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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. New Jersey

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Comrie to play in place of Jeffrey, Fleury starting in net (11:28 AM).
  • Crosby’s sick practice vid (12:17 PM).   
  • Crosby and Letestu skate in the morning (10:04 AM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Comrie, the Devils and Crosby (12:20 PM).
  • Engelland, Orpik, Tangradi, Thiessen spit knowledge (12:40 PM).
  • Pens optional morning skate (10:33 AM).
  • “Doc” Emrick has special ties to Pittsburgh (12:12 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:44 AM).
  • Devils pics (12:22 PM).
  • “The sun shines in the bedroom when we play…” (9:30 AM).

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

Deryk Engelland

On the injury situation in the second half of the season:
With injuries, everything has been shuffled around and we have been playing with everyone. It’s not a bad thing because you get to know what every single player does. It has also helped us to get used to playing with different combinations.

On the Devils trying to keep their playoff hopes alive:
It is the same thing for us. We are trying to catch Philly. It’s going to be a battle and we can’t underestimate them, (the Devils) are a good team overall with good goaltending and they are going to come to work.

On having back to back games:
We feel good for sure. We have a lot of hard-working guys. I don’t think it bothers any of us having back-to-back nights.

Brooks Orpik

On his comeback from a broken finger:
It feels good. It’s just a matter of getting my timing back on the ice. My conditioning is about the same as it was when I got hurt. So (I’m) just trying to get some timing back out on the ice.

On the coaching staff saying he is coming back for the last 5-6 games:
It is pretty much up to them. I have been cleared medically. (It’s) what they think is best for the team. Obviously coming off a game like last night and the way the six defensemen are playing, it is pretty tough to take one of those guys out.

On the group of six defenseman and what he has been impressed with:
Last night is as best as we’ve played defensively in a long time. It was against a really, really good Philadelphia team who can score a lot of goals. I thought the defensemen had a really good gap in the neutral zone and were able to really frustrate those guys (Philadelphia) last night. It wasn’t your normal Philly-Pittsburgh game with the rough stuff and some of the chippiness, but I think that was more just because they couldn’t get things going their way.

Eric Tangradi

On how he is feeling:
A lot better. Every day is a step in the positive direction. Today I was just working on net-front stuff, so just add that to the list and keep on moving forward.

On if he is feeling ready for game action conditioning-wise:
I do. I have been out there every day. I really do feel like I can play at the pace and compete at that pace.  Right now it’s just wearing a little more of the rust out and getting a feel for the ice a little bit.

On how close he thinks he is to a comeback:
Really that is out of my knowledge right now. I feel like I am ready to play right now all I can do is wait my turn and all I can do is work as hard as I can in practice and show what I can bring to try and get in there.

On if it is timing or conditioning that is lacking at the moment:
I honestly feel like my conditioning is good right now. But like Brooks said, I think it is the timing. It’s just the little things.  Nothing compares to the game, no matter how hard you practice. Every day we’re just taking steps in the right direction and just wearing some rust off here.

On Orpik saying he wouldn’t blame the coaches for leaving things the way they are based on the way the team has been playing:
Absolutely. The character in this room and how hard everyone has been working – no one does not believe in this room and it is exciting. You don’t want to get put in and be the piece that might mess things up and mess the gel up. Things are rolling now and we will keep moving forward from there.

On Jeffrey’s injury last night and how unbelievable this season has been for injuries:
It is unbelievable. I am sure this will be a season everyone will talk about for the rest of their careers, saying, ‘Hey do you remember that year in 2010-11 when you guys went down left and right?’ This is definitely out of the ordinary and to be able to persevere though all this has been something special.

Brad Thiessen

On the excitement of his first call-up of the season:
It’s kind of unexpected. I think it was (Thursday) morning, coach called me and said that there was a chance that I would be going, and then later on that night I was backing up (Fleury) in Philly. So it’s exciting every time you get to come here.

On what’s been the biggest reason for his success down in WBS:
I think just confidence, getting a second year in the league and getting a chance to play a lot at the end of last year. Just kind of rolling that into this year. We have a really good team down there. We’ve been playing really solid. We’ve had a lot of call-ups and injuries and stuff to the guys up here, and we’ve just been able to keep the same way that we’ve been playing the whole way through. The coaching staff’s done a really good job down there.

On if his stellar play is surprising even himself at times:
Yeah (laughs). I mean, I don’t know, you don’t even think about it. You kind of just go out there and play and it seems to be happening. So it’s been a lot of fun.

