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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Carolina

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Pens’ lines, no Malkin, no Crosby (10:35 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma gives his insight for the AFC Championship Game (11:40 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Staal, Conner and Jeff Skinner (12:05 PM).
  • PensTV goes speed dating with Letestu, Dupuis and Staal (1:28 PM).
  • Cooke, Fleury and Kunitz spit knowledge (11:49 AM).
  • Pens pics that honor ThePensBlog (10:56 AM and 11:00 AM).
  • ‘Canes pics (11:57 AM).
  • “Crash, crash, burn, let it all burn, this hurricane chasing us all underground…” (10:14 AM).

1:28 PM:
PensTV goes speed dating with Letestu, Dupuis and Staal...




12:05 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On how he approaches the lines with two top centers being out and if they could change significantly:
I think Jordan Staal and his line will not change their role. They’re going to have to be in a matchup situation, so that means they’re probably going to get the other team’s best defensive pairing. Mark Letestu’s line with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, that’s a line that could change in the game based on the situation we get in and how the game’s going and how players are performing. Mark’s obviously going to provide some offense in that situation. Given a defensive situation later in the game, that could change. Max Talbot last game was winning draws, so he got an opportunity to play in different situations. Dustin Jeffrey is a guy who could go to that line in a situation where we’re going with a straight matchup and want to limit the other team’s opportunities. So there could be some change throughout the game depending on where we’re at.

On if Jordan will go head-to-head with Eric more than he has in the past:

We were having Jordan play against Eric when it was a home game in the past. On the road, that was different. With (Jeff) Skinner playing the way he is, it’s tough to say that’s not a dangerous line too. But I probably see Jordan getting reacquainted with his brother tonight.

On what Chris Conner is bringing to the team now on a nightly basis that he didn’t in training camp:
In training camp, he probably didn’t get a great opportunity to do what he’s doing now. He got one exhibition game. With the contract situation and where we were at as a team, Mike Comrie was having a good training camp and playing the second-line center with (Evgeni) Malkin. Mark Letestu was having a great training camp. So in terms of training camp, he didn’t maybe get the best opportunity to play the way he’s playing now.
But what is he bringing? He certainly brings the speed aspect to our game. You saw that in the Detroit game, it was real evident just in the neutral zone, (him) breaking free a couple times with his speed. You’ve seen him do that wide against other team’s defensemen. But in addition to that, in the offensive zone, he’s bringing tenacity and he’s bringing physical play with how quick he can get on pucks and win puck battles. But if you asked me in training camp if one of our forwards was going to knock down Dustin Byfuglien, and knock down 6-foot-5-plus guys in the league, I wouldn’t have picked Chris Conner. And he’s been able to do that in the offensive zone, by being kind of pesky and speedy and with his puck pursuit in the offensive zone and with his speed up the ice on rushes. He’s brought a lot, it’s a spark to our team, it’s a tenacity, and it’s speed to our game that has really been a plus in the last 30 games.

On if Skinner is the best rookie he’s seen in the NHL so far this season
That’s a tough question to answer, because I see this guy more than I see some of the other rookies. But what I see from this guy is pretty amazing. He’s got speed and tenacity, he’s got one-on-one moves. About 10 days ago, I watched their game against Florida, and they were down 2-0 or 3-0, and Skinner basically won the game for them with the way he got them back into the game. The game against the Rangers, his speed and one-on-one ability is pretty unique for a young kid. I’m not a voting guy, but he would get my vote right now for one of the most dangerous rookies.

Breakout pass: Michelle Crechiolo

11:57 AM:
The Hurricanes are on the ice for their morning skate. I hear one of the Penguins has a brother playing for Carolina. My guess: Tyler Kennedy.

All-Star goalie Cam Ward


Penguin Legend Ronnie "Franchise" Francis. Man I loved that guy as a kid. Still do, class act.

All-Star captain Eric Staal.

