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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Buffalo

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Kunitz will be a game-time decision, per coach Bylsma (11:33 AM).
  • Kunitz feels “good enough” to play (11:18 AM).
  • Fleury has Hart (10:30 AM).
  • Pens’ lines (10:36 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Kunitz, 200 straight sell outs and competitive games (12:16 PM).
  • Kunitz, Conner, Martin. Talbot and Letang spit knowledge (11:56 AM).
  • WBS Pens set their clear day roster (3:58 PM).
  • Pens pics (10:46 AM).
  • Sabres morning skate pics (12:04 PM).
  • “Disarm you with a smile and leave you like they left me here…” (9:30 AM).

3:58 PM:
The WBS Pens set their clear day roster. Essentially, the team must set its 22-man roster for the remainder of the season and playoffs. Although there is some room to maneuver. Click here for the roster and more details.

12:16 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On why Kunitz didn’t skate in lines at morning skate:
I just like to fool (the media).

On his players playing like he did in the past:
That’s not true. I never limited our players to my caliber of hockey, and never will. There is an idea that we’ve changed because we have skilled players out of the lineup. It looks different when you take Sidney Crosby off the ice because he’s one of the best players in the world. You’re not going to see as many highlight reel (goals) from Craig Adams as you are from Sidney Crosby. That is evident no matter happens on the ice. We’re playing the exact same way. We’re asking the exact same from our team. Execute with the puck the same way. It does look a little bit different. We haven’t scored as many goals, but we’re not asking our players not to try to score goals. We have been very good playing defensively. We’ve been attentive tracking back and smothering the neutral zone, giving our D a chance to have a great gap. We’ve been good and relentless on the forecheck in creating offensive zone time and being a good team that way. In no way, shape or form, should you use my name on the ice in terms of how we want to play. We have played very well as a group playing that way. It’s been attention to details and work ethic from our team. That standard has been set by the players with the way they’ve worked and the way they’ve executed.

On thinking the team almost left town and now is close to 200th straight sellout:
I was coaching with the Islanders in the game for Sidney’s 100th point. That was the game they handed out the “Pittsburgh First” hats. I got one that night as a coach for the Islanders. I was in the building at a time when there was danger and thoughts of the team not being here. It’s hard to imagine that was just a short time ago. What the team, franchise, city, fans have done is pretty amazing. Two days ago I was at Barnes & Noble a lady tapped me on the shoulder and talked about our team. She is 55 years old Pittsburgh lady talking about “our boys” and “our team.” They’re great fans, great support and we’ve got this beautiful new building. It’s tough to remember that time, but it wasn’t that long ago. On Saturday, 200 in a row is a pretty big number.

On what goes into the Kunitz decision:
Chris Kunitz is at a point where we’re not going to put him out there with a chance to injury it. The first time he sat out a game, I thought he was coming to the game to play. A situation arose where it wasn’t the right thing to get on the ice. We’d like to have Chris Kunitz tonight. We hope that’s the case.

On the competitive games:
In terms of games now, in particular this one, I felt this way for a little bit playing Toronto for two games and they’re talking about the playoffs, and trying to catch teams. Boston was on a seven-win run and making hay. Now we’re playing Buffalo. It’s that time of the year where teams are ramping things up and getting a playoff type of feel. You watch games a lot of them are going late in the games tied, and going to overtime. It’s that time of the year. We’re catching a team that is desperately trying to make the playoffs and playing really well. I think they’re playing playoff hockey. We’ve had that same mentality for a little bit now. It should make for a spirited match between two teams that are playing pretty hard. 

12:04 PM:
The Sabres are on the ice for their morning skate. Here's the photographic evidence.

Ryan Miller partaking in some magically awkward goalie stretching



11:56 AM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Chris Kunitz

On his chances of playing tonight:
I felt okay out there. I think right now it’s kind of coach’s decision, (to) see where he thinks I look at out on the ice and what their decision’s going to be.

On if he would play if it was up to him:
Yeah, I think I feel good enough to be out there playing. I would like to be, but it’s another decision. The team is obviously playing really well. We had a great effort by everybody last game.

On what he wants to bring to the ice in his first game back:
I just try to play my style of game, which is north-south, be physical, take pucks to the net, stand in the tough areas. Try to help our team create goals. We need to still be better offensively and on the power play. It’s an area we need to get better at to push forward into the playoffs.

On how difficult it is to determine exactly when he know he won’t aggravate his injury further:
You just try to prepare yourself the best. You go through different routines warming up, and different treatments. You just try to put yourself in the best situation out there. There’s different incidences out there on the ice that you can’t really control,  (that) you try to duplicate maybe in practice with the tight turns and contact and stuff like that. But some of it you can’t duplicate. You just have to go out and play the game and make sure your body can do those reactionary things and protect yourself.

On how frustrating it’s been for him:
I felt on the weekend I’d be better. It didn’t turn out that way. It was pretty frustrating. But it was good to see the boys take four out of six points, and still push forward here.

Chris Conner

On being successful against Buffalo:
We just have to play like we’ve been playing the last few games – using our speed and good work ethic. We need to get pucks in and manage the puck well. I think that’s been a big reason why we’ve been playing some pretty good hockey lately.