On what getting into a game with Pittsburgh would do for his confidence moving forward:
I’m ready for my chance whenever it comes. It’s something that I try not to think about down there. Just kind of do my job and whenever that chance does come, to be ready for it. I think I am ready for it, and when it happens, I’ll be ready.

Cheeky Monkey: Joe Prince-Wright & Michelle Crechiolo

12:22 PM:
The Devils held their morning skate at 11:30 a.m. Here are some pics...

Martin Brodeur with coach Terreri (left)

Patrik Elias (left)

Zach Parise (right) is traveling with the team

12:20 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On if playing Comrie is necessity or if he’s seen something from him in the last couple of days:
Yes to both of those. The last two days in particular, with contact in practice and the pace in practice – his pace – he’s been looking good. He put himself in that situation two days ago. (Thursday) he came and said he felt he was ready to go. That need arose last night when Dustin went down.

On how the Penguins can translate the way they played defensively against the Flyers to the Devils:
There was, I think, several occasions last night where we were able to play a fast game because of the way our defense and our forwards limited space in the neutral zone. There were turnovers. We created turnovers and loose puck situations and we turned that back the other way. That’s not something you’re always going to get from the Devils. The tough part of that – and you saw that last game we played against the Devils, which I thought was one of our better games against the Devils in the last two years – (is) it turns into a chess match a little bit. Bit by bit, you really have to take care of the puck and you really have to hold onto the puck in the offensive zone when you get it. It may not materialize into a ton of scoring chances, but that’s going to be the game that’s played out. They’ve obviously been playing very well, but the one thing the Devils do and have done extremely well in the past 40 games or so is they move the puck out of the defensive zone really well. They’re not just shooting it out, they’re not just playing defense. They come out of the D zone with the puck on their tape with support and they go the other way. They’ve done that very well. It’s almost a similar mentality to playing the Red Wings. You have to be very good with your stick detail. You have to be very good in that area. If you are, hopefully you can turn that back into the offensive zone chances that you need to generate, which we’ve been good at generating. Sow we’ll see how that plays out tonight.

On if Comrie’s injury was hampering his play earlier in the year and if there’s a whole new level he can reach:
I think that’s a good assessment. Mike’s play early in the season, he wasn’t really forthright in saying how hurt he was. I think he was trying to play with the injury and with pain and not being able to do what he normally could do skating-wise and speed-wise. I think it’s tough to compare with a four-month lapse in-between, but he’s skating right now better than he was skating at the beginning of the season with us. He’s got a speed to his game that he didn’t have when he was playing with the injury. So he’s been without contact for a long time now, but he’s going to get a chance to go in there and we’ll see where he gets used. How he gets used is going to depend on how he looks in the game. He’s definitely going to be used on the power play.

On what the Devils have done to turn their season around:
I think there’s two parts to it really. It wasn’t automatic when Jacques took over. It wasn’t one game later. It took a handful of games, maybe two handfuls. But really, they play with the puck. I think people are talking about how they play defense, but they play with the puck and they play with the puck very well. They come out of the D zone really well, and they have the puck on their tape going through the neutral zone. That’s been a change for them. It’s turned into a belief that they can win hockey games. And they’ve been very good at it. But when you watch them play, they’re good positionally and they’re good defensively, but they’re also good with the puck and coming out of the D zone and having the puck on their tape. They’re not chasing it. They’re not just punting and retrieving and playing defense. They have the puck and they’re playing with it and they’re able to get out of the defensive zone. They play well defensively, but they’re also able to do that. I think that’s been the biggest change for them, and it’s spawned the ability to win hockey games. They believe that and they’ve been very, very effective at it. And it’s a very remarkable record.

On if there is a reluctance to mix up what’s been working when Brooks Orpik is ready to come back:
When Brooks is ready to play – and Sidney Crosby is ready to play – we’re going to insert them both into the lineup. The team has been playing very well and playing very well defensively. The guys like Ben Lovejoy – well, Ben Lovejoy in particular has really stepped up his game quite a significant amount. He went from being in a 10-12 minute role when he was in the lineup to now really playing a significant defensive job with Kris Letang and going against other team’s good lines. Deryk Engelland and Matty Niskanen have done a real good job, we’ve done a real good job with our gap. It’s not allowing teams the speed and entry into the zone and coming out of the D zone. We’ve done a very good job, I think. We’ve eliminated good teams in big games. (Both) Boston and last night, I thought was a pretty remarkable job eliminating (Philadelphia) – 20 shots on the road against a really, really good team. Brooks – when he’s healthy, when he’s ready to come back – he’ll be back in there. I think he’ll be immediately put in with Kris Letang in that pairing. Paul Martin and (Zbynek Michalek) have done a great job in their role and they’ve been the shutdown guys against other team’s top lines. It’s going to make for a difficult decision, but I think it’s going to make us even tougher and stronger to play against. But (Brooks will not be in) tonight.

