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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. NY Rangers

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Injury updates on Neal, Niskanen and Sullivan (11:36 AM).
  • Pens' lines with Neal and Sullivan absent (10:35 AM).
  • Vitale on the ice for practice (10:20 AM).
  • Vitale talks about taking a Chara shot and living to tell the tale (11:50 AM).
  • Fleury vs. Biron in goal (12:18 PM).
  • PP adjustments (10:45 AM).
  • No Niskanen; Pens recall Strait (10:30 AM).

1:05 PM:
The Pens can clinch home-ice advantage tonight with a win over the Rangers, and kicking off the postseason in front of their fans is absolutely a team goal entering this evening's game.

“It would be great to be able to do that,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We’ve got two games and we want to do it now. We want to make sure we take advantage of the opportunity. That would be our objective here tonight."

Full story is here.

--Michelle Crechiolo

12:45 PM:
Get all the important world news of the day from Steve Mears (minus the world part).

--Sam Kasan

12:30 PM:
Sidney Crosby talks shop...

On what he wants to accomplish in the last two games:
I think we have a lot. Obviously points are important for home ice. We want to make sure we are playing the right way going into the playoffs. We have two really good matchups here that should be a good challenge and should be games that we should go for.

On if he is trying to build towards something:
I think everyone is, no matter if you're in situations like me where you’re coming off an injury or you’re just trying to prepare for the playoffs. I think it’s pretty common that you try to make sure your game is where it needs to be and all those details become so important when you get to the playoffs. I think everyone is in the same situation trying to make sure that all those details are where they need to be. You want to make sure you are playing your best heading into the playoffs.

On if he expects anything different from the Rangers tonight:
I’m not sure. I’m not really thinking about that. We know that they’re trying to do the same thing we are and get ready for the playoffs, playing the right way. They have a lot of pride so we expect a tough hockey game. I don’t think you ever try to get occupied with who’s going to be in the lineup. You try to worry about your own game, but they are always intense games against the Rangers. I wouldn’t expect anything different here tonight.

On the importance of getting the points locked up for home ice tonight:
It would be great to be able to do that. We’ve got two games and we want to do it now. We want to make sure we take advantage of the opportunity. That would be our objective here tonight.

On the importance of home ice advantage:
It’s not everything. It’s nice though. It’s definitely nice. It’s something if you have the opportunity to get it, you want it. I think for us, that is something that is on our mind these last couple games and making sure we do that. We love playing here. We have great fans and it gives us a lot of energy. I think it would be to our advantage to be able to do that. 

On how he takes verbal criticism:
I think when it’s kind of coming from the same place every time you kind of learn to laugh a little bit. It’s always a coincidence. It’s always certain scenarios that seem to repeat themselves. I think you just learn that it kind of comes with the territory unfortunately, but it’s the way it is. I think if anything, just answering about it can get a little tiring. But other than that, it’s something I really don’t think about a whole lot. 

--Brittany Goncar

12:18 PM:
Noted earlier but don't want it to get lost: Marty Biron vs. Marc-Andre Fleury tonight in goal.

(Getty Images)

--Sam Kasan

12:16 PM:
Per the Rangers' official Twitter, Marty Biron will get the start in goal. Here are some pics from the morning skate...

--Sam Kasan

12:15 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On facing the Rangers:
We’re playing the first-place team in our conference with the best record. They’ve been that most of the year atop the conference with the way they’ve played. They’ve played that way the last 5-10 games. Penalty killing is something they’ve been really good at. They're fifth in the league. Their team has played consistently at both ends of the rink. (Ryan) Callahan has made their team go with his 29 goals. Their defense has been very good with (Dan) Girardi and (Michael) Del Zotto leading the way defensively. We know we’re playing the first-place team, the New York Rangers, and we need two-points to secure home ice, which is real important for us as well.

On if Vitale will be in the lineup:
All of us and everyone in the building saw the puck rise off (Zdeno Chara's) stick. It was only a wrist shot, but it was (Zdeno) Chara. He got it up and around the head area, so there was concern. It may be rubber but it is vulcanized. It left a mark but he’s doing well and everything seems to be good with him. He should be unscathed from it at this point in time.

On if he can take anything from the way the Rangers have had success against the Flyers:
Yes, it’s tempting, and yes you look. They’ve had a ton of success against them. You look for reasons why that would be.

