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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. NY Islanders

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Quick hits from the Penguins Tuesday morning skate:
- Brooks Orpik believes that he will be back in the lineup (see 11:19 AM entry for details)
- Marc-Andre Fleury practiced for the second straight day but will not dress (see 10:32 AM entry for details)
- Head coach Dan Bylsma said that Brent Johnson will likely be the starter in goal (see 12:44 PM entry for details)

12:53 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room II:

Ruslan Fedotenko
On the Islanders coming of age:
This a good team which is young and plays aggressive. They forecheck you hard. It will be a good challenge for us. They are young and they have good speed. They are on top of their game right now.
On what getting John Tavares has meant to them:
I think he helps a lot. If you have that kind of player and he is helping the team by getting goals and points and helping them win games it definitely lifts everybody else up and gets them playing better. I feel like it is a huge help to have somebody like that who can lead – even if it is just by example. If he plays well then everybody else will pick it up.
On the talent of Rick DiPietro:
When he is on top of his game he is one of the best goaltenders. Unfortunately when I was there he had a lot of injuries. Even since then he has had to undergo a lot of rehab. When he is on his game he is unbelievable. He can make the unbelievable save. He never gives up on the puck. That is one of the things that helps the team to feel better and play better if you have somebody who is making those huge saves.
On DiPietro’s talent playing the puck:
You have to make much better dumps if he is playing because he is active and he stops the puck and isn’t afraid to move it. He can move it really well so he is like another defenseman there. You just need to make soft dumps or put it in those areas where he cannot play the puck.

John Curry
On his mindset going into the game:
It’s just about getting myself ready to play like always. I know the rest of the guys and I are eager to get back on the ice and prove something.
On getting back into the net:
No bout. You have to forget about (Saturday) and maintain your confidence as a goalie, go out there and prove yourself again and show everyone what you can do.
On what he learned from the tape:
There were a couple of bounces but there always are. It’s how you react to them and maintain your confidence throughout the game. I felt I got a little flustered. You have to maintain your cool no matter what happens out there. They are good players and they are going to score their goals. You have to maintain your confidence and keep playing.
On having two career wins against the Islanders:
It doesn’t matter who it’s against – I’ll take wins.
On how this Islanders team compares to last year’s squad:
I think they are a better team this year. They are certainly playing well right now. They have a lot of young talent up front. I played against a lot of the guys in the American (Hockey) League. Obviously they have (John) Tavares, a lot of good goal scorers and good goaltending. They are a solid team.
On what makes Tavares so good:
I think he is an all-around playmaker and an all-around goal scorer. He just knows how to play the game. He is smart and really skilled. He can pretty much do it all.
On having Brooks Orpik back in the lineup:
It’s huge. It adds depth and it adds his ability to shut down their forwards in our defensive end. And, obviously he brings a physical presence.

12:52 PM:

Someone broke a pane of glass at the Penguins morning skate

12:44 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room:

