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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Florida (Home Opener Edition)

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Malkin out & Orpik will not skate for few days (12:17 PM).
  • Pens lines/pairs (10:38 AM).
  • Steve Mears gets you the details on tonight’s home opener (3:15 PM).
  • Scouting the Panthers (10:20 AM).
  • Cardboard Orpik protects this house (1:11 PM).
  • Crosby, Fleury & Neal spit knowledge (12:34 PM).
  • Twitter signs 3 free agents (1:27 PM).
  • JovoCop: “Come quietly or there will be….trouble.” (1:42 PM).
  • Letang does a lap (1:04 PM).
  • Dan Bylsma talks Jeffrey, Letestu & Panthers (12:30 PM).
  • Cooke and Dupuis speak English (1:36 PM).
  • Pens pics (12:08 PM).
  • Panthers pics (12:58 PM).
  • “It is now my duty to completely drain you…” (10:00 AM).

3:15 PM:
PensTV's Steve Mears, in his usual pageantry, gives you all the deets (translation: details) on the Pens vs. Panthers.

1:42 PM:
Speaking of JovoCop/RoboCop, when Ed Jovanovski (aka JovoCop) is on the ice, do you think he tells the opposing team: "Come quietly or there will be...trouble." Hopefully, he's a little more threatening than his robotic counterpart below.

1:36 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Matt Cooke

On returning home after a successful Western Canada trip:
It’s always good to go out there and have success. You’ve got teams that are sitting out there feasting on teams, especially having to play three games in four nights. We got through it, we’re back now and I’m sure later on this season we’ll look back and be happy we don’t have to go out there in March.

On the grind of traveling out West:
It’s just as hard or maybe harder to come East then to go out West because you gain the hours heading there. A lot of times you’ll catch a team that played on a back-to-back because they’re playing one of the other two teams out there. It’s something you want to take advantage of, that’s for sure.

Pascal Dupuis

On the home opener tonight against Florida:
We’re excited to see the home opener. Everybody’s excited for hockey in town after a three-game Western trip that we had success in. I think everybody is excited for the home opener in Pittsburgh.

On feeling rested after the trip:
Well rested and feeling great. Good to be home, see the wife and kids and ready to roll here.

Assist: J-Crew (Justin Criado)

1:27 PM:
Just want to remind everyone who (or whom?) follows the Pens Report that Michelle Crechiolo and myself (Sam Kasan for those of you who can't read) can be found on Twitter. Our handle is @PensInsideScoop. Follow us for the latest info on lineups, injuries, line combos and fashion tips. The Pens director of communications and the pride of New Castle, Jen Bullano, is also on Twitter @PensPRLady. She'll give you a behind the scenes look at the day-to-day goings on. Follow us and your lives will improve immediately.

Although, I still think the internet is a fad #bringbackOregonTrail -SK

1:11 PM:
Back by popular demand: Cardboard Orpik!! He stands guard of the Pens locker room. I tried asking him if he was excited for the home opener, but he apparently wasn't in a talkative mood (or a blinking mood...that guy is focused).

No one is going to break into the Pens locker room with Cardboard Orpik at the helm. No one shall pass.

1:04 PM:
When the Pens huddle for their drill instructions they have a little ritual. HC Bylsma will blow the whistle and the players converge to where he is stationed. The last player to arrive has to skate a lap around the ice (goalies are excluded). Today's victim was Kris Letang.

Letang skates so fast that he turns into a blur like the Flash (left); Letang returns and gives his team a spray tan (right)

12:58 PM:
A C of Red invades CONSOL Energy Center (or is that Calgary?). Actually Florida's slogan for the season is "We See Red." Apparently a lot of teams are inspi(red) by this color. 

David Booth - Michelle Crechiolo would like me to point at that he is a fellow Spartan alum and had "a storied four-year career at Michigan State University" (left); Shawn Matthias wears red to stand out (right)

That Panther on the left is amazed by the blank jumbotron (left); Goalie Markstrom stands tall and firm while a puck slithers over the goal line (right)

Fleischmann, who may have the longest name in the NHL, chats with JovoCop, who was nicknamed after the legendary 90s movie RoboCop. Get it? (left); Check out the guy in the upper right that's putting his hands up in the air. I think he is listening to too much dance music (right)

12:34 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Sidney Crosby

On what he is expecting from the doctors:
I didn’t see a doctor. I don’t know who said I had an appointment today, but I don’t. Same as usual. I feel good. It went good today and I’m excited to be home.