11:49 AM:
Sounds heard around the Crosby-less, Malkin-less locker room...

Matt Cooke

On adjusting to playing without Crosby and Malkin:
We’re definitely a different team without them in our lineup. But at the end of the day, we have to win games and we have to prepare and be willing to play the way we need to as a group to win the games. Injuries are a part of the game and we know they’re going to happen. Unfortunately it just so happened that both of them are out.

On if he thinks other teams are will play differently against the Penguins without Crosby and Malkin:
I don’t think that they’re going to change. Obviously, they have two less worries out there, but they’re not going to play any different. They’re approaching the game to win, as are we. At the end of the day that’s what it’s about.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On facing Eric Staal right before he gets to choose the All-Star teams:

Hopefully, I won’t be the last pick. But I still want to stop him tonight.

On Carolina’s forwards:
They have a lot of guys that can be dangerous around the net and on the power play. They play disciplined hockey, and it should be a good game.

On how important goaltending is against the Hurricanes
They have a good one with Cam (Ward). It’s usually a very tight game. So I’m just going to try to stop the puck and give the team a chance to win.

Chris Kunitz

On finding offense against the Hurricanes:

Right now we just have to play our system, getting pucks deep and make it hard on their team to break out. We need to create turnovers and take pucks to the net. We have to be the harder-working team. We’re missing some really talented players that generate a majority of our offense, but we have to go out and play a better team game. We can’t have as many letdowns as we did last game.

On why games against Carolina are always so close:
I don’t know. My first year here, we had a good battle in the playoffs against them. I don’t know if it’s the brothers that are playing against each other, it’s always a heightened challenge. But I think they’re team is built like ours. They have good goaltending. They’ve got some high-powered offense with their forwards, some young guys and a good D corps. I think it’s just a good matchup.

On the importance of getting wins before the All-Star break:
It’s extremely important. You see how tight the race is in our division let alone in the East. We need to finish as high as we can. Philadelphia is on quite a roll, so we need all the points we can to catch them.

Net-front presence: Tony Jovenitti

11:40 AM:
At the end of head coach Dan Bylsma's media conference, Mike Lange asked his thoughts about the Steelers-Jets AFC Championship Game on Sunday.

"The Steelers will win they game if they win on special teams. That's my feeling. I love the defensive matchup for both sides. It will be interesting to see how Polamalu can get involved. Ben vs. Sanchez, I think it is Ben in the end."

As he walked out of the room he jokingly said, "Print that one."

11:00 AM:
Pics that miss the show My So Called Life.

Bylsma instructs Talbot (left); 'Canes GM Rutherford (right)

Staal works on his net-front presence with Fleury

10:56 AM:
Pics that think Jared Leto is dreamy...

Bylsma (left); Engelland (right)

Conner and Fleury (left); Letestu (right)

Johnson and Adams (right)

Magically awkward goalie stretching

Cooke (right)

10:35 AM:
Malkin is not on the ice for the Pens as he continues to recover from a sinus infection and knee injury. Pens used the same lines from the New Jersey game.


10:14 AM:
The Pens host the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at 7 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center. Pittsburgh has defeated Carolina in the previous two meetings this season: 3-0 shutout Oct. 30 in Carolina; 5-4 shootout Nov. 19 in Pittsburgh.

Strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar is currently on the ice with Eric Godard, who will return to full contact practice with a face shield.

Today, in honor of the Hurricanes visit we'll kick off the day with the song "Hurricane" by 30 Seconds to Mars, featuring Kanye West. It's an awesome song in its original version, and it gets only better when you add Kanye to the mix.

I admit that I wasn't a huge fan of the band when they first hit the scene with actor/singer Jared Leto, but they have grown on me. Their latest album, "This is War" is really well put together.

BONUS! We'll keep the acoustic portion of the music going in the blog with 30 Seconds to Mars doing an unplugged version of "The Kill."

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