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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Florida

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

1:13 PM:

With a game against a struggling Florida team Friday night and division rival New Jersey coming to Mellon Arena on Saturday, there were questions about the Panthers' contest being a "trap" game. However, the Penguins were having none of that discussion as they focus all their attention on Florida.

Read more here.

12:42 PM:
Martin Skoula is ready to get back on the ice and see some game action:

On sitting out at the beginning of the season:
I think it was actually a pretty good experience. I knew you weren’t going to have 23 players play 82 games so I knew it was going to come sooner or later.
On difference between Pittsburgh’s system and Minnesota’s:
I think when you compare it, the Penguins are more of a rush team. Either delay and get pucks through to the net or have three or four guys in the rush instead of Minnesota where it was a different game. It was more of a waiting game where you feed off of the other teams’ mistakes. I think I like the Penguins’ style better.
On the challenge of playing back-to-back:
From my perspective, I think it is even better because you don’t have to wait a couple days for the next game, you can just get right into it.

Assist Jason Seidling

12:36 PM:
Forward Bill Guerin made his Penguins' debut March 5 of last season in Florida against the Panthers. Pittsburgh pulled out a 4-1 victory with Guerin netting an assist on a sweet Sidney Crosby goal.

Check out the highlights from the game here.

12:28 PM:
Gonchar's absence on the Penguins' power play has caused a ripple effect for the team's two units. With Kris Letang elevated to the top power-play unit, taking his spot on the point for the second power play is.....Ruslan Fedotenko.

"I think (Fedotenko) has a certain amount of skill and reading of the play," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "He has shooting ability, definitely. I think on a lot of the teams that I have coached, both as an assistant coach and a head coach, we have looked to put a forward back there and offer a bit more skill than just working your way down the defensive core to put a guy back there. He played a little bit in the preseason in anticipation that he would probably get some time back there during the year. He shot the puck six times in the game he got back there and handled the puck well and handled the pressure. That is great to see."

Bylsma even hinted at the chance that Fedotenko will see action on the top power-play unit, rotating with Letang and Alex Goligoski.

"That is why we put him back there in the preseason because we anticipated (injuries) would come at some point during the year," Bylsma said. "It adds a little more skill and puck-moving play back there on the blue line. I anticipate him seeing time with the first group of guys. We kind of had a three-man rotation there with (Sergei) Gonchar there and now with Fedotenko, I would still anticipate him being not the fourth guy we use but a part of the three-man rotation."

And the rotation will be dictated upon how the opposing team executes its penalty killing scheme.

"Penalty kills would dictate that a lot," Byslma said. "When we face pressure units we may keep guys on their strong sides. If there is a more passive penalty-kill unit we would use them on their off-side. It’s easier to break pressure when you are on your strong side so that would be dictated by the penalty kill we would see. I expect to move them around a little bit, more than when Gonchar was there."

12:18 PM:
Here are some topics Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma discussed at his post-morning skate press conference.

On the best forward he has seen at the point:
In the minors, the first name that pops into mind is Chris Bourque. He was awfully good at it, taking the puck up ice with speed. Paul Kariya played a little back there on the point in my time in Anaheim. He did it with St. Louis (the other night) where he was almost playing a rover position like (Scott) Niedermayer where he is darting in and out, offering a lot of different looks for a power play. It is a unique position because you have to have the confidence with the puck with pressure at the blue line. Some forwards are not comfortable with that. I think Paul Kariya has that calmness and skill with the puck and was real good at it in Anaheim, and you see him doing it in St. Louis.
On using a forward more at the college level:
You do it a lot more in college, yes.
On using Malkin at the point:
Geno played there previously and we experimented with Geno there when I became the coach last year. Geno tends to gravitate back towards the half wall. I think he feels more comfortable there. His skill set and his shot definitely would be a player you would consider to be there, but I think his strength lies on the half wall. You would be taking away the strength of a player to put him somewhere where he is not comfortable. I think as a coach his strength is on the half wall and that is something we’d like to stick with.
On grabbing early season points when you should:
I haven’t tried to make a correlation about that quite yet in terms of how we started. The one thing I have seen in our team that from a coaching standpoint you like to see, there hasn’t been that satisfaction when you look at our record or how many points we have or where we are at. We are still a group of guys looking to make the power play a little bit better, out lines need to play a little bit better in certain circumstances and there are guys who want to play better. We had the Jordan Staal line in before last game looking at their shifts and they still think they can improve on their offensive-zone time.

Assist Jason Seidling. Secondary assist Tom Mast.

12:14 PM:
Dropping in on Sidney Crosby's morning skate media scrum:

Sidney Crosby
On being better prepared to replace Gonchar this time:
I think we should be. There’s no reason why, the guys that are filling in have played that position for a while and have played in pressure situations. This should be something they’re a bit more comfortable with. There’s always going to be an adjustment period, but I think that the comfort level is there with those guys. I think that’s the most important thing.
On playing 300th game:
It’s nice. It has gone by really fast. It seems like yesterday I was coming here for the first time. It’s really kind of gone by quickly, but 300 is a good number and I hope for a lot more. It’s gone by really quick. Hopefully the next 300 are good.
On challenges of next 300 games:
It’s a lot of hard work. It’s not easy. We’ve been to the finals a couple years in a row. By no means do you take that for granted. It’s something that you need to work towards. And you need a lot of luck to go with it. I think, as a player and personally, I do everything I can to be at my best, no matter what the situation, or what happened the year before. I Think I’ve always tried to get better. I don’t think that’s something that’s really ever going to change. You look to win more. Just because you win one doesn’t mean you stop there, or you stop improving. That’s not the case at all. I’ll just try to look to get better like I’ve tried to look to try to get better the years before.
On Martin Skoula:
I think he’s going to be comfortable. He’s played a lot of games and he’s played a lot of big games. He’s won a Stanley Cup. This is something that shouldn’t be too big of a deal. He might have to adjust a little bit to the way we play and things like that, but, for the most part, I think he should fit in well.

Assist Tom Mast

12:06 PM:
Florida is finishing up its Friday morning skate at Mellon Arena.


11:06 AM:
For the lowdown on the Panthers check out Jason Seidling's scouting report.

11:00 AM:

Goaltender Brent Johnson will make his second start in a Penguins' uniform

Defenseman Martin Skoula makes his Penguins' debut against the Panthers Friday night.

More shots from Friday's morning skate.

Assist Tom Mast

10:50 AM:
The Penguins have a few lineup changes for Friday night's game against the Florida Panthers. Defenseman Martin Skoula will make his Penguins' debut while goaltender Brent Johnson will make his second start with the club.

The Penguins rotated their blueliners regularly during their Friday morning skate. However, Bylsma did reveal his pairings after Thursday's practice (see below). The forward combinations did not change during the skate.



Brent Johnson in goal.

10:18 AM:

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