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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. New Jersey

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Fleury in net, Kunitz has baby, Jeffrey has surgery (11:32 AM).
  • Pens have optional skate, Crosby participates (10:41 AM).
  • Pre-morning skate practice session (10:28 AM).
  • History will be made (12:07 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on focus, the Devils and home ice this season (12:04 PM).
  • Orpik, Michalek and Letestu spit knowledge (12:13 PM).
  • Devils pics (12:11 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:23 AM).
  • “It is now my duty to completely drain you…” (1:11 PM).
  • “Choking on the ashes of her enemy…” (10:15 AM).

1:11 PM:
Here is one more clip from Nirvana. This is the greatest and most underrated Nirvana song - "Drain You." I'm playing this one for Jimmy B and Michelle Crechiolo.

"One baby to another said I'm lucky to have met you."

12:13 PM:
Sounds heard around the home locker room for the last time in the regular season...

Brooks Orpik

On the jersey giveaway after tonight’s game:
It is something cool.  It is something you forget about until the game’s over but you look forward to it after, especially if you win too. 

On New Jersey being out of the playoffs for the first time since 1996:
They have a lot of young guys and a lot of people that work hard. They just got Zach Parise back, and even though their season is over, they will still work extremely hard.

On the division title still being within reach:
The last couple of years everything has been decided before the end of the season, but I think now every team has something to play for. Obviously Tampa Bay is only a point behind us so it is nice to have something to play for here.

Zbynek Michalek

On the art of blocking shots:
It is huge. These days people are so good at blocking shots that it is pretty hard to get it all the way to the net. Sometimes you just hit a slapshot and you never know it could get deflected.

On if he thinks twice about blocking shots:
No, I think it is just reaction. It is a part of my game. I have been pretty good at it the last three years. I am pretty confident I won’t get hurt and I don’t want to screen the goalie or anything. I am pretty confident in blocking shots and if I can do that then good, I can help the team. It is part of my game and something I am trying to get better at. It is one of my strengths, I would say.

Mark Letestu

On the final regular-season home game and if the season has gone fast or slow:
It doesn’t seem like it’s been that fast for me. It seems like it’s been kind of a long year, with a little bit of injuries and a lot of adversity. So it’s kind of been a long year for us, injury-wise and battling through stuff. We’re happy the playoffs are coming. I think we’re gearing up for it.

On how important it would be for them to open up the playoffs at home:
I think for whatever reason, we just didn’t get off on the right foot here. But as of late, I think we’ve been pretty good here, probably in the top part of the league with our home record. I think just having four out of the possible seven games at home for the playoffs is huge, just to have our fans supporting us. Just to battle and to get that spot to come into the playoffs on a high note is what we’re really striving for.

On what to expect from the Devils tonight, as they’re in an unfamiliar situation:
I expect them to play the same way. They’ve got a lot of veteran guys over there, a lot of guys with pride. I’m sure they’ll play hard to the last game. We expect nothing but New Jersey’s best, and they always seem to bring it against us. So we expect a hard-fought game and probably another low-scoring one.

On how to generate more offense after dueling shutouts in the two teams’ last meeting:
I think, especially with this team, they make it hard on you to get to the tough areas of the ice, whether it’s the slot area or the front of the net. So I think to really establish that presence in those tough areas of the ice, and then bang home some greasy goals, some garbage goals there. Just rebounds, tip-ins. Try and get them to open up their game.

12:11 PM:
The Devils finished up their morning skate a few minutes ago. Martin Brodeur is still on the ice, a sign that former Pen Johan Hedberg will get the start in goal for New Jersey.

12:07 PM:
The playoffs are right around the corner (one week away!) and history will be made. Possibly by Fleury and the Pens.

12:04 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On the challenge of getting the players to focus on the rest of the season:
The importance of the game and full attention the team demands and how you play demands is the hardest thing. We talk about the playoffs and how things go to another level. The hitting intensifies, the battles intensify, the game intensify when you step into the playoffs. You want to be playing your best hockey going into the playoffs. You want to be playing on the same page. It’s not possible to play the way we will a week and a half from now. The challenge is – the players won’t say it and won’t mean it – but it’s tough for everyone to get to that level now knowing we have three games left, knowing we’re in a playoff spot. You want built in meaning to the game. You have to have a standard of how you play and the players have to go out there and execute that. To look you in the eye and say we’ll go out and hit with the same tenacity that we’ll hit with two weeks from now, that’s the toughest part about these games. The challenge is that we want to play our game and get to our game and execute that game. That attention to detail is the important part of playing these games and what we’re trying to stress.