On beating Ryan Miller:
We just have to keep going to the net and get pucks there. Obviously he’s a great goalie, and we need to get as many pucks to the net as we can and get bodies there also.

On avoiding overtime tonight:
Yeah, it’s been pretty crazy lately, but we’ll definitely take any points we can get. Points are important so we need to keep getting them.

Paul Martin

On matching Buffalo’s desperation:
I think you have to (match their desperation) in order to give yourself a chance. Other teams we’ve been playing lately have been hot, it seems. Especially down the stretch, the games are a lot tighter since everyone is vying for a playoff spot and those extra points. We need to make sure we don’t get comfortable. Showing up, we need to make sure we’re ready to play and match their intensity.

On being just two points out of first place:
We have had a lot of guys in and out of the lineup and some new faces, but I think the one thing that’s constant is just the way that we try to play no matter who we have in the lineup. The guys who have been asked to step in and do a job have been doing well for us, so a lot of guys have stepped up their game. We don’t pay too much attention to what’s going on with other teams. We just want to make sure that we’re doing the right things in here. But to be where we are right now, I’m sure that we’ll take it, and hopefully we continue to improve on that.

On playing without Brooks Orpik:

We know that he’s a good leader out there. You know what you’re going to get from him every night. He plays hard, he’s physical and he makes good decisions with the puck. He’s underrated offensively, too. So it’s one of those things where (when) you take the key guy out it’s always tough, but everyone has done a good job of trying to step up in his absence.

Maxime Talbot

On facing a team like Buffalo down the stretch:
It’s a fun time of year. It’s starting to get nice out. You look at the standings a lot more. You look at teams that are pushing for it and teams that are trying to hang on and push to get the top spots. It’s really a cool time for hockey fans and for us hockey players.

On if he can feel the desperation from other teams:
For sure. Every game is a huge game for a lot of teams. It’s a big two points. I was watching TV last night and you look at teams like Washington and Tampa Bay trying to get the lead in their division. Every game matters. That’s the best time of year for hockey.

On Buffalo:

They’ve been hot. They’ve been playing really well. They’ve been pushing to make the playoffs. They’re going to play with desperation. They can definitely score some goals. They’re a dangerous team. It seems like it’s always a really good contest when we play them.

On how they stop Buffalo’s attack:
The only way to try to prevent their defense from jumping in the rush is to execute and do the good details that will allow us to play with the puck. When you control the puck it’s hard for them to attack. So that’s the best way.

On Chris Kunitz:
I don’t know if he’s coming back today, but if he is, he’s a big part of our team. He’s a leader and he would bring us a lot of energy, definitely. The way he forechecks and the way he plays the game is definitely a plus for our team.

Kris Letang

On competing in games:
We don’t have some of the skill and the talent up front that we had in the beginning of the year. But the way we play and the way we manage the puck – the way we approach every game – I think gives us a chance to win every match. And the way the coach prepares us is obviously in our favor every game.

On Buffalo’s hot streak:
They want to make a push for the playoffs. They come in with a playoff attitude every game.

On how teams play against him defensively:

They put a lot of pressure, but I keep the same pattern. I just try to put it on net and create chances. Sometimes it’s off the net, but I just want to make sure we have a chance at the net.

On making sure his jersey is tied down:
Actually, we were doing the Make-A-Wish luncheon yesterday and even the kids were joking about it. I guess I will be ready for the rest of the year now.

Big East Champion: Tony Jovenitti & Michelle Crechiolo

11:33 AM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma said that Kunitz will be a game-time decision. He jokingly added that Kunitz didn't skate in a line so that he could fool the media.

11:18 AM:
"I felt OK out there. Right now it's the coach's decision," Kunitz said. "See how he thinks I looked out on the ice.

"I feel good enough to be out there playing. I'd like to be, but it's not my decision.

10:46 AM:
A picture is worth 1,000 words (give or take 6)...

Coach Dan (left)

Rupp (left); Talbot (right)

Kunitz (right)

10:36 AM:
Kunitz is with his teammates for the morning skate, but did not take a regular line shift (going with Godard and Jeffrey on occasion). The lines appear to be the same as in Boston. We'll get an update from coach Bylsma on Kunitz's status.


10:30 AM:
The Pens are making their way onto the ice, including goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. I made my case earlier today that he should be getting more recognition as a possible NHL MVP candidate.

9:30 AM:
Tonight the Pens kick off a three-game homesteand with a showdown against the Buffalo Sabres. Pittsburgh is looking for the season sweep having won the first three contests against Buffalo. Monday, head coach Dan Bylsma said that forward Chris Kunitz is probably to return to the lineup. He’s missed the last 13 games with a lower-body injury.

As for today’s music picks, we are continuing our epic weeklong celebration of MTV’s Unplugged Series – which started off with the brilliance of Nirvana.

We’ll start by going from one musical genius (Kurt Cobain) to another (Billy Corgan). Corgan is the mastermind behind the Smashing Pumpkins, having written and performed every instrument for some of their albums. The band did an acoustic session in Europe for MTV.

For my buddy AJ, here are the Smashing Pumpkins with “Cherub Rock.” I absolutely love the guitar riff, and it sounds even better acoustically.

The Pumpkins also did a rendition of “Disarm.” Enjoy.

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