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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Carolina

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

4:45 PM:
Hey, remember that time to owner came out of retirement and was still the best player in the NHL despite not having played for years? Today is the anniversary of "The Comeback." Click below to refresh your memory.

12:53 PM:
Steve Mears does what he does best, delivers the news. Here is the Verizon Game Day Report.

12:45 PM:
Pens pics...

Staal turns 400 tonight - that's games played (left); Team meeting (right)

Neal: "What do you call a guy with a rubber toe? Roberto. Get it?" (left); Dupuis: "It's simple. C + I + G = Y" (right)

Fleury blends in with his background. Like the Predator (left); Sullivan and Cooke play catch (right)

12:35 PM:
Canes head coach Kirk Muller...

On who will be in goal tonight:
I don’t know yet. One of the two.

On how he sold his aggressive style of play when he came in:
It was probably a little easier in one way. I think it was easier for the forwards because it took away them thinking and just “Let’s go.” Get skating, get up ice. I think it was just a matter of retraining them to get their feet moving sometimes. I think it was a little tougher on defense because you got to get the trust factor between the forwards and the D and you got forwards pressing hard and the D is trying to stand up wondering whose got the third guy so I think it costs us a few points the first few games. We’d sit back and a missed play by a guy, but I can live with that if we learn from it. I think now we’re in sync. It was more of a trust factor that was the key.

On facing the Penguins:
They’re a good hockey club. They play hard every night. Obviously the skill level, Crosby, Malkin, Letang. They’re a hardworking team. Strong on the puck. They take your time and space away. They go after you. Great goaltending. Good special teams. At the end of the day, if you don’t come ready to bring you’re A game they’re going to make you pay for it. We’ve got to be focused to really battle tonight and not give them any second and third chances.

We got: Justin Criado

12:29 PM:
Canes morning skate pics...

12:27 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On Carolina:
The Carolina Hurricanes are 3-1-1 in their last 5 games. We’re expecting a team that’s working extremely, hard. They’re really aggressive on their forecheck, very aggressive in the neutral zone. We’re expecting a fast, hard-working game from their team tonight. Since we played them last they’ve added (Jarslav) Spacek back on D. We’ll see Staal-on-Staal for that matchup, which is always interesting. (Tuomo) Ruutu has his 13th goal of the season, leads their team, and Jussi Jokinen has 17 assists to lead the team. I think that line of Jokinen-Ponikarovsky-Ruutu have been playing really well and hard to handle in the offensive zone. We’re expecting that tonight. If we do see Cam Ward we’ll put someone on him. We don’t want him scoring 2 games in a row. They won last night with another shorthanded marker to help the team. (Brandon) Sutter leads the way in that regard. We have to be aware of their 7 shorthanded goals to lead the league. It helped them get a 4-2 win last night.

On Staal being the 7th-youngest player to reach 400 games:
You forget how young he is. It’s the first time it’s been done since before 1970. It’s a pretty rare feat. And how many playoff games he’s played in addition to that is pretty amazing for a young player. It wasn’t that long ago we saw him turn 21. He’s still a very young man, but also found a different level in how he plays the game physically and what he does on the ice at both ends of the rink, defensively and offensively. Faceoffs have gone to a different level. He’s a guy we use to go out and win faceoffs and he’s counted on for that. Those penalty kills have always been exceptional. If you’re looking for a guy to vault into the top 10 in scoring in the league, I’m not sure that’s what his upside is. But this year the way he can dominate a game on both sides of the puck is where is game can go. I hate even talking about him close to a third-line center because what he does on the ice is so much more like a top guy on your team. Sometimes on this team he’s considered a third centerman. I think he’s been really dominant this year. After his 400th game tonight, that’s what he can continue to be.

On Sullivan:
He has played on every line. Recently playing with Joe Vitale, Pascal Dupuis and sometimes Matt Cooke has been some of his best 5-on-5 games. Power play wise it adds a different dimension for our team, bringing the puck up the ice and on the point, settling things down, distributing the puck and has a keen understanding of breaking down teams, moving his feet, moving the puck and helping that breakdown of the penalty kill. That’s been a real big asset for our team. His 12 assists and 17 points are a real asset for us on the power play. It was a factor for us last game. You see that to be the case. He drew a couple penalties last game with his 5-on-5 play, going to the net. We cash in with a big goal for Jordan. That’s been the picture for Steve Sullivan on our team. He’s doing it all. He’s had some serious injuries in his career. He’s doing it all for us and relatively healthy.

