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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Minnesota

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Crosby’s full transcript on his mild concussion (12:14 PM).
  • Bylsma’s full transcript on Crosby’s mild concussion (11:33 AM).
  • Cooke returns to the lineup tonight (11:23 AM) and talked about the family illness that made him miss Thursday’s game in Montreal (2:04 PM).
  • Pens’ lines (10:34 AM).
  • Fleury and Staal comment (12:46 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Cooke, Staal and the Wild (12:48 PM).
  • Minnesota Gone Wild (12:56 PM).
  • Pens pics (10:46 AM).
  • Let it snow, let it snow (12:38 PM).
  • “I’m waiting by the phone, waiting for you to call me up and tell me I’m not alone…”

2:04 PM:
Matt Cooke had a family illness to handle Thursday, so he was absent from the Pens' game in Montreal. But he will be back in the lineup tonight against the Wild. Here is what he had to say after the morning skate.

On why he was out of the lineup Thursday:
Family illness. Sometimes, it’s more important than playing a hockey game. I had to come home, but I’ll be in tonight.

On not thinking twice about heading back to Pittsburgh:
No, anytime there’s an issue – when it gets to a (certain) point, there’s no picking or choosing. Family first, and the team was very adamant about that. It made my decision easier.

On if he chartered a plane or went commercial
We just got the fastest plane we could out of Montreal.

On making it in time to be with his family:
The team was great and allowed me to come. Their opinion is family first, so I’m fortunate for that and my family appreciates it.

On the Penguins being supportive of their players:
Absolutely. All I can say is they were great.


Secondary assist: Michelle Crechiolo

12:56 PM:
Wild emulsions

12:48 PM:
Dan Bylsma on non-Crosby related stuff:

On the status of Matt Cooke:
Matt Cooke was out there for the morning skate, and he will join us tonight.

On the Penguins’ philosophy of family first:
We don’t have a written policy, but we have a policy where in every situation, consideration is given to family and the wives. Sometimes it’s been births and then (other times it’s been) parents as well in different times. We have a policy and we are going to do everything we can to make sure (the players) have the opportunity to be with their family and get the necessary support from our team. It stems from Ray Shero and
down through the coaching staff and the players, and I feel pretty confident that were going to do everything we can to help those situations.

On Jordan Staal:
I’m very pleased with the intelligence levels at which he has played. He has missed a lot of games and hasn’t played in games, but I think he did a good job of being sharp in terms of what we need to do on the ice and where we need to go and how he needs to support his teammates on the ice. Right from the first shift he had on the ice at the Winter Classic and penalty kill-wise, there wasn’t rust in the mental part of his game and that’s been really good. I thought his best period was the first period of the Winter Classic. You could see in Montreal in a back-to-back situation that he didn’t have as much jump as you would expect. But we will see that later on. He was very good, smarts-wise and penalty kill-wise. In Montreal, he was extremely smart and he did a good job for us there. His conditioning in those battle situations where he gets taxed will only get better and better as he goes on.

On what he thinks is the biggest concern entering tonight’s game:
Well, just talking with a couple guys and Sidney in the dressing room, I feel like we’re going to be playing a mirror image of our own team in terms of the way they want to play. So it’ll look a lot like a scrimmage in practice. They have been giving teams a hard time on their forecheck and the way they forecheck, and that’s something that we’re going to have to deal with tonight. It really sets up their game. When they get to that, it helps them be a formidable team in the offensive zone. So puck retrievals tonight against a team that’s coming very aggressive is going to be key. For us, you saw last game – we played a pretty good game in Montreal, but puck management allowed Montreal to get back in the game in the second period. They got about 15 shots in the second. We have to continue to make sure the way we manage the puck and execute with it allows us to play the kind of game we need to against this opponent tonight.

Assist: Joe Prince-Wright

12:46 PM:

Sounds heard around the locker room...

Marc-Andre Fleury

On shootouts:
I think in the game, I don’t have as much time to think. It’s usually a quick play, so I just have to come out and challenge and then get back in the net. In the shootout, you have more time to think. Some guys have moves they like to do. We watch other teams, so you kind of expect some things. But guys are really good, so sometimes they switch it up and it’s not easy to guess where they’re going.

On his trick saves in practices in the shootouts:
I don’t think (I would do that in a game). I do it now, because we play against each other so much. I just try to switch it up out there a little bit.

