

Meloche with a diving pad save on Buonomo!!!! Some revenge for Meloche.

Bylsma with a two-line pass to Trottier, springing him on a 2-on-1. Trottier snaps a water-bottle shot into the goal.

A pass goes off of Bylsma's skate and into the net. There is much despute over whether it was a goal or not. Didn't look like a "distinct kicking motion" to me. Tony Jovenitti is making a call to Toronto for official word. ................... Tbone says count it! Goal!

Leroux scores! His shot from above the circles hit seven things before sneaking into the net. Good things happen when you put the puck at the net. Leroux wasn't as known for his hands. Moreso for what he did with his fists:

YES!!!!!!!!! The 'ol 29er comes in on a breakaway. He does the razzle-dazzle with the puck on the toe of his blade and beats Meloche five-hole!!!!!! I pray he does that in the alumni game.

The alumni are wrapping up. We'll end the blog there. What great stuff. My $$$ is def on Pittsburgh. Bondra better look out.

12:45 PM:
Here's a good piece on Mario's comeback from FSN. Credit to ThePensBlog for the find.

12:23 PM:
Behind enemy lines. Tony Jovenitti catches up with Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay...

On if he changes anything when facing a guy like Sidney Crosby:
I think if you get lucky and stop a guy like him, then you have to face all the other guys, like Malkin. So no we don’t change all that much. We have a system that we try to stick with and play consistently. It’s a learning process. We’re getting better, but we have our ups and downs. It’s more about what we do when we have the puck versus what they do. And if we do good things when we’ve got it, then they don’t have the puck as much, and that’s the key for us.

On bringing Patrice Cormier in
(General manager Rick Dudley) says he’s playing really well. He’s a big-bodied guy and we want to have a look at him and see what he brings to the table. We know he competes and we assume he’s still going to be willing to block shots. He’s a guy that, in the future of the organization, we feel strongly that he’s going to have a big impact on the franchise and we want to get him started. And he’ll play tonight.

On dealing with the Penguins’ long shifts in the offensive zone:
The most important thing is to try to close them out when they get those cycles going, which is obviously easier said than done. We need to change quickly so we don’t get caught out there tired. The last game in here, they had a couple of shifts where we didn’t get off in time. We tried to extend the shift, and suddenly you’re running around in circles in your own end. So one of the issues is to get off the ice quickly and don’t get trapped out there. And when you do, don’t get running around, try to maintain position. We’ve got to win some one-on-one battles.

On the power play
The entries have to be good, but more importantly, we have to deal with the pressure the teams try to bring. It’s moving it quickly and not trying to be fancy, but making the simple plays. When the power play struggles, the most important thing to do is keeping it simple – get it down low, throw it to the point and shoot it. If those point shots go through, then suddenly good things start to happen.

On if this game is a measuring stick for his team:
Every game we play is important for us. We don’t look and say, “This is a good team and this is a bad team.” We’ve played very well against what would be considered good teams in this league, but we haven’t beaten Pittsburgh. And we have to beat Pittsburgh.

12:08 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On Staal:
The healing process and where the injury is at, needs to be fully healed. Right now our situation with Jordan is how he feels with his hand, where he feels as he progresses with shooting and contact. He continues to do well. He’s going to be in pretty good shape when he does get back on the ice in game situation.

On the Classic being outside factor in on Staal’s return
The only factor, whether it’s 40 games, 41 games, 39 games doesn’t make a difference. Jordan, we need to make sure he’s healed and ready to go when he does play. That’s the main concern, whether it’s the Classic or not. When he’s fully ready to go and be engaged in a full contact game, I don’t have a timeline on that right now.

On if the team can focus with the Classic coming up:
Coaches think about a lot of things. It’s not an eminent thought in my mind. It’s not hanging over my sleeping hours. We didn’t come out strong last game and we’re playing a team that has shown it is going to work, come at you, make it difficult on you. We have to ready for that. The start is something that we’ve been good at the last 25 games. We put teams back on their heals. That’s our big focus tonight and something we were disappointed with as a group. We have to be ready to do that right off the hop tonight.

On Crosby sparking the team
We want to start a certain way and every player has to be a part of that. Sidney Crosby doesn’t take the puck end-to-end. The guys have to be on that page, so do the next five guys. Sid is a leader on our team and is a driving force when he’s going. The third line has been that for us as well a lot in these games. They’ve come out and set the tone for our team.