Dan Bylsma
On the Islanders playing good hockey:
They are winning hockey games. They are a determined, hard-working bunch which is giving teams a lot of fits with their work ethic – pressuring you, forcing you to make skilled plays and forcing you into areas and then capitalizing by being quick to the offensive zone and then they buzz around there. They have a determined bunch 1-12 at forward and their defense is adding to that as well.
On what he sees from his team’s game:
I don’t think we are executing as well as we need to be. I think we are focusing on attention to detail and getting that back into our game and getting the structure that allows us to get into the offensive zone and allows us to be a relentless team in that zone. The last five games we have done a much better job of that and recognizing that. We haven’t developed it as our M.O. and this is how we are going to play and this is how it is going to look regardless of the situation, regardless of the game and regardless of the score and the clock. We understand that and we are working towards that. We have 12 games before the break where this is going to be a big push for us going into the Olympic break.
On the goaltending situation:
Brent Johnson looks like he is going to be in net tonight. I still have to get the report. He was day-to-day with his injury. He did well yesterday and it looks like he did well in the morning. John Curry would be the backup in that case.
On the first game back from a long road trip:
I would think that during the beginning of the season that wasn’t the case as much. Right now, in the point of the season we are at and with the Olympics and with the games being so close together, you come home after a long road trip coming from out west and I know Sunday, for me, was a bit of a struggle. It’s tough getting your bearings back. The challenge is getting out, getting your legs and being able to play. That is a challenge you are seeing from a number of teams and it is one we know about coming into tonight’s game. We are going to focus on adjusting that first 10 minutes, first 20 minutes to try to get ourselves into the game and get into the team game and not let the jet lag be a factor.
On how he breaks the season down into intervals:
I think we take a different approach in different parts of the season. We are in the third 20 games but we took a five-game approach when we went out on the trip. We now know we have 12 games left before the break – eight at home and four on the road. After the break there will be 20 games left in the season. It is a big chunk of the season and it is an important chunk of the season. We have a break to look forward to for most of us. The focus is to continue to get to our game and to hone our game for the last 12 games before the break.
On getting the push ready for the final 30 games:
I think we are more worried about the mental than the physical. This year feels like a playoff run where you play every other day and you are maintaining your body and getting ready for the next game with your practices and not really working on having two or three practices before games. Mentally we are trying to adjust for our team and keep them fresh and keep them away from saying ‘this is too many games and a lot of games playing every other day.’ That is not the rhetoric you want to hear from the coaching staff. We tried to focus that way with the five games on the trip and now the 12 games heading into the break. Those things and trying to keep the body mentally fresh – the body will follow it. That’s what we are focusing on.
On getting a better team structure starting in the defensive end:
I wouldn’t say that it just starts in the defensive zone. I think it starts with the execution and the mindset of how we are going to execute. We want to stay away from east-west plays. If you see us go D-to-D and then back to our D, that is not in the game plan. We want to move from the zone as quickly as we can and we want our speed and our execution to be north. It is also about our forechecking and getting pucks into the right areas so we can forecheck. It’s about getting to the right spots so teams can’t just whip it around the boards and prevent us from getting to the offensive zone. It is not just ‘hey we have to play better defense so we can get to the offensive zone.’ It’s a lot of areas where you execution, mindset and positional play have to lead to better chances to get to the offensive zone more consistently and then sustain the pressure there.

Brooks Orpik
On if he’ll play tonight:
I think so. I felt good. I was cleared by the trainers. I came off IR so as long as the coaches tell me I'm in. They haven't put the line up on the board yet. I'll come here tonight. If I'm in the lineup I'll play, if not I'll wait another game.
On getting back into action:
I feel pretty good. I will be good to get back though. It’s only been a week but it feels like a lot longer.
On being anxious to play:
It’s never fun being out of the lineup, especially coming off a loss. You want to get back in there. It’s only been a week but it feels like a lot longer.
On pushing it in Monday’s practice:
That was probably the first full practice that I had and it felt really good. As long as it didn’t get sore yesterday, and it didn’t, that was the biggest thing. I came back this morning and it felt good.
On John Curry’s last performance:
You watch his game, the first period was pretty good really. They got a couple of lucky bounces. I know a lot was made of it but if you look at the goals he gave up, he didn’t have a chance on most of them. The best thing he can do is put that behind him. He’d probably want a lot of shots early and we’d say we’d want to limit them early. It’s something to learn from. No one played well that night. A lot of them were lucky bounces. I don’t think you should put too much on him with that game.
On why team’s struggle in the first home game after a long road trip:
I don’t know. Just the travel I guess, being tired. Every team goes through it. I think a lot of that is mental. You just have to focus. This is another game. This team is playing really well. There is no time to ease back into it at home here.
On seeing the game differently from the press box:
I didn’t watch any games from above to be honest. I worked out with Mike Kadar and tried to stay in shape the best I could. You get a different perspective from watching up top. With my situation, with a short-term injury, I just wanted to stay in shape the best I could. I watched them all on TV. From TV you get a different perspective. It’s like watching video. It seems a lot easier on TV. You get different sight lines. There is nothing like playing in the game and getting that experience. It’s only a short-term injury so hopefully I won’t be rusty when I come back.

