Injured Iraq war veteran Derek DeGraeve, a native of New Kensington, was the special guest of the Penguins at today’s morning skate. Here, Derek chats with Coach Dan Bylsma and Billy Guerin … and also poses in front of Sidney Crosby
’s locker, with an autographed stick that Sid presented to him. The Penguins were proud to salute Derek for his service to our country.
Sounds heard around the locker room:Dan BylsmaOn how the Rangers play without Marian Gaborik:
Individual-wise, Marian Gaborik is a great player and a big part of their offense. He is a dangerous guy and someone we would pay attention to. He is not the whole team. They will try to play a certain way and they are going to try to do certain things tonight. We will prepare for those because that is the way the way the Rangers are going to play tonight – they are going to play their game. That is what we will be ready for, with or without Gaborik.On the Penguins success versus New York:
They have been a team that is really aggressive. They try to put a lot of pressure on you. If you are ready to execute and expect that and know where to put the puck, you can put the puck in areas where you can get with speed. We have done that against them. If you do not execute and you’re not able to execute with the puck then they are aggressive and they will put themselves in a position to capitalize on your mistakes. That is the challenge and something we have done pretty well against them. We have to be ready to do that again tonight. On why the Rangers haven’t scored as much:
Generally speaking, they haven’t been completely healthy all year long with some of the players they expect. When you look at different lineups, they expect goals from different areas and they have struggled to get them. If you are playing a game where, if you are not getting to your game, it’s tough to put people in the right spot to score those goals. We have seen that from ourselves at times with different people not getting to their spots and not getting to the places where you need to be to score those goals. When you are expected to get those goals you need to put yourselves in those situations. Sometimes that is special teams wise, sometimes that is getting to your game. The Rangers have gone through periods where they have been very good and some times where they have struggled as a team. That is the challenge they are in and the challenge we are all in.On what he wants from a good backup goaltender:
If you are asking for a textbook definition, I would say a lot like what Brent Johnson
has done for us this year. He is a guy who in that role has to be ready to step in and play his game and make saves for the team. He is a guy who has to provide a certain level of challenge, work ethic and support for his team and for his (No.1) goalie. He is a guy who has to be able to step in if he has to become the No. 1 (goalie). Brent has been all of those things at the rink, practice wise, teammate wise and then stepping in and doing the job. He has been all of those things.On worrying about Johnson not seeing a lot of action:
I try to use logic in most things I do, and that was part of the thinking in terms of getting him into one of these games. It would be a long time between hockey games for him if he didn’t get something before the break. He has played very well for us. He adds confidence to our team. That is another reason why he has a chance to go out and stop the puck for us tonight.Sidney CrosbyOn the success against the Rangers:
I didn’t even realize that to be honest with you. I don’t think we look at them and see that string of wins. We always expect tough games. We have had some big wins in New York, which is always a tough place to play. I don’t think there is any certain reason (we have this streak). We have played some good games and we have played some not so good games. You want to keep that going.On these last two games being important to taking the division lead:
There are big – they are all big now. That’s the way it’s going to be when you get down to this many games left in the regular season and pushing for spots. This is the time of the year when you see it most.On this being the last game versus the Rangers at Mellon Arena:
Again, I never even realized that. I guess we would be saying that about a lot of different teams at this point. I think the main importance for us is to be strong at home. Down the stretch here that’s going to be really important. We want to use that to our advantage – especially the way the schedule has been. If anything, I think we just want to try to maintain a good home record and play a good stretch of games before the game.On the juices flowing for the Olympics with the Opening Ceremony tonight:
The closer it gets, the more exciting it gets and you anticipate it a little bit more. The best way to deal with it is to make sure your game is where it needs to be going in there. You want to be able to step right in there and play well. With each day, I think it is pretty normal to have that anticipation.On the pressure facing Canada:
There is no way to gauge it. You have to be in (the tournament). As much pressure as there is on us, which is a lot, if you look at the Olympics as a whole and at individual athletes, they have been training their whole lives for one race, and that is a lot of pressure, too. I don’t think you can lose track of the amount of pressure that is on everyone. With it being in Canada, and playing hockey, it is typical. That is what comes with it. As Canadians, we have grown up around that. I think as players we have felt, but we have also been fans so we understand.Marc-Andre FleuryOn the Penguins’ success against the New York Rangers this season:
It seems like it’s been going well for us. Every time we play them, it seems like it’s always a pretty intense game. It just seems like it’s always a good battle against them, and it seems like we bring our A-game there every night.On how his new mask is treating him:
It’s OK. It’s a little different, but it feels alright.On the pressure to win the next two games before the Olympic break:
I think that’s our goal for sure – to try to get up there and get some points and go on top. At the same time, though, the season doesn’t end this weekend. We still have a lot of time, so I think it’s just important for us to play well and try to get some points and try to build up some leads. When we come back, we obviously have to do it all over again.On how important it is to go into the Olympic break on top of their game:
If we can get some points now, if we go on top and get the lead and have their team behind us when we come back, it’s always a better start that way.On if he thinks he will get more playing time in the Olympics since Brodeur has been struggling lately with the Devils:
I don’t think they’ll base who’s going to play and who’s not because of the last three games before break, so I don’t think it’s such a big deal.Assist Jason Seidling and Caitlin Kasunich
Rangers star Marion Gaborik's playing status for tonight's game is still unknown. The lethal sniper missed the team's Wednesday game with a deep cut above his knee, which he suffered during Tuesday's practice.
He was on the ice for the early portion of the Rangers' Friday morning skate, although he did not fully participate.
According to the Rangers official website, Gaborik need 12 stitches inside the cut and another nine on the outside. The injury occurred when Gaborik, who leads the team with 35 goals and 69 points, during a breakaway in practice. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's skate sliced into Gaborik.
“It feels much better,” Gaborik told the team's official website on Thursday. “There’s not as much pain and swelling, and the cut looks good. The most important thing is that it does not get infected. It’s a good thing that I did not cut any tendons or nerves or muscles.”
The Penguins stretch at their morning skate (left); Sidney Crosby
(right) Brooks Orpik
and Kris Letang
(left); Mike Rupp blocks Marc-Andre Fleury
's view (right)
Mike Yeo goes over power-play strategy with the top unit (left); Chris Kunitz
(right) had two goals in his last game for Pittsburgh
There was no change at the Penguins' morning skate on Friday in preparation for their showdown with the New York Rangers. The forward and defensive configurations were: