GAME DAY REPORT
Sad moment. Here is the final Game Day Report by Katie O'Malley. She is leaving the Pens organization for an awesome job with Mayor Peduto's office. Good luck Katie O! You'll be missed. --Sam Kasan
LETANG ON HIS STROKE, RECOVERY & RETURN
“I woke up and my wife found me on the ground,” Letang said. “The day before I was totally fine. I was practicing. I woke up that morning not expecting that would happen. I drove to the airport with my mom and thought it would clear up, but it never did.”
A few days later doctors diagnosed the stroke.
“I have some good days, bad days. I’m going day by day to get to 100 percent,” Letang said. “It’s not as bad as when it happened. There are symptoms. Some days are stronger symptoms than others.”Full story here.--Sam Kasan
DUPUIS IN GOOD SPIRITS
Dupuis was hurt on Dec. 28 in Ottawa when linemate Sidney Crosby fell into his knee following a hip check from Senators defenseman Marc Methot. Dupuis said he knew it was bad right away “just because I didn’t feel the bottom part of my leg, basically.”
Yep, that’s bad.
“Everything felt so loose that nothing was holding it,” Dupuis said. “I don’t know if you’ve seen the picture of me going back to the bench, (in it) I’m holding my leg and I’m like alright, is there something down there? It feels much better now, though.”--Michelle Crechiolo
Full story here.
Joe Vitale will be returning to the lineup for the first time since Jan. 10 for the Penguins tonight against the Montreal Canadiens.
Vitale missed 12 games with an upper-body injury he suffered Jan. 10 in Edmonton. Before his injury, Vitale was on a roll, accounting for eight (1G-7A) of his 13 total points (1G-12A) in 19 games.
Vitale expressed his happiness to be back in the lineup and not just watching games after Penguins’ morning skate.
“It’s always tough watching and you want to be a part of the team, want to be a part of the wins, and losses for that matter and just be out there with the guys,” Vitale said. “It’s tough watching from above. I’m happy to be healthy and back at it.”
Vitale also explained that if he didn’t feel like he would be any use to the team and not ready to play, he wouldn’t be in the lineup. Vitale said that after an injury, there’s always an adjustment period to a game setting.
“Obviously whenever you come back from an injury, whatever that is, there is going to be some things you need to work on as far as getting used to different adjustments,” Vitale said. “All in all, I feel good enough to play and obviously it was coach’s decision, and I was healthy enough to play. It’s just one of those things where I feel like I’ll be able to play on my team. If it was the case where I could play and hurt my team, I wouldn’t be out there.”--Addison Smith
PENSTV SOUNDKris Letang Pascal Dupuis Sidney Crosby --Sam Kasan
QUOTE 'EM--Addison Smith & Sam Kasan
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma had no injury updates for the media on Thursday. "The lineup will be game-time and Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net."--Michelle Crechiolo
Simon Despres now has a beard to accompany his mustache
Chuck Kobasew wetting down his skates
Looks like Taylor Pyatt will be back in the lineup tonight
Jeff Zatkoff has his own Stadium Series helmet
Jussi Jokinen with a bronze medal look
Olympic foes join forces for the quest for the Stanley Cup: Sidney Crosby and Dan Bylsma--Sam Kasan
MORNING SKATE DEETS
It looks like Joe Vitale and Taylor Pyatt will be back in the lineup tonight for the Pens. The team used the following workflow...
PP1: Niskanen, Malkin, Crosby, Neal and Kunitz
PP2: Maatta, Kobasew, Jokinen, Gibbons and Sutter--Sam Kasan
FINAL OLYMPIC ROUNDUP
All the Olympians have returned to Pittsburgh. We had a chance to chat with them over the past two days. Here's what they had to say...CROSBY, CANADA MEET GOLDEN EXPECTATIONS
Sidney Crosby had the weight of a nation on his shoulders. The Team Canada captain led a squad in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia that had only one expectation: winning gold.
Team Canada met those expectations, going undefeated in Olympic play and defeating Team Sweden, 3-0, in the Gold Medal Game to successfully defend its gold medal from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“Everybody feels a sense of pride and a sense of relief knowing that’s the expectation and doing what was expected,” Crosby said. “It’s not easy. There are so many good teams. There is a sense of relief when you’re able to do it.
