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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. NY Rangers

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

1:25 PM:
For a scouting report on the Rangers, click below.

1:02 PM:
Pens. Rangers. CONSOL Energy Center. Mears. Verizon. Game Day Report. All below.

1:00 PM:
In a non-hockey related item, a few Pens participated in an autograph signing to benefit the YMCA Junior Penguin program. PensTV's Beth Vietmeier filed the following report.

12:45 PM:
Catching up with Mike Rupp…

On his recent play:
I think it’s about just trying to find my game after an injury, trying to manage the injury and get the good feeling back. I started feeling that way probably the last week or two. We’ve got a good team here and I’m just trying to contribute in some way each night. Things are going well and we’re going to keep working.

On if he enjoyed going through HBO and the Winter Classic again:
Yeah, it was cool. Even from last year, those guys are class acts. They respect you. They’re good guys. That makes it a lot easier. So it was exciting. It’s cool to have those memories down the road for the kids. Well, part of it’s for the kids. Maybe not all of it (laughs).

On why his time in Pittsburgh was so special:
I’ve had the best two years of my career here. I think that goes with just overall being happy in a hockey environment and playing and having a great group of guys. The coaches were great to me. The organization was awesome. The fans were fantastic. It’s a place that was really welcoming for me and my family, so it was good. We’ve kind of lived in this area for a while and plan on continuing to do that, so it’s home for us. It’s a special place for us, that’s for sure.

On being here as a member of the Rangers:
I don’t think I’ve really been in this locker room, even walking through it. So it’s different. I’m sure it’ll be different tonight as well. I went out there today, took a peek at their skate and saw the guys. They’re doing the drill that we always did on game day skates at the end of practice. But it was good to get the first one out of the way. I saw the guys when they were in New York, so those feelings have been settled already. I don’t need to shake all their hands tonight. We’ve got a hockey game to win tonight, so that’s our main objective.

She expects the world: Michelle Crechiolo

12:36 PM:
Rangers pics...

Man down!!! Or coach down rather (left); Your fly is open...gotcha (right)

King Henrik between the pipes tonight

12:29 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Richard Park

On if he’ll play:
Yeah, I think so. Foot's is feeling good. I’ve had a couple weeks of good practices. I’m looking forward to coming back.

On any hesitation with skating:
No, if that was the case then I wouldn’t want to hurt the team by not being able to skate. I guess there is no better test than the game. It feels good.

On his conditioning:
Conditioning is good. I was fortunate to keep up in that regard during my injury. That’s kind of a blessing. We had a good couple of weeks of practice. The next step is playing in the game.

Colin McDonald

On finding out he was being called up:
I think my coach called me around 3:30 yesterday. I was sitting in my apartment like I do everyday. Whenever you see your coach’s name come up on your cellphone it’s either for a really good reason or a really bad reason. I kind of new what he was going to tell me so I was pretty happy.  I think it’s been about two years, over two years, since my last (NHL) game. So I’m obviously excited.

On successful season at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:
It’s just the last year only being on an American League deal. They didn’t re-sign me after a good year. I’m happy I signed here and I’m glad I can finally get back to the NHL, especially with this team.

On the Penguins organization:
I may have been a little bit too outspoken about it, but I came from an organization where in my four years with Edmonton I had four different coaches in the American League. Three of them it was their first year as a coach at the professional level.  I just felt like it was hard to develop there.  And just coming here, it’s completely different. I said many times I wish I could have started here, but that’s just not the way it happened. I’m trying to take advantage of being here and I would like to stay here for years to come. It’s just from top to bottom it’s so professional. They’re so knowledgeable. It’s a great place to play.

On his best days:
I think I play an all-around solid good game. One thing I was nervous about coming into this year was guys looking at my stats from last year and seeing all the goals.  I’m not your typical goal scorer.  Last year I was just on a line where I was playing with two very good players and my only job was to get them the puck and get open. I’m just fortunate that the puck was quite good for me last year. Down in Wilkes-Barre and even my first three years of pro prior, I’ve enjoyed killing penalties, games, and shootouts, four-on-four, power play. I like to be that guy to play in every situation. They gave me that opportunity here. 

Assist: Brittany Goncar

12:15 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On the Rangers:
We’re playing a team with 54 points. They’re the best in our conference. They’ve won eight of their last 10 and four out of the last five. They’re playing extremely well. Assuming we get (Henrik) Lundqvist tonight, he’s won five in a row. His numbers are up there in the league. It’s a team with two really good lines. (Marian) Gaborik is playing extremely well. He’s extremely dangerous on the ice. We saw that last night in the third period and overtime. Brad Richards has added another element both on the power play and five-on-five. (Ryan) Callahan as well with the way he’s playing, the point totals and what he brings to the team.  I’d be remiss to not talk about their defense. (Dan) Girardi, (Micahel) Del Zotto are having an outstanding year. (Marc) Staal is back with that top-6 group. They were good without him. They’re certainly welcoming him back. Their defense is even that much better.