On how he and Jacques Lemaire have both come in and turned around floundering teams and what the challenge is behind that:
It’s been remarkable to watch the job that they’ve done there in New Jersey, what he’s done and the way they’ve played and really, the belief that they’re going to win every game. We didn’t exchange any secrets. I certainly have a lot of respect and have been watching the job that he’s done since he’s come in. We did talk about our individual teams, the success that we’ve had in the situations. But what they’ve done is remarkable. (I) truly have watched with a lot of admiration about the changes that have happened and how the team’s played and the belief. Really, it’s almost two completely different teams and two different mindsets when you see this team play and how they’re playing. We need to win this game. We need to keep winning these games, so we’re going to butt heads tonight.

On what Crosby is doing now that he wasn’t doing two weeks ago when he first started out and if he likes what he’s seen so far:
I haven’t watched him skate. I don’t know the answer to your question. I do know that as he’s progressed, the doctor has upped certain things on and off the ice. And it’s not the same each day. So I talked to him before he went on the ice today, he said he was going to try to keep up with Mark Letestu. I talked to Mark Letestu afterwards, and Mark said he was trying to keep up with Sid. So I’m not sure what they did on the ice. But I do know that the doctor is writing a schedule every day, and there have been things that have increased and yesterday was almost a day off in his day to day. So I’m not sure, but I do know that I laughed today when Sid said he was going to try to keep up and Mark said he was trying to keep up afterwards.

All growns up: Michelle Crechiolo

12:17 PM:
Here's an exclusive video from PensTV of Crosby's morning practice. Watch him explode the water bottle with a wicked backhander. The poor goalie was abused the entire session.

2 Legit 2 Quit: Mike Davenport

12:12 PM:
Hall of Fame broadcaster (and Pirates enthusiast) Mike Emrick was kind enough to talk to me earlier in the week. With his return today I did a little piece on his connection to Pittsburgh. Click here for the full story.

11:44 AM:
Pens pics...


Orpik (left)

Bylsma (right)

Godard (right)

Engelland (left); Conner (right)

Dupuis (left)

11:28 AM:
Pens coach Dan Bylsma gave a few injury updates:
  • Brent Johnson is still day-to-day with an upper-body injury
  • Jeffrey had yet to see a doctor, so there was no update yet on his condition
  • Comrie will play tonight in place of Jeffrey
  • Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net.

"Brent Johnson, still out day-to-day with upper body.

"Dustin Jeffrey, I don’t have an update for you on Dustin Jeffrey as of yet. He hasn’t seen our doctors yet this morning. We will be inserting Mike Comrie in his stead into the lineup tonight for his first game back.

"(Fleury) will be playing in goal.

"Mark Letestu and Sidney Crosby skated this morning."

10:33 AM:
The Pens have an optional morning skate today. Nine guys are skating. Engelland, Conner, Godard, Niskanen, Comrie, Tangradi, Talbot, and Orpik are all on the ice for the Pens. Brad Thiessen is the only goaltender on the ice.

10:04 AM:
Pens captain Sidney Crosby had an early morning skate with Mark Letestu and strength coach Mike Kadar. They got on the ice a little after 9 a.m. and skated for about 30 minutes.

Crosby stick-handles around cones

Letestu also did some pre-practice work.

9:30 AM:
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens are coming off a huge 2-1 win in Philadelphia Thursday night in a shootout. Even though the Flyers did net a point in the standings, the Pens were able to cut into the lead and are still alive in the race for the Atlantic Division title. 

But there is no rest for the Pens as they'll take on the New Jersey Devils tonight in the new barn, which will complete their final back-to-back series of the season.

But let's get to today's music. I've been on a Vaselines kick the past week so it only makes sense to get them in the blog. The Scottish duo (Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee) came together in the late 80s and were a major influence on Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain - who called them his favorite song writers of all time.

Although they broke up in the early 90s, they reunited a few years ago and performed some of their songs unplugged for KEXP in Seattle. Below is "Son of a Gun."

And here are the Vaselines performing "Molly's Lips."

As I said, Cobain loved the Vaselines. In fact, Nirvana covered more Vaselines songs than any other band. Here is Nirvana's version of "Son of a Gun." Nirvana also covered "Molly's Lips" and "Jesus Don't Want Me for a Sunbeam." I highly recommend you check them out on your own time.

Anyways, enjoy.

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