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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Boston

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Johnson starting (11:12 AM), as is Tim Thomas (12:58 PM)


12:58 PM:
Bruins head coach Claude Julien said the goaltender Tim Thomas will start tonight for Boston. Here are some other things that the coach spoke about to the media...

On comparing Tim Thomas going through a similar situation last year as Fleury is right now:
I don’t know that he was struggling to the extent that everybody thinks he was, we just had a goalie in Tuukka Rask that just caught fire just like Tim is now. I think that made the situation look worse than it was. But Timmy was okay, he just wasn’t as great as he had been the year before. And Tuukka was really good for us. That’s all that happened and in Timmy’s case, he’s come back this year determined to have more of a season that resembles two years ago when he won the Vezina. Sometimes goalies fight through those situations and find their groove, and right now he’s in the zone and feeling very confident.

On how he handled that situation, trying not to offend the team’s No. 1 goalie:
The player himself has got to understand the situation and right now, we’ve got two goaltenders that are team-first people. They’ve committed to being team-first so that’s not really an issue. As long as it’s not an issue I really don’t have to deal with it.

On if he goes with the goalie who’s playing best and winning:
I think so.  But the other part, too, is depending on the schedule. You don’t want to overtax a goaltender, especially early in the season. You want to try to avoid injuries, and injuries happen when you’re tired. That’s a situation we’re managing as well. With the coaches and goalie coach, you try to talk about those situations to try to get a plan in place. You put what you think is a plan and then you go day by day.

On if a team plays better in front of a certain goaltender than in front of the other:

That might be the case, but I don’t think it is with us. Both guys have seen their team play very hard in front of them. If that was the case, then we’d be talking about how the team played well in front of Tuukka last year and then played well in front of Tim this year, but I don’t think that’s the case. The situation we have right now is that we’ve got a guy playing really well and we’re riding him a little more than the other one. But the other guy is playing well too.

On if he’s surprised that Mark Recchi is still playing:
For me, watching him, he’s just so happy around the rink. That’s where he wants to be. It’s one thing to want to be there, but to be able to stay is another. He just works so hard. He’s a committed guy, and when you see him in practice he’s trying to be the hardest working guy out there. I think that’s what has kept him going. Condition has always been at the top, and the proof of that was when he had a knee operation this summer. He shouldn’t have even been there at camp, but he was there the first day. Doctors were amazed at his recovery, so it just goes to show that when you’re in great shape, you’re able to do those kinds of things.

Goal: Tony Jovenitti

12:20 PM:
The Pens honored 12 local “Wounded Warriors” Wednesday at CONSOL Energy Center, as part of the team’s salute to Veterans’ Day.

The Wounded Warriors and their families were special guests of the team at Wednesday’s morning skate. Each Warrior received a personalized Penguins jersey and a gift bag, and were be entertained in Suite 66.
They will return for the game tonight – and six of them will ride the Zamboni during pre-game and intermission ice cuts.

Shero speaks with the family of Wounded Warriors


12:14 PM:
Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who leads NHL in wins (7), GAA (1.04) and save pct. (.967) headed off the ice after the Bruins morning skate. He took off his jersey, chest protector and helmet. Then he came back on the ice and did some extra stretching and warmup work.


12:09 PM:
Sidney Crosby chatted with the media (as he does every single day):

On the new All-Star format, with captains picking teams
I think it would be cool. It’s a little bit different look than East-West, and it’s something new. I think it will probably make it a little more competitive if that’s the way it worked out. I don’t think it’s final yet, but it’s a pretty good idea.

On if he would like to be one of the captains picking teams
It would be fun, but there could be a little bit of pressure. Guys ,I’m sure, would all want to be picked. But you’d have a pretty good pool to pick from.

On the last time he had to pick teams for anything
We picked teams last year for 4-on-4 here. That would be a pretty cool look and I think fans would enjoy seeing different teams.

On the guy who gets picked last:

Nobody wants to be that guy, but it’s got to be someone.

On Tim Thomas:
I don’t think we try to change anything. We work on certain habits of getting shots and getting traffic and that kind of thing—whatever it is to make it tough and make chances. I don’t think you can focus too much on the goalie you’re playing. If there’s something that’s really obvious that sticks out, we bring it up. But with him, he’s really solid and he competes hard. So the things we work on every day are things we depend on to score goals, and I don’t think that’s going to change from goalie to goalie.

On coming back home:
It’s nice. We’re comfortable with our surrounding here. Obviously guys are home with family and things like that, so it’s more of your typical atmosphere. But at the same time, you don’t want to relax too much and think you’re home and everything’s easy now. Sometimes when you’re on the road, you simplify things a little more. So as long as we keep that same mentality the last couple games in the way that we played, things should be good.

On if CONSOL Energy Center feels like home yet
It seems like home, but I don’t think we have established it as a tough place to play with our game yet. We’ve got to make sure that when teams come in here, it’s a little bit tougher and they don’t just feel the noise from the crowd. They need to feel the way our game is and the physical element. We have to establish that here.