On if Michalek was hurt blocking a shot in Thursday’s practice:
That could be one of the ways he received the injury.

On Colin McDonald:
Colin is a guy that broke out last year in the AHL in scoring, over 40 goals and leading his team in that regard. He’s not really a goal-scorer type of guy. He’s a gritty guy that plays a good up-and-down wing game. He’s good in the tough areas around the net. He has the ability to score goals as well. In WBS he leads the team in assists with 20. He got an All-Star nomination. He’s fifth in the league in assists. He’s not really a point-getting type of guy, but he’s getting those points. He’s a really solid player, good in tough areas. He played in defensive situations, is a reliable winger in the past in his career. He’s adding and can be a scoring guy. He’s been doing that in WBS. Unfortunately for him he hasn’t had a chance to get called up yet. He’s going to get that opportunity tonight. We’ll see him in a third-, fourth-line role, but also as a net-front on the power play.

On the Rangers being fast off the rush:
I think that’s a significant difference this year with their team from the past. If you’re looking at the Rangers, they’re playing much quicker this year. It was a factor in our first game against them. When you scout them you see the quickness with which they are attacking and generating speed, counter attacking. It puts teams in trouble. In addition to that, they’ve been a tough team to handle of the forecheck in the offensive zone previously. Now with that speed and counter attack, they’re a factor with their skilled players and others. They’re a handful in our lineup. Even their fourth line has been a real factor for them in the last three games, including the Winter Classic. Last night they were a factor. Mike Rupp is a factor. They’ve done a nice job of having four solid lines with speed and are tough to play against in the offensive zone. They are and have been a handful all year long in that way.

12:00 PM:
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is first off the ice for team's morning skate, meaning he will likely be between the pipes tonight for NY. Rangers official Twitter confirms Lunqvist in net.

11:50 AM:
Pens pics...

Pens digging for treasure, or pucks (left); A couple Pens admire their blades (right)

McDonald warms up the wrists (left); Neal tests his stick flexibility before practice (right)

Niskanen is a man of many talents (left); Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect - Chuck Noll, happy 80th bday (right)

11:32 AM:
Pens coach Bylsma had a few updates on players...
  • Michalek is a game-time decision
  • Sullivan will play
  • Letang skated this morning, a good sign in his recovery

10:35 AM:
The Pens are on the ice for the morning skate. Sullivan, who missed yesterday's practice with an illness, was back. Michalek was absent.

Dupuis, Park and Martin all participated in rushes. Here are the lines from the session...


The six defensemen (Bortuzzo, Lovejoy, Niskanen, Orpik, Engelland, Martin) rotated at each end.

10:20 AM:
The Rangers are right now the top team in the Eastern Conference. It's a crucial game for Pittsburgh in the standings. Michelle has more on what to watch for in tonight's matchup.

10:15 AM:
Pens Malkin has some bragging rights after Russia topped Canada, 6-5, in the World Junior Championships. He had some fun with his teammates over Twitter and in the locker room. Michelle has more here.

10:10 AM:
In case you haven't seen it, here is Evgeni Malkin appearing on NHL Network. I know Meesh put this in her uber epic Pens Report yesterday, but it's so good that I had to give it some more love today.

10:05 AM:
The Pens made a few roster moves to update you on. Yesterday the club activated forward Richard Park and defenseman Paul Martin from the Injured Reserve list. Both will be eligible to return to the lineup. Also, the club recalled forward Colin McDonald from WBS.

McDonald is the leading scorer with WBS with 28 points (8G-20A) in 33 games. He was named to the AHL All-Star Game on Wednesday. When I talked to him Wednesday, he told me his goal this year was to prove that his offensive explosion last year wasn't a fluke. He also said he wanted to work toward his goal of playing in the NHL. McDonald will get a good opportunity if he gets in the lineup tonight.

9:55 AM:
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center! Tonight the Pens will battle the top team in the Altantic Division and Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers. The Rangers have an 8-point lead over the Pens, and tonight is a great opportunity for Pittsburgh to cut into that deficit. However, a setback would only widen the gap, so it's a big game for the Pens.


We'll continue our weeklong theme of having regular YouTube peeps covering songs. Today's is from a guy named Mike Tompkins, who is a human beat box. He does covers of songs, but the only instrument he uses is his beatbox mouth. Check out his version of Coldplay's "Paradise."

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