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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Boston

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Head coach Dan Bylsma made it official. Evgeni Malkin will return to the lineup tonight against the Boston Bruins after missing seven games with a shoulder strain. See 11:51 AM entry for details

12:44 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma's comments from his post-morning skate press conference:

On losing another guy:
It is not new for Chris (Kunitz). It is not something that we haven’t been dealing with for a while now. It’s new publically, but we have been fortunate to have Chris the past little bit.
On Tyler Kennedy’s potential return:
I haven’t talked to TK or the trainer about where he is at today. He did skate a little bit today. He is progressing and he is in the time frame of 7-to-10 days. As he keeps progressing, that time frame may or may not change. He is progressing and doing better. We are getting the results physically that we like to see.
On holding a guy back after watching another player re-injure himself:
I think dealing with each injury is individual – past history, where the injury is at and what the injury is – and then trying to decide what is best. Can you play with the injury or will you do further damage? That is a big part of it. Is it going to be able to get better while you play and with the rest, off days and maintenance days or are we dealing with an injury that is going to stay the same until you get rest? With each player, if they are not going to get better, it is not the time of the year to spend six months with the same injury over and over again, affecting your practice, your game and the mentality with which you play the game with. Each player is different. What I can say about Chris Kunitz and Tyler Kennedy is they play the game in such a way that it is tough to play with a nagging injury or an injury that can be preventing you from going right to the wall banging people and going to the net being a physical presence. It is a little bit of a different consideration based on how they play the game.
On the injuries stemming from back-to-back Cup runs:
I don’t see our team being any different from the other teams in the league right now. We all seem to be dealing with what looks to be a rash of injuries. I don’t know what the statistics are compared to previous years. We are not alone. It does happen. We have played a lot of games and that has to go into the equation. I don’t think it is a factor. We have had to take more maintenance days because we are aware of our situation but I don’t think we are any different compared to the league at this time.
On putting Crosby and Malkin together:
Just like they have been split up from their lines before to maybe give the fourth line an elite centerman, that could happen. For tonight the excitement of Geno coming back and adding a spark to our team, I thought this was a good time. I had been thinking for about a week this would be a good time to put them together and see the spark it creates.
On Malkin helping to spark Crosby’s game:
At times, when you are checking or paying attention to certain line or players, if you are focused on one player, it is a much easier task. You usually don’t have a shadow but you are tracking back hard and you are focused on where that person is at. The defensive pairing has that guy in his eyesight at all times. It is tougher to do that with two elite players out there. If you play against an elite line, if you have to contain all three, it is a much harder task to focus on one aspect of a line. I think the two of them together, what they can do with speed up the ice and what they can do in the offensive zone with the puck, it is a much harder task to control the whole line when they have the weapons out there together. We will hope that is the case tonight.

12:42 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room:

Sidney Crosby
On Malkin’s possible return:
If he did decide to play, or could play, I would love that. We’ve practiced together the last couple days. It would be great to see him out there and I’d be happy to play with him.
On Malkin’s effect on the power play:
It’s going to help for sure. There are a lot of guys who are maybe a little bit new in their roles there. To bring that familiar face back, especially Geno, he’s been a real weapon there for us. I think that’s big for us.
On Malkin providing a spark:
Definitely. He’s going to create chances. He’s going to make it tough on the other team. I think that’s going to happen. That’s natural. I think we can’t expect just that for us to be producing or to create offense, but he’s going to help in that area a lot.
On Malkin making Crosby’s game better:
I think we read off each other. We’ve been playing together for a while now. We’ve gotten pretty familiar with what we need to do be successful. I think, as far as the power play goes, we know what we have to do there and our roles and things like that. And then even strength we’ve played together in the past. I think we can certainly help each other.
On helping power play:
He’s dangerous with his shot and making plays out there. It just makes it easier to keep other teams guessing. I think that’s really what it comes down to.
On facing good goaltenders:
They’ve played well for sure. We’ve had some bad bounces, hit three posts last game I think. We beat the goalie a few times and it didn’t go in. When you losing that’s the way it’s going. Then when you’re winning you’re getting those bounces. We’ve got to keep working for those chances and eventually it’ll turn around and we’ll see a couple go in off tips or off skates. We’ll start to get those bounces ourselves.

Marc-Andre Fleury
On the last few games:
I think we have the players in here that can turn this thing around and get some wins. Last year we had a tough stretch and we made it through and went all the way. It’s a long season. We’ve got to make sure we deal with it well. We come to the rink. We practice hard.
On refocusing:
I haven’t changed anything. Just every day, come to the rink and practice hard, work on little things and watch video.

12:39 PM:
Here are some pics of the Penguins and Bruins morning skate courtesy of Tom Mast:

Evgeni Malkin (left) returns to the lineup tonight while Mark Letestu (right) will be making his NHL debut.

Tim Thomas (left) is riding two straight shutouts into Melolon Arena. Former Penguin Mark Recchi (right) recorded his 900th career assist against the Penguins on Tuesday.

11:51 AM:
The Penguins are getting some help (finally). On the same day that head coach Dan Bylsma announced that forward Chris Kunitz will miss two weeks with a lower-body injury, he also confirmed that reigning scoring champion and playoff MVP Evgeni Malkin will return to the lineup tonight against Boston. 

"I'd like to say Geno is a game-time decision but he's in," Bylsma said. 

Malkin told me Friday that he feels like he's 100 percent and will won't miss a beat after missing two weeks of action. In fact, he'll be fresh from the rest. Read more here

11:45 AM:
The Penguins injury woes continue with Chris Kunitz going down for two weeks with a lower-body injury. Read more here

10:48 AM:
With Kunitz not participating in the morning skate (see 10:35 AM entry) the Penguins went with the following line combinations and defensive pairings:



10:35 AM:
The Penguins have taken the ice for their Saturday morning skate in preparation for their showdown with the Boston Bruins tonight at Mellon Arena at 7:30 p.m.

But their is one notable absence. Chris Kunitz is not on the ice for Pittsburgh. Kunitz skipped the team's Friday practice for a maintenance day due what head coach Dan Bylsma said was an unspecified nagging injury.

"He is in the same condition he has been in for the last little bit," Bylsma said. "We are going forward with where he is at."

We will get an update on Kunitz from Bylsma following the morning skate. Stay posted.

Update: Kunitz out 2 weeks. Click here for details

10:01 AM:
The Penguins made an early roster move today with the announcement that forward Mark Letestu was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

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