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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Ottawa

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins shuffled their forward combinations. See the 10:41 AM entry for combos; 12:20 PM for Bylsma's take on the switches and 12:55 PM for player reactions.

6:27 PM:
Here are some pictures from the upcoming "Inside Penguins Hockey" episodes. Enjoy the sneak peak, particularly Marc-Andre Fleury dressed as Santa Claus:


12:55 PM:
The new line combinations will give Ruslan Fedotenko and Pascal Dupuis a chance to play with Sidney Crosby.

"We practiced with this line and I think we are going to stick with it for this game," Fedotenko said. "The bottom line is what we individually can bring to the line. We just need to play our game and hopefully we can create some chances and score some goals."

"I think we are going with it again," said Dupuis, who has seen extended action on a line with Crosby throughout his Penguin tenure. "Anybody who you play with on this team is a great player at center whether you play with Sid, you play with Geno or if you play with Staalsy."

Fedotenko and Dupuis had been skating with Evgeni Malkin, and the two will have to adjust from Malkin's style to Crosby's style.

"They are unique in their own way," Fedotenko said. "They are both great players but they both play different styles of hockey. I think you just have to read and react and your game. You don’t necessarily want to wait for what Sid or Geno will do. You play your game and hopefully that will help open up his game."

And with Crosby on a hot goal scoring streak, the two will try to get him the puck.

"Before Sid used to be more of a passer than a shooter but now he has these one-piece sticks he is shooting more," Dupuis said. He then added with a smirk:

"I’ll be giving the puck to him and he’ll be shooting."


12:50 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room:

Dan Bylsma
On Marc-Andre Fleury bouncing back after losses:
I have a good feeling about his mindset and where he’s going to be next time he gets on the ice. I think in the past you’ve seen him respond with his play and his attitude and his preparation. That’s what you can expect from Marc.
On facing Ottawa goaltender Pascal Leclair (who hasn’t played since suffering a fractured cheekbone on Nov. 24):
There are two approaches you could take. You could fire no shots at him for the first 20 (minutes), put him in a situation where the goalie doesn’t get any work when he wants to feel the puck (laughs). We’re not going to take that one. This is a situation where our team needs to focus on shooting the puck more on rushes. It’s something we’ve worked on in practice. It would be a focus on getting shots there, getting extended time in the offensive zone like we like to do. Then getting the pucks there in traffic. Especially just coming off (Monday’s) New Jersey game, it would be a focus of ours to start strong, a real focus on getting pucks.

Maxime Talbot
On a strong start against Ottawa:
Any game I think we want to jump on the (opponent) early, whether they’re struggling or not. We have to be ready right from the start.
On changing up the lines:

I think anybody can play anywhere on this team. We’ve got solid center-men that we can surround with any other player. We’re trying to find chemistry. Hopefully we’ll find that chemistry.
On how he’s feeling:
Good, it’s a challenge. It’s tough coming back after missing 20 games (with a shoulder injury). But it’s feeling better and better and I keep on working. I’m trying to get back on track and do the little things that make me successful, try to find my game. I’m working at it.

Matt Cooke:
On Ottawa’s Jarkko Ruutu:
He’s out there doing his thing and my (job is) maybe a little different. I’m out there killing penalties and getting a big hit when needed and getting in on the forecheck.

Jay McKee:
On Jarkko Ruutu:
I actually try not to think about him. There are guys who do what he does and they can agitate you. But if you go out there and play your game and not think about what he’s going to do you’ll be fine. When he gets under guys’ skin that’s when he’s effective. That’s what he wants to do. As players, you need to block that out and play your game and your system.
On leaving Monday’s New Jersey game behind:
You look forward to the next game. You pay attention to the detail of where you went wrong in the previous game. It’s a new one (Wednesday). We don’t think about the last game. But it’s a good wake up call.

Marc-Andre Fleury
On NHL playoff experience helping his Olympic chances:
I think that helps. That’s experience that you gain by playing. I think I’m a more calm goalie, more relaxed.

12:25 PM:
Emulsions from Ottawa's morning skate:

Goaltender Pascal Leclaire will return to the lineup tonight for the first time in a month.


12:20 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma spoke after Pittsburgh's morning skate about the changes he made to the line combinations (see 10:41 AM entry). 

"I think early into last game we saw a couple different combinations," he said. "It shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s just to get a different look."

Bylsma talked a little about his philosophy on line changes, saying that there are many factors that go into his decision to change lines, what combinations he wants and when to make the changes.

"It’s more than a gut," Bylsma said. "It’s not just how I am feeling or instinctive. A lot of times it’s how the game goes and the flow of the game. There may be players on the bench who need to get more playing time to get into the game and that means that to wait their normal rotation to get them with their normal line won’t get them in the game as often as their play requires. Getting into the game to play is necessary so a lot of times that will happen. If you see power plays and they are spaced every three or four minutes you can’t get into a flow of a period where you get a rotation of four lines or three lines depending on the game. Sometimes power plays and penalty kills dictate a shakeup of the lines.

"Sometimes it’s one particular player playing well. Last game I thought Pascal Dupuis had one of his better games five-on-five so you want to get him out there in different situations and not in a normal rotation. That may be one of the reasons why. On occasions if a player is not having a good night that might be another occasion. Sometimes it can look like it is bingo balls coming out of the shoot but it’s more than a gut-feeling. It can look haphazard at times but that is not the case."

Bylsma did admit that he sometimes has a number of predetermined combinations that he likes to use at the start of a game or at the beginning of a period.

"Much like a football coach plans out the first 15 plays there are games where I will plan out the first 10 line changes," Bylsma said. "You may see that sometimes when Geno and Sid get out on the same line. That’s when the first 10 are usually planned out. Sometimes between the periods you do that again. You may decide to change the lines or change a line and plan accordingly going forward. Sometimes in a game it’s at a timeout where you make a comment with a coach in a certain situation but you try to anticipate the next three line changes while the one is out there."


10:56 AM:
Here are a few shots from Wednesday's morning skate:


10:41 AM:
The Penguins shook up their line combinations at their Wednesday morning skate, essentially flipping Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The reshuffled lines look as follows:


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