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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Islanders

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Game day final thoughts:

  • Pens line combos (10:35 AM).
  • Pens PP unit (10:47 AM).
  • Orpik did some light skating (10:52 AM).
  • Staal and Asham skated before practice (9:30 AM).
  • Islanders line combos (12:27 PM).
  • Bylsma discusses Comrie, scratches and the Islanders (11:49 AM).
  • Crosby and Martin share their thoughts (11:56 AM).
  • We chatted with Isles coach Scott Gordon and former Pen Mark Eaton (12:40 PM).
  • Letang and Letestu talk to PensTV (12:44 PM).
  • Pens pics (10:51 AM).
  • Islanders pics (11:52 AM).
  • Shameful plug (4:59 PM).
Tune in at 7 p.m. for Jason Seidling's in-game blog from CONSOL Energy Center on tonight's action. Drop the puck. Let's do this.


4:59 PM:
An interesting blog post from Rob Rossi of the Trib Total Media. Not so much the hockey related material, but the seafood restaurant story. Rossi ran into two women at Mad Mex, one of whom owns and manages Penn Avenue Fish Company. Rossi gave their spot a plug, and in the hopes of scoring a free lunch, I will too (


12:44 PM:
PensTV had scrums with Kris Letang and Mark Letestu:


12:40 PM:
Sounds heard around the Isles locker room...

Scott Gordon

On Mark Eaton:
I’m sure everybody here in Pittsburgh knows what a quality guy he is, and how steady he is back on the blue line. He’s a guy that, when you look at what he brings, is what we didn’t have last year, his size, and on-ice intelligence. Positionally, he’s very solid and the level of consistency just from what we’ve seen throughout training camp and the first three games is something that’s nice to know. When you put him on the ice, you know what you’re going to get every time.

On Eaton’s puck-moving skills:
He’s definitely not a one-dimensional guy. I think he takes pride in the defensive part of it and like all our defenseman, he’s got the opportunity to go up if the opportunity to present itself.

On Nino Niederreiter’s first goal:
I think all first year players, as soon as they can get (their first goal), it takes a big load off their minds. I hear about Taylor Hall, and I know he’s itching to get his first. These guys, who are obviously happy to be playing in the NHL, want to contribute, and I think for Nino to get it the way he did, it was a goal-scorer’s goal. It was a quick release and the goalie never got set.

On Doug Weight:
Looking at Doug and what he brings to the table, obviously he’s a playmaker. With Michael and Nino, they are both guys who you want to be able to get them the puck and give them opportunities to show what they can do offensively, and so far it’s been good.

On Rick DiPietro finally being healthy:
Every day we didn’t know if he was going to practice or play, but now it’s gotten to a point where he has confidence and he’s moving forward and going in the right direction. He’s had two years off from playing games and basically rehabbing. This is the first summer he had the opportunity to actually train like and athlete and not just rehab. So it was great for him to be able to come into training camp on Day 1 and be ready. We’ve monitored how much he practices, because we don’t want to put him in a situation where he had two years of not really playing a whole lot to giving him that excessive amount of work that he doesn’t need to have. So it’s been good. I know he’s been happy with the way his knee has responded.

On if DiPietro will play tonight:

On what the Islanders need to do well to have success against the Penguins:
I think, just like Washington, the more you can make guys like Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin and Semin play in the defensive zone, it’s such a key element to have success against them. If they’re going to play in the offensive zone because of turnovers, like the other night, we turned the puck over in situations where we had time and space, now you’re going to allow them to do what they do best and transition and go on offense. So that’s the biggest thing that we need to be sharp on and we need to make them go 200 feet every time.

Mark Eaton

On CONSOL Energy Center:
I’m sure they are still finding their way around over there. It’s top notch. It had been a long time since I had been on the visitor’s side of the Mellon (Arena), but I’m sure this is far above and beyond what that was. It’s going to be fun to play in here tonight.

On the visitor’s locker room at CONSOL Energy Center being nicer than the Penguins locker room at Mellon Arena:
Yeah, it’s newer. There is a lot about the old place that we liked with the character of the arena. It was a great place to play. This is brand new and has all of the new amenities that anybody could ask for. I haven’t seen their room finished, but speaking for the visitors this is probably as good as it gets.