On Minnesota:
I think we know they’re going to have a strong game against us tonight. They’ve been playing  hard. They’ve been pretty hot lately also, so I think we’ve got to be aware of that and be ready. We’ve got to focus on our game, the way we play and our system.

Jordan Staal

On Sidney Crosby’s absence:
It’s unfortunate, but it’s time for the (other) lines to step up and score some goals.

On how to stop Jose Theodore, who plays well against the Penguins:

It is tough. Every goalie is different and obviously he has had some ups and downs, but he is playing really well right now and so is their whole team. It’s going to be a tough battle. It will be a difficult game for us tonight and we have to be prepared and ready.

Assist: Joe Prince-Wright

12:38 PM:
A little snowfall this morning...

12:14 PM:
Sidney Crosby chatted with the media...

On how he feels:
Alright. I’ve felt better, but I’m feeling alright.

On the symptoms:
It’s hard to explain, anyone who’s through it will be able to explain it better. You just feel off, headaches, a little sick. That’s basically the symptoms. That’s what it’s been like the last couple of days.

On if he’s had a concussion before:
No, it’s something new. That’s probably the best way to describe it.

On the team monitoring his progress
That’s important for me, especially. I don’t want to come back too soon. I know they won’t allow that to happen. It’s a little bit different than a shoulder or things like that, that you can play through in the course of the season. It’s pretty serious. We want to make sure that you’re completely clear from doing it again.

On the two hits:
I didn’t like them. You talk about headshots and dealing with them. That’s something that’s been a pretty big point of interest from GMs and players. When I look at those two hits (Steckel and Hedman), you talk about blindside, that’s a big word, unsuspecting player, there was no puck there on both of them. It was a direct hit to the head on both of them. If you go through the criteria I think they fit all those. I know it’s a fast game. I’ve been hit a thousand times. When you get hit like that, there’s nothing you can do. There’s no way to protect yourself. Those are things that hopefully they pay more attention to. It’s easy saying that being in this situation, but those are two hits, looking back, I can’t say I should have done something different or had my head down. I wouldn’t change anything.

On if he was surprised the league took no action on either hit
On the Steckel one it’s tough. It’s really tough to decide if he meant to or didn’t mean to. I feel he could have gotten out of the way and avoided me. Whether he tried to hurt me, only he knows. We’ll never know that, but you still have to be responsible out there. I can carry my stick up around my head and say that I’m protecting myself. But I have to be responsible for whatever I do with my stick if I end up hi-sticking someone. It’s the same thing. In that situation, I don’t see anything. He sees me there. He sees the whole ice and he doesn’t avoid me. I don’t think that’s responsible on his part. Whether or not he tried to hurt me, only he knows that. He’s got to be the one to try to avoid me in that situation.

On how he felt after each hit:
Who knows when I actually got it. Wednesday, during the game I just didn’t feel right. Throughout the game I didn’t feel right. Does that mean that I had all these huge symptoms? No. There are just times when you play and you feel there’s a difference. I would compare it to when you’re sick. You just feel a little off. That’s when I went to the doctor after the game, and I just told them that things felt a little off. At that point, my head was starting to hurt me a little bit more. But leading up to that, it was a lot more neck that head. And that was to be expected considering what happened on Saturday night. You’re hit a lot in hockey, and you have neck soreness. That’s pretty typical. Wednesday when it started to get more in my head and I felt a little off, that’s when I saw the red flag.

On his last baseline test:
Two years ago.

On if he’s feeling better since he came home on Thursday:
It’s been pretty much the same for a couple days. It’s one of those things where everyone heals and reacts differently. It’s just one of those things you have to wait out. It’s not as easy as a break or something where they really give you a time frame. There are certain steps you take, and it’s obviously a pretty sensitive issue. You always make sure you take your time, but hopefully things are better sooner than later.

On if seeing how long it took Marc Savard to get back from a concussion makes him more cautious:
I’d like to think I’m cautious with every one, but probably a little more so with this. There are injuries you get that you’ve had before and you get to know them a little bit and you get to know your body. This is something totally new to me, and I’m pretty unfamiliar with it. So you have to rely on the doctors and what they say a lot. It’s important for them to kind of hear about your symptoms, and you try to let them know what’s going on. There will be a lot of communication that way, but there has got to be symptoms and I have to make sure that this isn’t something I have to deal with.

On his instructions for healing:
I think it’s kind of a process. You just go based on your symptoms. Hopefully, soon I’ll be symptom free and be able to start doing exercise. If I can get through that, I will go to the next step and start skating. Like I said, hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.