On if he expects to see a doctor soon:
Yeah, this week. Not because of anything out f the ordinary. I’ve pretty much been seeing a doctor weekly anyway. It’s not for any reason other than we were on the road for five days and usually he likes to check in every week or so. So yeah, sometime this week.

On if he’s closer than ever to being cleared:
I mean, closer than I was yesterday. But I can’t give you a date. I’d love to, trust me. I’d love for them to tell me a day that I can come back and play. But right now, it’s the same.

On if anything particularly impressed him on the way his team played out West:
I think we looked pretty sharp in the way we played. That’s always something that usually takes a little time, but I thought for the most part we were in sync. There’s always things at the start of the year that you’ve got to improve on. You’re going to be rusty in some areas. But I think as a group, we were really sharp.

On missing the home opener and if it gets easier to miss games like this:
No, not really. It’s never fun watching. But like I said before, it’s nice to be getting closer and nice to be getting out there and going hard. I haven’t had anything that’s really worried me, so it’s been nice to kind of have that the last couple weeks there.

On assistant coach Tony Granato knocking him down in a morning skate:
That’s a minimal (hit) compared to what I’m going to have to deal with once I get back. But yeah, that stuff – just competing and doing what I guess you could call regular stuff for most guys – is great. I enjoy that. I enjoy competing out there. The more you go through it and the better you come out of it, I think it’s always a good sign.

On if there will be nerves when he gets cleared for contact:
You know what, I think when I come back I’ve got to make sure I’m confident. If I’m thinking about that, the chances of me getting hit are probably better. The more you hesitate, the more chances it happens. So I think I’ll do everything I can to make sure I’m ready and at the same time, you can’t simulate a guy crushing you in the open ice. So we’ll have to see when I get to that point. Hopefully I don’t have to experience it.

On his next doctor visit:
They’ll ask questions like any other doctor would. Most times they ask questions. There’s little tests. I think there’s always kind of different things. They want to make sure we’re good in their mind and in mine as well. It’s just constant communication. We talk every few days anyway, but when I see them, usually there’s a little bit more testing and stuff like that that comes with it.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On preparing for a Panthers team with a completely different look:
They’re definitely a new team, a lot of changes on their side. But I think a lot of the guys we’ve seen on other teams, so it’s not like we don’t know any guys. We’ve got to watch some tapes, see their tendencies from preseason and the start of the season and make sure we’re ready for tonight.

On if he expects a lot of emotion tonight with it being the home opener:
Yeah, every time we play here, especially the home opener, it’s always pretty loud and fun to play in. seems like we’ve been away for a while now, so it’s going to be nice to be back here and have our fans on our side.

On having to witness three-straight home openers before tonight:
It’s just a little longer to wait, so you just kind of stand there. It’s a little longer, but it’s not such a big deal. You try to move around in the room and stay loose.

James Neal

On being excited about their home opener:
It’s exciting. It’s going to be great to come out in front of a packed house and play. We got a chance to be the away team in some openers to start the season off, so it’ll be nice to be in our home building in front of our home fans.

On this being his first home opener as a Penguin:
It’s a little different, but it’s still exciting. Everything’s gone good so far. We’ve got to keep moving forward and keep playing the way we know how to, and hopefully get a big win tonight.

Power-play goal: Michelle Crechiolo

12:30 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On Dustin Jeffrey:
Dustin Jeffrey is doing quite well. Just in terms of the strength of where he’s at, his ability to play is where he needs to keep improving. While he’s skating and absorbing contact and being in those situations, he needs to continue to get stronger for his and for his leg strength. He’s working towards that.

On the significance of the home opener:
I would of said that last year (it was significant). I feel like we’re three games into it, we’re coming off the road and starting a home stand for three. From that standpoint, you certainly want to take advantage of being home in front of our home fans. Starting a season here, home opener, there’s a little bit of a buzz for the start of the season. Our guys I know have been on a long road trip and these fans here it’s like the opener so there’ll be a buzz in the building. We’ll hope to feed off that and use that for tonight’s match.

On his use of Mark Letestu thus far:
Mark is a skilled player. Adds skill in the middle position, face-off, power play guy, that’s where we’re going to use him. When it comes to your fourth line you have to have a certain specialty to bring to the team. That could be penalty kill specialty like it is in Craig Adams. For Mark Letestu, if your’re going to be a skill guy on the fourth line then you have to add the face-off circle or the power play which Mark does. In the past, Mark has been used on our third line, our second line and last year was a top two center with Jordan Staal, and he played in that position as a skill guy. That’s where he was moved up to in the absence of Evgeni. He’s moved with Sullivan and Neal to add a skill guy in the middle in a top two line situation which we seen him do in the past for us.