On practicing Monday:
Typically the 26th is not one coaches on either side of the equation feel good about the team’s execution. There is rust. It’s not typically a great game. Carolina had an advantage to get that game out of the way coming into this game. I would usually say playing back-to-back and traveling is not an advantage. I do think them playing in that game gets the rust off. I think they’ll feel pretty good tonight. We had practice yesterday. We went fairly hard for 25 minutes yesterday in hopes to get some of the food and turkey out. We’re anticipating that practice will help us feel good today going into this game. We’re still going into this game as a coaching staff understanding that we need to have our execution level behind their D and not in front. We don’t need to look for anything cute or fancy. Our execution and puck management has to be behind their team. We can’t anticipate going tic-tac-toe and being too cute early on. Get that Christmas behind us.

11:57 AM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Jordan Staal

On playing in his 400th career game tonight:
I heard that this morning. I didn’t really know how it was coming. I feel old.

On being the seventh youngest player to reach 400 career games:
It’s nice obviously. It’s a lot of games and any player that plays that many, it’s a great accomplishment. Hopefully I can play many more.

On what areas he can improve on:
There’s always room for improvement. As a player I always want to get better. Offensively. Defensively. Everything. The more Cups the better.

On what’s different in his game now as to when he started:
I’m not sure. It’s tough to say. Definitely a lot more responsibility on and off the ice. There’s different things I got to take care of then when I was a rookie. Very similar player I think.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On if he’s jealous that Carolina goalie Cam Ward registered a goal last night against New Jersey:
I’m just happy for him. It’s a little stressful going back there and trying to score. It just makes it simpler when their own team puts it in.

On when he gets a goal if it will feel better if he shoots it in himself:
I don’t know. Just to get one would be pretty fun. It would still be better to put it in myself so you can celebrate a little more.

On if he has a celebration ready for his first career goal:
No, not really. I was thinking about diving on the logo. Was that (Darius) Kasparaitis that did that? A couple options there, I got to get one first though.

On the team’s mindset with the standings being so tight:
Some days we’re first. Some days we’re fifth. We just need to keep focusing on our game and go one game at a time, trying to get two points. Keep fighting for that first place.

Assist: Justin Criado

11:55 AM:
Pens coach Bylsma said that Fleury will be in net and that the rest of the lineup will be game-time decisions. He added about some of the injury players...

"There are no updates past what we gave yesterday (on injured players). Some skated this morning. Hopefully, we'll see some on the ice with us tomorrow."

10:36 AM:
Pens lines from the morning skate...


The seven defensemen rotated (Engelland, Niskanen, Despres, Picard, Michalek, Lovejoy, Orpik)

10:28 AM:
Team USA defeated Denmark, 11-3, in the World Junior Championships last night. Several Pittsburgh-area prospects and Pens prospects got on the scoresheet. Pittsburgh-area players JT Miller (goal and an assist), Stephen Johns (goal) and Brandon Saad (assist) posted points. As did Pens 2011 seventh-round draft pick Josh Archibald (assist).

More details here.

10:14 PM:
FYI - to fans attending tonight's game, police officers from various municipalities will be collecting donations for the family of fallen officer John David Dryer. Officers will be taking donations at all three gates starting at 6 p.m.

Officer Dryer, who served with the East Washington Police Department, was killed in the line of duty on Sunday, Dec. 18.

More details here.

10:10 AM:
The 'Canes defeated New Jersey, 4-2, last night in Raleigh. So the Pens will be the backend of back-to-back games for Carolina. Michelle has the details on what to look for in tonight's matchup.

10:00 AM:
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center! Tonight we'll have some Staal-on-Staal crime as the Pens host the Carolina Hurricanes.


Since the Pens are playing the Hurricanes, we'll open the day with a little tune by 30 Seconds to Mars called "Hurricane." Since I've played the normal version on the blog previously, here is a live, stripped down version the band performed in Germany.

BONUS! Here's an acoustic version of the song. Really awesome stuff with string instruments adding a beautiful ambiance to the guitar. Enjoy.

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