“It was a great experience. Winning always makes it better.”KUNITZ ADDS GOLDEN CHAPTER TO INSPIRING STORY
Full story here.
This wasn’t even a dream come true for the undrafted forward, who wasn’t even scouted to play junior hockey and was waived twice in the first month of his first full NHL season, because, well, he never even dreamed it was a possibility.
“I don’t think I ever grew up thinking that was possible,” Kunitz said Wednesday. “To play for Team Canada in the Olympics and win a gold medal, especially this late in your career when I’ve been in the league for two of them that I watched and one in college where at the age of 22, some people were already playing in the Olympics. So it’s one of those things that I was very fortunate to play a good year and a half of hockey that persuaded some of the people to put me on that team. And it ultimately turned out great because we won a gold medal.”Full story here.MAATTA, JOKINEN RETURN TO PITTSBURGH WITH BRONZE
The 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia was NHL rookie Olli Maatta’s first Olympics, and possibly Jussi Jokinen’s last. And the Penguins teammates came out of it together with a bronze medal while representing Team Finland.
It had been devastating for them to lose a tight 2-1 game in the semifinals to Sweden, but the Finns were able to regroup thanks to an emotional players-only team meeting held by respected veteran leaders Teemu Selanne, Kimmo Timmonen and Sami Salo prior to their meeting with Team USA in the bronze medal game, which they won 5-0. Both Maatta and Jokinen scored in the contest.BYLSMA, PENS MOVE FORWARD AFTER OLYMPICS
Full story here.
Bylsma has spent the last two-plus weeks as head coach of Team USA in Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. But now that the Olympics are finished, he is back in Pittsburgh with the Penguins.
Even though Bylsma is disappointed that Team USA did not finish the Olympics with a medal, losing in the Bronze Medal Game against Finland, he is ready to move on and throw all his energy behind the Penguins.
“You have to put (the Olympics) behind you,” Bylsma said. “The task at hand is coming back here and playing for the Penguins. That’s the best way to put it behind you.”Full story here.DISAPPOINTED MALKIN FOCUSES ON CUP
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin dreamt about winning an Olympic gold medal for Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in his home country.
But unfortunately for him, history did not unfold that way.
“It’s not easy. It’s always tough,” said Malkin, whose team was eliminated by Finland in the tournament quarterfinals. “I remember in Vancouver (in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games) we lost. Now it’s worse. We played at home and it’s tough. I just need a little bit more time.”Full story here. --Sam Kasan
FLEURY'S STEELERS MASK
Marc-Andre Fleury will be sporting a sweet new helmet for the Stadium Series in Chicago. Since the game is being played at Soldier Field, a football stadium, Fleury stole Jeff Zatkoff's idea of going with a football helmet theme. So Fleury's helmet was made up like a Steelers mask. Check out the video below... --Sam Kasan
Check out Michelle's scouting report on the Habs below... --Sam Kasan
START THE DAY
Good morning hockey fans! It's been a while since I've been able to open the Pens Report with that, but man it feels good. Olympic hockey is over. It's time for the stretch run of the NHL season. The quest for gold is over (congrats Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz). The quest for the silver chalice begins. There are 24 games left in the regular season. The Pens are in the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 83 points - four more than second-place Boston. Pittsburgh hopes to finish off the season strong and hold onto that No. 1 seed. The final run begins tonight against the Montreal Canadiens.
Here are some game notes to get you ready for the Habs...
- The Penguins begin the post-Olympics portion of their schedule against the Montreal Canadiens (TV: ROOT SPORTS; Radio: 105.9 the X) at CONSOL Energy Center.
- Pittsburgh is 11-3-2 in its last 16 games dating back to Jan. 3. The team’s .750 points percentage during that span is tops in the NHL.
- The Penguins enter tonight’s game having gone 16-1-1 in their last 18 home contests.
- Pittsburgh enters tonight’s game having won five straight games against Montreal here at CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins are 8-2 in their last 10 home games against the Canadiens.
- Overall, the Penguins are 7-1-1 in their last nine regular-season games against the Canadiens.
Stick tap: Pens PR
Olympians returned to practice with the team on Wednesday. It's great to have everybody back. So to start the day we'll open with the Backstreet Boys "Backstreet's Back." A song that I now truly appreciate after seeing it in the movie "This is the End."
Enjoy. Thoroughly. --Sam Kasan