On Niskanen’s play this season:
Matt Niskanen has performed very well. He came in confident, strong and ready to go at training camp. He showed that right off the hop. He’s carried that into the beginning of the season. He’s been good defensively. He’s good at jumping into the play, his execution with the puck, he’s added to the power play. We saw that in Calgary. We’ve also seen him joining the play and adding 5-on-5 as well. He’s been very strong. I really like his start. It’s a real opportunity for him right now with Brooks Orpik not in the lineup. So he’s had a bigger, expanded role in that absence, and has really taken advantage of it.

On the Cooke-Vitale-Dupuis line:
I think that’s a good skating line. It can put a lot of pressure on teams. It can be a responsible checking line against another team’s top line. We played an Edmonton team last game with a lot of speed throughout their lineup, and we counted on them to be good defensively against them. Joe’s been good in the faceoff circle and responsible. As a third line, checking, energy line, they’ve been able to provide it physically, speed-wise and responsibility to play the right way. It’s been good for us the last couple game.

On preparing for the Panthers’ new lineup:
It’s a lot of new players, new coach, new goalie, a lot of different things. The things we know about them are from people with other teams. I coached against their coach in the minor league. Their goalie we’ve seen at different spots. There is familiarity with some of the players and parts, but not the team. I’m not sure we have a great feel for their team after one game. Their goalie played really well. they’re excited about some of the new guys and the energy of the team. The talk of the team is a new life for some old players and their team as well, Weiss and Booth. Those are good players to have. This will be an interesting game because we don’t know exactly what to expect entirely from the team. We’re going to have to make sure we use the home-ice, the first game here in the building and take away from some of the excitement and energy they have.

Secondary assist: Justin Criado

12:17 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed that Evgeni Malkin will not play tonight vs. Florida. He added that Brooks Orpik will not be on the ice with his teammates for a few days.

"Brooks Orpik, while he is improving, thinks it's better to be off the ice for a few days before he gets back on the ice and skates with the players. That's why he was not out there.

"Evgeni Malkin has soreness and will not be available for tonight's game. We do not think it's long-term or anything other than just being sore at this point and time."

12:08 PM:
Pictures of the flightless birds...

Malkin will not play tonight (left) 50 vs. goalie - guess who wins (right)

Cooke trying out for goaltender (left); Letang and asst coach Reirden discuss Keynesian economics (right)

Crosby listens while HC Bylsma gives himself a palm reading (left); Nealer the Dealer (Uno cards dealer to be specific)

Staal works on his matrix avoidance of pucks (left); Stretch it out (right)

10:38 AM:
Malkin is not skating with a line combo at the morning skate. Here's how the groups looked:



10:32 AM:
The Pens are on the ice for the morning skate. Centers Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Dustin Jeffrey are all on the ice. Only defenseman Brooks Orpik is not accounted for.

10:20 AM:
Michelle Crechiolo gives you the breakdown on the Florida Panthers...

10:00 AM:
The NHL season is back in the city of Pittsburgh. I know the Pens played a few preseason games at CONSOL Energy Center a few weeks ago, but as Michelle Crechiolo said yesterday, “Now the games are for reals.”

The Pens will hold their regular-season home opener tonight against the Florida Panthers at 7:30 pm.

Pittsburgh is coming off a very successful three-game Western Canadian road trip where the club went 2-0-1 to net 5 of a possible 6 points. The Penguins will now play three straight home games: tonight vs. Florida, Thursday vs. Washington and Saturday vs. Buffalo.


Well, I think it’s long overdue that we had a little Nirvana in the blog. Avid readers of the Pens Report know that Nirvana is my favorite band of all-time. I’ve gone to many lengths to explain my appreciation of the group, but I’ll spare you all that for the day.

Instead I’ll simply note that I stumbled upon this video during the summer (my buddy Jimmy B e-mailed it to me), and it may be the greatest Nirvana vid I’ve ever seen. First, it’s my favorite song by the band: “Drain You.” Second, it’s a brilliant live performance. Third, it’s in HD and the best quality footage I’ve seen of the tribe. It looks like it was shot in 2004. Fourth, love the suits. Fifth, best part is that Kurt Cobain’s guitar breaks during the breakdown and he chucks it and sings the rest of the song without it. It’s a rare moment to see Cobain exposed without a guitar in front of him. Sixth, Cobain’s scream in the breakdown is equal parts anger, pain and catharsis.

Anyways, enjoy.

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