On the Devils being dangerous:
That’s the team that we’re ready to face, the team that ‘s been the hottest team in the NHL for a long period of time. They’ve won a lot of games and emerged as a confident group. I look at their lineup and it’s getting better. It was good before and dangerous. That’s the team we’re getting ready to play. For us, we’re still reminded of last year when we didn’t have a lot of success against the Devils. We’re also still playing for seeding. We’re playing a good team. There are things at stake. We’re expecting them to be the same team that they’ve been for the last three months or so, the hottest team in the NHL.

On the first year at CONSOL Energy Center:
It’s been interesting. We opened a great building in all aspects. It felt a little new when we started. To not get some wins early on added to it. If it had been Mellon (Arena) and you don’t get the win in the first or second game, you know you’ve won hockey games there before. There was a sense that we needed to break this building in. We didn’t get the wins right off the hop. We have turned this place into a place where we know we can get wins. We’ve won a lot of hockey games here, up at the tops in the league. That bodes well for us. We have to establish that. Coming to the rink today it dawned on me that we have to break this building in for the playoffs. We’ve established something. We’ll salute the fans tonight for what we’ve created, which is a pretty good winning percentage, a lot of win here this season. We’re also getting ready to christen this one for our first playoff home game coming up shortly.

11:32 AM:
Coach Bylsma gave some lineup updates for tonight:
  • Fleury starting in net
  • Kunitz and his wife Maureen had a baby girl - Payton Marie Kunitz. Chris will play tonight.
  • Jeffrey was scheduled to have surgery today, but coach Bylsma hadn't gotten a report yet
"Today is Dustin Jeffrey’s scheduled surgery. There is still no report from that. It was some time this morning. I don’t have a report on him yet.

"Cooke, Johnson, Tangradi and Crosby all skated this morning. Sidney continues his prescribed rehab from his doctor. There is no timetable for the next step in that progression. He skated again this morning.

"Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net this evening.

"Chris Kunitz and his wife Maureen gave birth to Payton Marie Kunitz this morning. We can expect Chris to join us this evening for the contest."

11:23 AM:
Pens morning skate pics...

Coach Bylsma with Crosby (left); Dupuis (right)

Meloche, Reirden and Fleury (left)

Talbot (left)

Dupuis with the net-front presence on Fleury (left); Orpik puttin' on the foil

Bylsma (left); Engelland (right)

10:41 AM:
The Pens are on the ice for their optional morning skate. There are a lot of skaters missing, taking the morning to rest. Those opting to skip the skate are Neal, Kovalev, Staal, Kunitz, Letang and Martin. New papa Brent Johnson is back between the pipes.

Crosby also joined his teammates for the morning skate.

10:28 AM:
Sidney Crosby, Matt Cooke, Eric Tangradi and Nick Johnson skated earlier this morning with strength coach Mike Kadar.

Tangradi with Kadar (right)

Crosby (left)

10:15 AM:
The Pens and Devils will battle this evening at 7:30 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center. The Tampa Bay Lightning are at Buffalo tonight as well. The Pens and Lightning are fighting for the No. 4 seed in the postseason and home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. Currently both teams have three games remaining with Pittsburgh holding a slight one-point advantage. The Pens are hoping to open up some distance between themselves and the Bolts with a victory over the Devils.

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the day that the world lost Kurt Cobain (Feb. 20, 1967 - April 5, 1994). Any avid reader of the Pens Report knows that Nirvana is far and away my favorite band of all time and Cobain is the reason I wanted to grow up and become a rock star (my life didn't quite work out that way, but I'm not complaining!!!).

The day that Cobain died is one of those defining moments in life and culture. You always remember where you were when you heard the news (if you were old enough anyway). And the state of music was never the same again.

In memory of Cobain, we'll start the day with the sound of his legacy. Here is a live version of "Polly."

And here is Nirvana performing "All Apologies" on MTV Unplugged. "All in all is all we are." Enjoy.

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