Head coach Dan Bylsma said his lineup tonight is a game-time decision. But if he decides to go with the same combinations he used in yesterday's practice and today's morning skate, that means Beau Bennett will start the game on right wing of the first line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, while Brian Gibbons will slot in at left wing of the fourth line with Joe Vitale and Craig Adams.
Gibby has truly become quite the story. After signing with the Penguins organization as an undrafted free agent in 2011, he spent two-plus seasons in WBS before finally getting his first NHL call-up in November. The 26-year-old Massachusetts native been making the most of his opportunity ever since. We wrote a story about the small but speedy forward here
For Bennett, he's appearing in just his second postseason after playing just six games during Pittsburgh's run to the Eastern Conference Final last year. He was slotted in primarily on the third line, so skating alongside Sid and Kuni on the first line would be a huge difference. But Beau said it doesn't matter how big or small his role is; he just wants to be in the lineup.
"Honestly, I just want to play," he said. "Wherever they put me, I’ve got to play that role, play it to a T. when it comes to playoffs, everyone’s important, first through fourth lines. So wherever they put me, I’m going to try and do it to the best of my ability."
Bennett finished with one goal in those playoffs, scored on his first shot in Game 1 of the Penguins' opening-round series against the Islanders. He's hoping to top that performance tonight.
"Hopefully I can maybe start with two goals this year," he laughed. "But we’ll see. I would love to play every game and help out as much as I can and try to make an impact."
We're hoping we see more of this, too... --Michelle Crechiolo
GAME DAY REPORT --Sam Kasan
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
Sergie Bob-rovsky--Sam Kasan & Addison Smith
PENSTV SOUNDSidney Crosby James Neal --Sam Kasan
QUOTE 'EM! (PLAYOFF GAME 1 EDITION)
--Sam Kasan, Michelle Crechiolo and Addison Smith
As expected with it being playoff time, head coach Dan Bylsma did not tip his hand on the lineup - other than to say it would be game-time and that Marc-Andre Fleury will be starting in goal.
Bylsma did provide an injury update, saying that center Marcel Goc – who missed the last 12 games of the regular season with a foot injury suffered March 22 vs. Tampa – "had his skates on yesterday, tried it out. Skated a little bit today on the ice."--Sam Kasan
Gibbons > Bonobos
Jussi J and the 36 Mafia
Crosby: "So wait, the mother was dead the whole time?"
Martin looking smugly at his weary feet
Skating on, skating on broken Glass
Orpik cheating with a full beard before the playoffs even begin!
Taylor "Aaron Samuels" Pyatt tries to hide suspiciously behind Evgeni Malkin
Olli Maatta has been designated "Water Boy"
Matt Niskanen in deep contemplation of ontological empiricism
Then this pure awesomeness happened later on in practice...
Right after the team huddle, Glass and Vitale started pushing/semi-attacking Zatkoff in a heinous case of goaltender interference. They knocked Zatkoff over (out of love, of course) and it seemed like they had him down and out, but not so fast as Fleury skates over from the other side of the ice to defend his goalie BFF's honor. #GoaliesStickTogether --Sam Kasan & Addison Smith
MORNING SKATE INFO
All the Pens' healthy players were on the ice for the team's morning skate, as well as injured centers Evgeni Malkin (foot) and Joe Vitale (mid-body). Both participated in line rushes.
The Pens used the following workflow...
The Pens utilized the same power-play units they did at yesterday's practice...
1st: Letang and Malkin at the points; Crosby, Neal and Kunitz up top.
2nd: Martin and Niskanen on the points; Bennett, Sutter and Jokinen up top.--Sam Kasan
FLEURY READY TO ANSWER CRITICS
All eyes in the postseason will be on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. And he knows it.
The biggest question the fans and media have going into the postseason is how Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will perform. But he was ready with an answer for his doubters on Tuesday, on the eve of Game 1 against Pittsburgh’s first-round opponent Columbus on Wednesday.
“(I) remind myself I have one more Stanley Cup than a lot of people, so I know I can do it,” Fleury said. “I think we have a solid team and I’ll try my best to get to it again.” Full story here. --Sam Kasan
The Penguins are calling for a “Gold-Out,” for Game One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at CONSOL Energy Center.
All fans attending Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. playoff opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets will receive gold t-shirts and gold towels as they enter the arena. The Penguins have done playoff whiteouts in the past.
The team also announced the return of a popular Pittsburgh playoff tradition: The Big Screen. Fans will again be able to watch all Pens playoff games outdoors on a 16’ x 9’ LED Screen, set up in the arena parking lot at the corner of Centre Avenue and Mario Lemieux Place.Full details here.
Meanwhile, CONSOL Energy Center is getting dressed up in its playoff gear...--Sam Kasan
GAME 1 INFOGRAPHIC--Sam Kasan
CROSBY VS. JOHNSON
Before they face off on the ice, these two former Shattuck St. Mary's teammates displayed their interview skills before the 2005 NHL Draft.
Note: while this is good, it isn't the best video of Crosby and Johnson from their draft year. We'll have that later on...--Sam Kasan
BLUE JACKETS SCOUTING REPORT
Want the dirt on the Jackets from this past season and what to watch for entering this series? Michelle Crechiolo has got you covered. --Sam Kasan
START THE DAY
Thirty teams, 690 players and millions of fans enter every season with one aspiration: winning the Stanley Cup.
The race for the holy grail begins tonight. Everything that the Pens have worked for over the last eight months helped lay the foundation for the upcoming run.
The effort and energy, the sweat and exhaustion, the emotional highs and lows, the time and commitment that the players and coaches have put into countless meetings, scoutings, workouts, training, practices and games have led to this moment.
In a few short hours the puck will drop between the Pens and Columbus Blue Jackets, officially kicking off the greatest time of the year – the Stanley Cup playoffs. Pittsburgh sets out to reach the mountaintop again.
One goal, 16 steps to get there.
First up are the Jackets. Game on.
--- --Sam Kasan