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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. NY Rangers

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins defensive situation has become clearer. Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski are expected to return to the lineup tonight against the NY Rangers. And while Jay McKee will not play tonight, he said that he is hopeful to return in the team's Monday contest in New York. See 12:05 PM entry for details.

12:45 PM:
Marc-Andre Fleury celebrates his 25th birthday today in the Penguins' contest against the NY Rangers. It seems like only yesterday that Pittsburgh selected the netminder first overall in the NHL Entry Draft.

"It's crazy. It feels like I jut got here not too long ago," Fleury said. "It's been six years. Time just flies by. It's pretty crazy."

12:34 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room:

Dan Bylsma
On what Goligoski and Letang add to the team:
The skating ability and the puck-moving ability, going back for pucks, defending the rush, getting up on the play, when you see their skating abilities, when you go back and look at the game we played against the Rangers and you see those guys moving on the ice, I think that’s what you’re going to see tonight when they get back on there. They’re unique players. They’re very good players. They should be adding some speed and some skating and some defending as well in the way they defend against the rush with their skating abilities, two pretty big positives.
On Marian Gaborik:
The speed and the ability to hurt you with his speed and the ability to bury the puck, I remember preparing in ’03 in the semi-finals against Minnesota and he was a huge focus for our team because of those abilities. Sure enough he got a couple breakaways in that series. He’s having an outstanding year. Every time you put on the TV it seems like he has a highlight where he’s in around the net and getting the puck on his stick and throwing it by the goalie. The power-play breakout, the speed of his line, his speed has been dangerous almost in every game and he’s got the numbers to show it as well. He will be talked about tonight.
On matching up against Gaborik’s line:
Whenever we’re at home we have a chance to put Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke against a line like that, you have a line that can play in the offensive zone against a good offensive line, so that makes them play defense. You also have a physical edge in Matt Cooke to play against a line like that and be responsible defensively and then Jordan Staal in the middle of the ice, a two-way good defensive centerman. That would be something I would like to see a lot of.

Sidney Crosby
On the third period against the Islanders:
I think they outworked us. That is what it came down to. We pride ourselves on playing well in the third but it is not something that automatically happens. We might have taken that for granted. There are things that need to be done in order for that to happen. We didn’t do that. You have to give them credit they worked hard.
On back-to-back games:
When we first looked at the schedule at the beginning of the year you expect that. You expect to have to deal with that. For me personally, I feel I am used to it. It is not really a big issue. I think as a team it is something that comes down to the individual and making sure you prepare in the best way possible. At this point it is pretty regular.
On preparing differently for back-to-backs:
I would say both. I would say it all depends on what happens. When you have a tough loss like yesterday you look at this as an opportunity to regroup and respond. You look forward to the chance of being able to get back at it so soon. I think it is always different but certainly mentality, you have to turn the page pretty quick.
On Marian Gaborik:
I think his speed and his shot really stand out. He is a guy who probably gets breakaway every other game. He is scary fast. He has a great shot so when you combine those two things he is a dangerous player. He has been able to stay healthy. He has always been a great player but since he has been able to play more games it shows more.
On playing defense against Gaborik:
He is a guy who, even for our defense, he is going to try to use his speed and sit in the weeds back there and wait for a breakaway and loose pucks. You just have to be aware of that. Our game is focused on puck possession. The more time we can posses the puck and hold onto it, the more time we can take away from him creating things. That will be even more important today.
On shorthanded chances against:
I think when it has happened it has been some obvious mistakes and things we cannot let happen. I don’t think it is something we have to address too much. We have to be aware of those mistakes and fix them. We have to make sure we are aware defensively, even defensively. Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away when you are trying to score, score, score. You forget and you let up a bit. That’s an area where you can’t get burned there. That is a huge momentum swing. We have to make sure we don’t let that happen.
On those chances occurring when the puck is in the Penguins end:
I think a good example is the way the last two teams have played. They have put a lot of pressure up ice and tried to disrupt the way we break out. We have probably been guilty of trying to become outlets for our D and maybe get them caught instead of maybe bringing everyone back and make sure we come up together. It is a tough situation when a guy presses like that because you think you can get him caught and you have three guys in their end waiting to come back on them but at the same time you have to be there to help your D out. If there is a bounce there you don’t want to get caught cheating. We just have to make sure we execute there.

Assists: Tom Mast and Jason Seidling

12:05 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed that Letang and Goligoski will play tonight:

"They have been progressing and advanced in practices," Bylsma said. "They look ready to go. We had three games in four nights and they possibly could have gone yesterday but with that many games and coming back from an injury it was best for both guys to make sure they didn't get too much work. They should be good to go tonight."

10:57 AM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma continues to play coy with opponents and media as the Penguins did not skate in their line combinations and defensive pairings at Saturday's morning skate. It is a trick that Bylsma has used periodically throughout the season when he did not want to reveal his lineup for the evening's game.

The re-assignments of Ben Lovejoy and Deryk Engelland means that some of the banged up blueliners are looking to return tonight against the NY Rangers. Possible options are Jay McKee (finger infection), Alex Goligoski (lower body) and Kris Letang (shoulder contusion). All three skated and were in full participation during the skate.

Jay McKee

Alex Goligoski

Kris Letang

10:41 AM:
The Penguins opened the morning with the announcement that defensemen Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy have been re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. The move paves the way for the possible return of Kris Letang, Alex Goligoski or Jay McKee. I will monitor the lines and talk to the guys following the skate and give an update as soon as I get more details.
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