On visiting CONSOL Energy Center during the spring:
I saw it the end of May before it was finished. You could tell then it was going to be a great arena.

On Rick DiPietro:
He has been great. He has such a great work ethic. I know from my first couple of years in Pittsburgh with the injuries that you are always chomping to get back out there. There is nothing more difficult as an athlete than having to sit back on the sidelines and watch. It definitely stirs up the fire within. You can see that from him right now. He has been great for us.

On DiPietro being one of the best goaltenders in the league:
Yeah, I certainly wouldn’t question that. He is great with the puck, his positioning, his quickness, his intelligence – it’s all there. It’s going to be fun to play in front of him.

On playing against most of the guys he won the 2009 Stanley Cup championship with:
There is always a strangeness about it. I was recently removed from those guys. When you win a Cup with a group of guys, it’s a bond that will last forever. It’s almost like a family-type thing. I remember talking to (Hal Gill) last year and he told me how weird it is come in and play against the guys. I would expect that. But with that being said, it’s business and we are trying to beat them. We have to do what we have to do to win. I’ll talk to them afterwards, but during it’s business as usual.

On knowing all Crosby’s and Malkin’s weaknesses:
Can you tell me? Do those guys have any weaknesses?

On practicing against Crosby and Malkin helping him defend them:
It definitely can’t hurt. I don’t know how it carries over into a game. I can speak from practicing against those guys every day that it makes you a better defenseman. When you face those guys on a daily basis, I don’t want to say that it makes games easier, but there are few guys that can do what they do.

On how this Islanders team compares to the Penguins when he came at ’06-07:
There are a lot of similarities. The young core of guys here is fabulous. The veteran additions have helped. I think most importantly is those young guys being another year older and more mature .There are a lot of similarities from when I first got to Pittsburgh. Hopefully the process goes the same way.

12:27 PM:
The Islanders lines at the morning skate were:



DiPietro in net.

11:56 AM:
Sounds heard around the room...

Sidney Crosby
On the power play:
I think we have done some pretty good things. There has been a few where we didn’t execute quite as well, but I think for the most part we have generated a lot of chances. Obviously you want to score on your power play. Sometimes the timing of the goals is huge too. You have to make sure you don’t lose momentum from (the power play).

On each player’s spot on the reconfigured power-play setup:
I think we are still sorting that out. There are still going to be adjustments. We are going to have to learn from our mistakes. I think for the most part the mindset and the way we have executed has been OK.

On keeping the Penguins eight-game winning streak in Pittsburgh over the Islanders going
It would be nice to get that first one (at CONSOL Energy Center). It doesn’t really matter what has happened in the past. We need to continue it.

On what Rick DiPietro means to the Islanders:
He is a big part of their team. He has missed some time over the past few years. He has always been a difference maker for them. I don’t think our mindset changes. Every team has pretty good goaltenders. There are things you have to do to beat them and that doesn’t change. We have to generate more shots, but that doesn’t change our approach.

Paul Martin
On being able to feel when the pregame skate doesn’t go well
You can tell as a player when the puck is bouncing on you and the team is not crisp at the morning skate. It’s tough when you are trying to get yourself ready to play and you are worried about your own skate. You can tell our good ones from our not so great ones. He was right. We didn’t have the best one before that game. That’s still no excuse to not turn it around before tonight’s game.

On today’s skate:
It went better. I think guys are paying a lot more attention to it obviously. Hopefully it’s not in our heads to where we are thinking about it too much. We have played well at times the first couple of games. We just have to make sure we are more consistent with our effort.

On feeling well going into a game and doing bad versus not feeling well and going great:
Yeah, that happens all the time. That’s one of those things as a team that is easy for the coach to point out if we aren’t having a good skate to give us a reason to do better. The better we do, the less we give everyone else to say about us not doing our jobs. This morning was good. Hopefully tonight is better.

On how the Islanders playing shorthanded affects the way the Penguins approach the game:
For the most we have to what we are doing and make sure we execute our system. We are going to do and play the way we want. Hopefully that falls into place.