On what he’s expecting from the Rangers since they have nothing to play for in terms of playoff positioning:
That’s a tough question to answer. They’ve certainly locked their position, the top of the conference. They’ve locked home ice through the first, second and third round if they advance that far. It would seem like they don’t have a lot to play for, but you never know what the case will be. We’re anticipating the first-place team in here. This is a team we’ve been trying to catch and win the last three games against them. Our last one is tonight. We’re expecting a real good team. We don’t know whom we’ll see in goal yet, but we’re playing a good team. I expect them to be that way.

On hitting milestones for players:
It’s why 'Geno' was on the ice in Boston, for a chance to get one more goal. Those things are in the back of your mind. I don’t think they influence decisions on whether you play a guy or not. You try to put players in situations where they can have success. Both of those guys, getting 20 for Matt (Cooke) and 50 for Geno, would be big milestones. They’ll get an opportunity to achieve that. We still have a lot to play for. We’re looking at winning two more points and winning home-ice (advantage). Those things are the most important, not just milestones. We’d like to see the players achieve them. They’ll get their opportunities.

--Sam Kasan

11:50 AM:
Joe Vitale may have taken a puck to the face Tuesday in Boston on a shot from Zdeno Chara, who boasts the NHL's hardest slap shot. But that incident didn't keep him off the ice. He was back at practice Thursday. While he was speaking with the media, Pascal Dupuis walked by and said, "He's a warrior." 

Here is what Joey V had to say to the media...

On where Chara’s shot hit him:
Right on my jaw there. I’ll be all right, though. It’s not broken.
On taking a shot like that and returning to morning skate two days later:
Luckily I have a pretty good-sized jaw. Lots of tissue there (laughs). But no, I’ll be alright.
On if there was concern immediately after and if he got X-rays:
Yeah, everything showed up fine. They said we’ll just sew you back up and that was pretty much it.

--Michelle Crechiolo

11:36 AM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma had a few injury updates on the team. Niskanen (upper-body), Neal (lower-body) and Sullivan (lower-body) are all out of the lineup tonight. Bylsma expects all three to be ready for the start of playoffs.

"All the players at this point in time are expected to be ready to start the playoffs," Bylsma said. "They certainly won't be playing tonight and are uncertain for the weekend. But they're expected to be returning for the playoffs when they start."

Marc-Andre Fleury will be in goal.

--Sam Kasan

11:00 AM:
Pens pics...

Jeffrey is all smiles (left); Bylsma fixes his tire (right)

Kunitz: Picture me rollin' (left); Staal's hair continues to grow (right)

Johnny be good (left); HC Bylsma plays keep away (right)

Asham the wiley vet (left); Dupuis is hounded by Malkin (right)

--Sam Kasan

10:45 AM:
Without Neal, the Pens are using Park on the top power-play unit. Letang and Park are working the point with Crosby, Malkin and Kunitz down low.

Pittsburgh is using Letang and Malkin at the points on the 5-on-3 advantage with Crosby, Kunitz and Staal down low.

--Sam Kasan

10:35 AM:
The only Pens missing from the morning skate are blueliners Niskanen and Lovejoy and forwards Neal and Sullivan.

Pittsburgh used the following line combos/d-pairs...


The 6 defensemen are rotating through the rushes.

--Sam Kasan

10:30 AM:
Defenseman Matt Niskanen, who left the team's Tuesday game after being hit late in the second period, is not out with the team. The Pens recalled Brian Strait from WBS in case Niskanen is unable to go.

--Sam Kasan

10:20 AM:
The Pens are making their way onto the ice for their morning skate. Joe Vitale is one of the early guys out - a great sign after he left the team's Tuesday game in Boston in the third period after being hit in the head by a Zdeno Chara shot.

--Sam Kasan

10:10 AM:
It will be interesting to see what lineup the Rangers use in tonight's contest, since they're locked into their playoff positioning. For more on the Rangers click here.

--Sam Kasan

10:00 AM:
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center! Tonight the Pens will battle division rival NY Rangers for the final time in the regular season. The Pens have a chance to clinch home-ice advantage in the opening round with a win tonight. New York has already locked up the top seed in the Eastern Conference.


Today we'll start the day with some lip dub. Plum High School filmed their 3rd annual Pens-themed lip dub. For a behind-the-scenes look from PensTV and Plum's first two lip dubs click here.

--Sam Kasan

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