Assist: Tony Jovenitti

12:05 PM:

Zdeno Chara (right), half man, half skyscraper

Mark Recchi (left) is 42 years old. Tyler Seguin (right) is 18 years old. Fun fact: Recchi had already won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins (1991) a few months before Seguin was even born (Jan. 31, 1992).


11:55 AM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On still experimenting with the lines:
I think the line of (Kunitz, Crosby and Dupuis) has been together, but you see occasionally see Malkin go on that line for certain shifts and different times in the game, but otherwise that line has been pretty intact. Malkin was on the wing there for a while, but with Jordan Staal’s situation that has changed a bit. So that has put some flux in while we’re dealing with Jordan not being in for a while. And Mark Letestu’s emergence as an offensive player has changed things a little bit. Coming in to camp, his play and his recent points solidified him as a guy who we are looking to make plays and be solid there in the middle. So in some aspects, the second and third line is still in flux and does move game to game and within a game.

On teams that play shut-down defense frustrating the Penguins
That’s a good question, because Boston and New Jersey play similar styles and similar systems with a similar mentality. And yet, against New Jersey last year we got frustrated, but against Boston we experienced some success. We looked at that to determine why that is different, but we didn’t come up with a clear answer since the coaches are similar, they have similar mindsets and they talk a similar game. But we were able to have a different mentality. Against Boston we didn’t experience that frustration level, but against New Jersey we did. The games were similar. We didn’t score a lot of goals against Boston, but we just won those games. One thing I see different with Boston is that they are a team that on the rush, the D plays the dots and they allow you to enter the puck. That’s something that makes our team feel a little better about our ability to have speed and attack and get in the zone that way.

On how the first goal can impact a game
It’s a frustration level and there’s a feeling you do get in the game where you don’t get the first goal or your power play doesn’t take an opportunity then it does create that frustration level. It’s a feeling we’d like to get away from in (Wednesday’s) game. The last two games we have come back from giving up the first goal or the first couple goals. It’s a real focus on continuing the play and continuing to believe and play the right way if you don’t get that first goal. If you do get it, it alleviates the mindset of not getting it. But it’s all about playing the same way for the rest of the game. It doesn’t matter what the score is.

On the goaltending situation:
I think the belief that Marc is going to play great hockey again is 100 percent from our guys and coaches. You can pinpoint the situation where Tim Thomas didn’t have the results and numbers where he didn’t play as much (last year), and then coming back and doing what he’s doing now. Those are things that you draw upon. You also draw upon your previous experience. Marc has had some difficult times in his career. I remember not knowing Marc-Andre Fleury and watching him when he was 18 years old and hearing the media talk about how he’s had some difficult times and he’s had some question marks. So he’s been able to deal with that and work through it to end up playing good hockey. That’s the belief, and Tim Thomas is another example of that happening to another good goalie.

On who will start tonight:
Johnson will start in goal tonight. 

Secondary assist: Tony Jovenitti

11:50 AM:
The Penguins wanted to add an extra body to the roster with several players currently battling the flu. Brent Johnson missed practice Monday with the illness, and Mike Comrie didn't skate Tuesday. With Comrie's status unknown for Wednesday night against Boston, the team recalled forward Chris Conner.

Asked why the team chose Conner in particular, head coach Dan Bylsma replied: "I'm so sick of hearing how well he's doing (in WBS) from John Hynes, Tom Fitzgerald and Jason Botterill in every aspect that he's doing down there."

Conner was just happy to have an opportunity to join the big club.

"It's awesome; any time you come to the NHL you want to prove that you can stay here and play well," Conner said. "I want to come here and do whatever I can to help the team win. It's always exciting coming up here. It should be fun."

Conner is tied for second on WBS in scoring with nine points through 11 games. He appeared in eight games last year with Pittsburgh (and one postseason contest), so he has some familiarity with the system and atmosphere.

"I've done this a couple times before," he said. "We have a great group of guys here. I'm excited."


11:12 AM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma declared that goalie Brent Johnson will be in goal tonight for the Pens.

10:50 AM:

Assistant coach Tony Granato was back with the team at practice

Chris Conner joins the club after his morning recall

Bylsma at center ice

Sidney Crosby working on his shot

10:36 AM:
Conner's recall was due to Mike Comrie missing practice with an illness. If Comrie isn't able to play, Conner's presence gives the team some flexibility. Comrie was at the morning skate though. Here were the line combos:

Comrie-Conner-(Tom Fitzgerald - filling in)

The defensemen rotated.

10:22 AM:
The coaches are taking the ice, including assistant coach Tony Granato. Granato had been absent from the Pens since the West Coast trip. Granato joined his family and sister Cammi, who was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

9:45 AM:
The Penguins start the day by making an early roster move. Pittsburgh recalled forward Chris Conner from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. Details here.
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