On if it was a mistake to not test for a concussion after the Winter Classic:
Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed anything we did. It may be easy to say that now. But I didn’t have any head problems and it didn’t feel like a concussion. It seemed to be all neck related. I’ve gotten hit a lot over the course of my time playing hockey. I’ve had sore necks and that’s kind of what it felt like at the time. But I don’t think looking back I would have changed anything.

On if it affected his sleep or if he’s taking any medication:
No, I haven’t been taking any medication, and my sleep’s been good. Everyone kind of reacts differently, and I’ve been sleeping fine. So that’s good. The more you sleep the better you heal usually.

Power-play goal: Tony Jovenitti

11:33 AM:
Bylsma on Crosby:

On Crosby's condition:
After the Winter Classic Crosby did not have concussion symptoms. After the Tampa Bay game he was not feeling right. Per our doctors orders if he woke up in the morning feeling the same way, he would need to get evaluated. He woke up in the morning and still wasn't feeling completely right. The only reason he left Montreal was because he was able to get on a flight with Matt Cooke who was chartering a flight to back home, who had to deal with his family issues. And Sid was able to hop onto that flight and go home with him and see doctors that day.

On the team being criticized:
I don't know the accusations that you're talking about. I don't feel comfortable commenting on them. There isn't a person who we would put on the ice that has concussion symptoms. We were acutely aware of those symptoms and dealing with our doctors. (Crosby) did not go into the Tampa Bay game with any symptoms that we felt were concussion related.

On Crosby's symptoms:
I just know that, according to the doctors after the game and then waking up in the morning, that he wasn't feeling normal. He had some issues, I don't know what those were specifically.

On if Crosby had a baseline test this year:
Players have a baseline test once, according to protocol. And once you've had that, unless you've had problems, then I don't think you can be retested for your baselines.

On what the testing pattern will be from here on out:
Until he's symptom-free, we won't be moving forward with anything. That's what will have to happen, he has to be symptom-free and then we'll move forward from there.

On if at that point, they'll do the test again to make sure it matches up with the baseline:
That's correct.

On if you were to put a camera on any player during intermission or after a game, is it common for non-concussed players to come off looking a little bit dazed in general:
If you’re asking if there are distinct differences, I don’t think there always is. I had a lengthy conversation in Montreal at breakfast with Sid and a couple of other players, and I commented afterwards how sharp he was and how he was his normal self. He wasn’t walking around in a daze. And then he went back home and got tested, and the test says he has a mild concussion. It’s not always how a person looks as an indication of where they’re at. Even the tests for concussions have changed, and that’s somewhat still changing. That’s not something I would even come close to saying is my expertise.

Power-Play Goal: Michelle Crechiolo

11:23 AM:
Cooke said that he missed the game against Montreal due to a family illness. He'll return to the lineup against Minnesota.

10:46 AM:
Pens emulsions

10:34 AM:
The Pens switched up their top three line combos. Letestu stays in Crosby's spot, but Kennedy and Cooke flip:


10:32 AM:
Malkin is on the ice now. He had an ugly takedown on his knee Thursday at Montreal when he was pulled down awkwardly by Scott Gomez. He finished the game.

10:25 AM:
Matt Cooke is on the ice for the Pens as they make their way out for the morning skate. Cooke missed Pittsburgh's Thursday contest in Montreal for personal reasons.

10:00 AM:
Welcome back to the Pens Report!!! I feel like it's been three weeks since we've had one of these. Pittsburgh was given an off day Thursday after back-to-back contests. The Pens are back in action tonight against the Wild. You can throw the records out the window when these two teams get together.

Anyways, a lot of other things going down today. Hopefully, we'll have updates on Sidney Crosby (mild concussion), Matt Cooke (personal), Evgeni Malkin (knee) and Tony Jovenitti (ego). Stay tuned....

We have another requested song to start the day. It's only appropriate to play a Minnesota band since the Wild are in the house tonight. So even though I've already played a song by Soul Asylum this season, I'm going to double-dip with "Somebody to Shove." Over-acting at its best. The singer, Dave Pirner, looks like he's shivering from the cold. Guess he should have invested in some sleeves for that shirt.

DISCLAIMER: The Penguins do NOT endorse the shoving of any persons at any hour of the day.

(But seriously, the shoving is a metaphor for a yearning to end the sense of loneliness with a feeling more real and concrete. It's a transfer of the emotional into the physical. Too deep this early in the morning? Just enjoy the song, it still rocks!)

Assist: @genofan.

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