Assist: Jason Seidling

11:52 AM:

Former Penguin Mark Eaton led the stretch at the center dot

Islanders head coach Scott Gordon


11:49 AM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On what he needs to see from Mike Comrie in Friday’s game that he didn’t see in New Jersey:

I think Mike has made some plays and added some offense, but we haven’t cashed in on those plays. But he has done that. I think more important are puck battles at both ends of the rink. He’s been good defensively, but the puck battles haven’t been very strong from him. In the offensive zone as well, he has maybe tried some plays quickly versus holding on to the puck and using his linemates. He can be better in those areas. That’s what we’ve talked about and that’s what if he's in there (Friday) we need to see from him.

On what he wants to see from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin:
I think in the first two games we played, we saw some great scoring chances. But attacking, playing that style on the five-on-five and on the power play, we have gotten away from that a little bit in the last two games. I would prefer the first two games, regardless of the results. We were sharp in how we were attacking the net five-on-five and on the power play.

On how he determines who plays in each game:

I don’t have a page in a book that I turn to for this answer, but right now penalty killing is a big factor in who is in the lineup. It’s not the sole reason, but we’re short in that regard. How you’re playing is another big factor, probably more important than line chemistry, which isn’t too high on my list. I change them up too often for that to be the case.

On how the play of the defense affects the goalie:

Depending on the defense – and we’re talking about all five guys – the amount of quality scoring chances and the amount of shots and pucks flying in and around affect what the goaltender sees. But I think for the most part, our defense has done a good job in front of our goaltender this year. Not allowing a second shot and clearing the puck and minimizing the quality scoring chances for our goaltender.

On if a slump in the beginning of the season is magnified more so than one in the middle of the season:
I think that if it feels like it’s different in the beginning of the year because we’re 1-3 outside the room, then it feels different inside the room, too. Before we got the first win in New Jersey, there was probably someone thinking that we might go 0-82 in our room. The thought probably glanced off someone’s head. We know we’re going to win hockey games in here, but we also know we haven’t done the things that we need to do to be a good team. That’s our focus. It’s not being desperate to get the first win or thinking that we’re never going to win, that’s not reality. But we understand that we are 1-3. We’re worried about the details and getting to our game and making sure the team can do what good teams do.

On the Islanders:
I think the Islanders have said for themselves last year and this year that they are going to be a hard-working group that’s going to work and be tenacious. They’re going to come after you and try to force turnovers. Then they’re going to work in the offensive zone and be tenacious on the puck and be tenacious around the net. They’re a young group of players, but some skill is there and they have an identity that they’re going to be a hard working group. We’ve seen that at the beginning of this year and we expect it tonight.

On if a bad morning skate can lead to a bad first period, like Wednesday’s game:
Yes, it wasn’t a good morning skate. Yes, I felt like there was a chance it would carry over into the first period. And yes, it was mentioned by the coach.

On what can be done if he sees a bad morning skate:
Well, I can tell you that what I tried in the last game didn’t work. So I’m going to cross that one off. Every team is different, and I don’t think there’s too much reading into certain circumstances for the team. However, we were not good in the morning skate as you mentioned, and it was noted by myself. It turns out that six hours later we didn’t play a good first period. I don’t know if we can have a direct correlation, we will find out later on with our team about that. There are certain things you can do. You can be upset or you can change the tenor of the meetings before the games. There are lots of things that a coach can try, and I can tell you that I’m 0 for 1.

Assist: Tony Jovenitti

10:52 AM:
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik skated a little (without gear) before the team's morning skate.


10:51 AM:

Evgeni Malkin shooting from one knee


10:47 AM:
The Penguins worked on their power play. They used Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin at the points, Alex Goligoski in the high slot, Sidney Crosby on the halfwall and Chris Kunitz in front of the net.

10:35 AM:
The Penguins switched up thier combinations for the morning skate. Mike Comrie was back centering the second unit with Eric Tangradi and Evgeni Malkin. The rest of the lines unfolded like this:



Brent Johnson in net.

9:30 AM:
Forwards Jordan Staal and Arron Asham continued their recovery workload Friday morning. The two worked with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar on the ice at CONSOL Energy Center before the Penguins morning skate.

Staal and Kadar (left)


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