Sidney Crosby
On meeting John Tavares in tonight’s game:
He’s a good player, and he’s dangerous in a lot of different ways. So, I think like any team we play we always have to be aware of those guys. Great players are going to get their chances. You just have to make sure that we keep an eye on them, and we try to play a good team defense. Hopefully, that helps. 
On the Islanders’ being hot as a team right now and if Sidney saw this coming when the Penguins played them the first two times:
They play a pretty fast game – and gritty and physical. They’re pretty complete when you look at their team, so they have some main guys up from who have been pretty successful early on. They’re playing with a lot of energy, so they’re playing some good hockey.
On if the first home game is tough after a long road trip:

Well, yeah, I mean the stats don’t lie. A lot of times that’s the case. As long as you’re aware of it, and I think when you come home sometimes you think after a long road trip like that, that you can relax and it’s kind of automatic that you’re at home and you’re going to win a game. That’s not always the case, so for us we have to make sure that we keep it pretty simple and make sure we’re aware of that.
On Rick DiPietro coming back after his injury:

He’s a great goalie, and I know it hasn’t been easy for him. It lasted a while, so he’s had some setbacks, and it looks like he’s finally got past everything. He’s been a big part of their team for a long time. He’s always been a great goalie, and it’s nice he’s healthy here and able to come back.
On playing a division game and the pressure of playing at home:
You always want those types of games – whether it’s division or not. I think it’s a perfect time – we play some really good teams here, and hopefully it brings out the best in us.
On the Penguins’ power play in the past few games:
We’ve made adjustments throughout the year, and we need to get results – that’s the main thing. Whether one way produces more than the other, I don’t think it really matters as far as what the results are that we get. So, we’re looking for results however they come. We’re hoping that work ethic and execution, no matter how we set up, will make a difference.  

Maxime Talbot
On if the first home game is tough after a long road trip:
I don’t know. It’s another game, and you want to get ready. It’s a big one, because the Islanders have been playing really well.
On if he sensed that the Islanders could put together a string like this earlier on in the year:
Yeah – even last year, they started playing solid hockey. They’re young. They work really, really hard, and they want to put a lot of pressure on you. They’re always, always skating for it. That makes them interesting.
On if chasing Martin Brodeur and shutting out the Devils Monday afternoon has caught the Penguins’ attention:
For sure. As of this morning, they were the eighth-seed in the playoffs in the East, so they’re right up there. We know that any team can beat any team any given night, so for us right now it’s getting two points every night, and we can’t take anything lightly. So, they have our attention for sure.   
On how it feels to be home:
It feels great. It feels great to sleep in your own bed and come back in routine a little bit. It’s nice to see your friends again tonight. I’m really excited about that.


12:16 PM:
With the Islanders playing a Monday afternoon contest, the team had an optional morning skate. The only players that took the Mellon Arena ice were Nate Thompson, Jeff Tambellini, Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron.


11:19 AM:
Brooks Orpik said that he is ready to return to the lineup but ultimately the decision will be up to the coaching staff. Orpik, who suffered an undisclosed injury Jan. 9 at Toronto, has missed the last four games. He was asked if he would return to action tonight against the NY Islanders.

"I think so," he said. "I felt good. I was cleared by the trainers. I came off IR so as long as the coaches tell me I'm in. They haven't put the line up on the board yet. I'll come here tonight. If I'm in the lineup I'll play, if not I'll wait another game."

11:08 AM:

The Penguins loosen up for the morning skate

Bill Guerin (left), Sergei Gonchar (right)

Brooks Orpik (left in white) may return to the lineup tonight. Matt Cooke (right)

Evgeni Malkin takes a shot on goalie John Curry

10:53 AM:
The Penguins slightly tweaked their lineup at the Tuesday morning skate session. The forward combinations were:


We will wait to hear from the team whether or not defenseman Brooks Orpik will be back in the lineup. Both he and head coach Dan Bylsma sounded optimistic but nothing has yet to be confirmed.

10:32 AM:
Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury took the ice prior to the team's Tuesday morning skate. Fleury, who fractured his left ring finger Jan. 14 at Edmonton, took shots for about 20 minutes before his teammates started their normal practice session.

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