On Crosby’s streak influencing the team:

Not on the ice. There was a question the other day at the meal that arose because of the streak and points he’s gathered on the streak. On the ice at practice it’s not like a pitcher in baseball, where in the later innings you see the pitcher on the bench by himself. He’s gone about our business and led our team. He’s led our team in a lot of ways, blocking shots and winning draws, playing defense. He’s been vocal on the bench. I haven’t seen a change in him. I noticed that Max said the other day that when Sid gets his point in the beginning of the game that it makes him relax, but I haven’t noticed that with our team, trying to get him the puck to get that out of the way. I think Sid would be proud that our team is playing the right way. He ends up finding his way on the scoresheet playing that way.

11:54 AM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma said that Pascal Dupuis will be in the lineup tonight against Atlanta. And noted that he didn't want to change up the lines so Engelland went in Dupuis' rotation spot.

"Pascal will be here this evening. He wasn’t here this morning for an undisclosed reason. He’ll be with us tonight. That’s why Deryk went there instead of somebody else and rearranging our lines."

11:51 AM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Marc-Andre Fleury

On missing the first Winter Classic
Once I was there I had fun, but it took me a couple weeks to get used to the idea that I wasn’t playing. It was good to watch, though.

On learning Pittsburgh would host the 2011 Winter Classic
I was disappointed to miss the last one, and I didn’t think our team would play in another one so quickly. So I was really happy to hear it was coming to Pittsburgh.

On hanging out with Maxime Talbot during the 2008 game:
We just watched the game and chucked a few snowballs at the mascot a couple times.

Sidney Crosby

Oh his scoring streak:
I try not to think about it a whole lot, but it’s something I get asked about probably every day. So I’m reminded about it. It’s a good thing, and you want to be consistent. But as I‘ve said before there are some times when you play well and the points come, but sometimes you play well and they don’t. So when they’re coming like that you want to take advantage of it and give yourself a chance to create. I think everyone benefits individually when the team’s playing well.

On Atlanta:
They play well as a team, and I think a big part of their game is discipline. They have a good power play and a lot of energy. They play a pretty tough brand of hockey and they’ve got some guys with experience there, too.

On Dustin Byfuglien
His shot stands out, but we just have to not allow him to get into plays. He joins the rush a lot and he’s pretty much like a fourth forward for them. It’s important for us to not allow him to get into the play. He’s pretty complete and he’s a pretty tough guy to stop. We just have to limit those chances of him going end-to-end, and we’ve seen it before.

On if he’s ever seen a guy that big skate so well
Not that heavy. He’s pretty tough to stop when he get’s going.

Jordan Staal

On his injury:
I’ll see the docs again tonight and get another X-ray. We’ll see how she looks, and if they feel really comfortable with it we’ll take the next step.

On skating for an hour and a half in the morning:
It feels really good and I want to get in as much as I can in these next few days.

On people speculating he’ll come back for the Winter Classic:

It’s going to be pretty tough. Again, everything feels pretty good, but it’s just a matter of everyone being comfortable with it – the docs, me and the trainers.

On if he treats the Winter Classic as a normal game to possibly come back:
I don’t think it really makes a difference. Again, if everyone and myself feels like I’m ready to play – whether it’s that game or the next – it doesn’t really matter.

Assist: Tony Jovenitti

11:19 AM:
Today marks the 10th anniversary of Mario Lemieux's return to the ice following retirement. Tom McMillan took a look back the bombshell announcement.

10:49 AM:
Visual justification for expensing a department camera...

Bylsma and Staal (left); Letestu (right)

Martin (left); Lovejoy (right)

Crosby (left); Conner (right)

Curry and Reirden (left); Cooke (right)

10:36 AM:
Craig Adams is on the ice for the Pens morning skate after missing practice Monday. Eric Godard is not out there, neither is Pascal Dupuis. We'll get an update post-skate on their status for tonight's game. Staal and Johnson are both back on the ice with their teammates for the morning skate (both worked earlier today).

Kunitz-Crosby-Engelland (filling in obviously)

10:19 AM:
Jordan Staal is on the ice working with Brent Johnson (illness) and strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar.

Staal and Johnson get some on-ice work in before the Pens morning skate

Marc-Andre Fleury plays around on the ice in the morning

10:05 AM:
Good morning! Or afternoon depending on your schedule. The Pens take on an up-and-coming Atlanta Thrashers team tonight at CONSOL Energy Center at 7 p.m. Pittsburgh is looking to bounce back after a 3-1 loss in Ottawa on Sunday night. The Thrashers suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss at division rival Tampa Bay.

What happens when you combine road rage, boxing, a Woody Harrelson look-alike and black-and-white film? Cracker's "Low."

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