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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Philadelphia

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Quick points from Thursday morning skate:
- Pittsburgh held an optional skate. 18 players participated
- Sergei Gonchar will be a game-time decision vs. Philadelphia
- Ruslan Fedotenko and Max Talbot returned to practice after not being there Wednesday. Both are available for tonight's game.
- Assistant coach Mike Yeo is back with the team (click here for details)

12:42 PM:
The Flyers, who played defeated Toronto 6-2 Wednesday night, held an optional morning skate. Players that took the ice included goalies Brian Boucher and Ray Emery, defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and forwards Mika Pyorala and Riley Cote.

Ray Emery (left) is close to returning after having abdominal surgery. Former Penguin Joey Mullen (right) took part in Philadelphia's skate.


12:37 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room:

Dan Bylsma
On the Flyers:
The guys were watching the highlights from last night’s game and watching the Flyers. I think that was enough video for us to know what we can expect tonight. Our fans will be buzzing and motivated, and we’ll be motivated. No matter what the situation is between the two teams, this one has that flavor that you can expect some sparks and some good old fashion hockey.
On what the Flyers are doing better:
When the coaching change took place, it’s tough to come in without many practices or hardly any at all, to get the guys on the same page. It’s a slightly different style in terms of some of the things that they’re doing. Over the course of a couple weeks, they’ve been able to get on the same page. They have good players. They’re a good club. Now being on the same page and heading in the right direction, they’re putting that on the ice. And winning some hockey games.
On what’s different in their style:
They were more defensive orientated and position wise before. Now they’re more of an attacking defensive team. They are more aggressive defensively. They force you to make plays quicker. That leads to making teams have more turnovers. Then getting it and not allowing their team to get to their game. It’s a slight variation in a couple different zones that allows them to be more aggressive. When you start to be aggressive, you have to be together. Otherwise, you start running around. That’s what they’ve been doing better. They’re on the same page.

Sidney Crosby
On the Flyers improving since they’ve been able to get a few games in with the new coach:
I think for them I’m sure it took a little bit just to adjust their systems and get used to everything. As soon as they had that coaching change, they played a lot of hockey right away. They had a lot of time to practice things, so I think lately you’ve seen that they’re playing some pretty good hockey, and I’m sure that’s part of the reason why.
On the Flyers getting in five fights against Toronto in last night’s game:
I mean, you see that in different games for whatever reason. The games get intense, and Philly likes to play physical, so that’s something that kind of comes along with it. But, you see that happen from time to time. You don’t expect it. It’s something that happens once in a while. But, I think it was pretty entertaining for everyone to see that last night.
On if Crosby’s success against the Flyers is due to getting amped up against that particular team:
I think that’s part of it. I think we all raise our game when there’s a little bit extra there. I think we all try to make sure we’re ready. If anything, I think it just comes from preparation. We know what to expect. It’s a big game. It’s an intense game, and everybody wants to be at their best. So, I think it’s a good trait for our whole team – that usually when we’re playing these types of games we get our best efforts, and it’s a good sign.
On getting Gonchar back in the game:
It’d be nice to see what happens. He’s always welcome for sure. Even in his absence, I think we’ve created some really good chances and got a lot of zone time, and we’ve improved a lot more in that area.  We all know how good he is there, and we’d love that back.
On the Pens’ strong third line:
They bring the same thing every night. No matter what team we’re playing or what type of game it is, you know exactly what we’re going to get from them. I think that’s great for us and tough for opposing teams.  For any line playing against them, you know you’re going to have to do a good job in your own zone, because they generate a lot of chances just from offensive zone pressure. They get the match-up against top lines most of the time, so when they’re an offensive threat like that, you’re playing against a top line. That’s the last thing you want to be doing – playing in your own zone.
On if the Pens will have to fight tonight against the Flyers:
Last game that was the case. You never know. You don’t really plan for that. You prepare for an intense game. For us, our game is physical. We don’t really need to start anything or try to stir it up. We’re going to play a tough game whistle to whistle. But, I think for the most part we want to make sure that we’re just worrying about ourselves. I think every team has guys who try to get under guys’ skin and things like that. 

Luca Caputi
On what kind of expectations he has for tonight’s game:
I just think we have to play the same way for sixty minutes, and the score will take care of itself. We were energetic and played in the offensive zone, and if we continue to do that, then the end result will be there.
On how the rivalry between the Baby Pens and the Phantoms will translate up into the NHL:
It’s a big rivalry down there, and I never really got to play in a Flyers-Pens game. So, it’s going to be pretty exciting for me, and from what I hear, it’s going to be pretty intense. I’m just looking forward to it, and it will be something special.
On what it’s like to play with Evgeni Malkin:
He’s one of the best players in the world, so it’s definitely an honor. I just try to keep it simple for him and make some room for him in the offensive zone and give him the puck whenever I can and go to the net hard.
On the biggest difference between playing in the NHL and playing in the minors:
Skill and speed are the two biggest things I find. Everything happens a lot quicker, and there are a lot of skilled players in this league, so you have to be sharp at all times and just keep it simple and make the right plays.
On the intense rivalry between the Baby Pens and Phantoms in the minors:
They’re one of our rivals for sure. Every time we play them, it’s pretty much a war. So, I’m looking forward to tonight and seeing what this rivalry is like.
On experiencing a similar rivalry in the minors as the Penguins have with the Flyers:
Yeah, to an extent.  I’m sure it’s a lot more intense when 16,000 people are cheering for you or cheering against you.  So, it will be something special and something I’m looking forward to.
On being more comfortable on the ice after playing his first game on Tuesday:
Yeah, I think it will be a little bit less nerve-racking, but I’m sure the nerves will still be there. It’s only my second game of the season, but I think that’s a good thing. It will keep me sharp and on my toes. I just want to keep it simple and play the best game possible.

Craig Adams
On the Flyers recent scoring goals:
They have a talented group over there offensively. It was just a matter of time before they were going to start scoring goals. We know that. We have to be good defensively. That is something we are working on everyday to get better. Penalty killing is part of that as well.
On playing with Leighton in Carolina and what he knows:
I did very briefly. I don’t know Leights all that well. He is a good goalie. I remember him as a guy who battles really hard on every puck. Beyond that I don’t know his tendencies too well.
On the Flyers power play:
Their power play is pretty good. It is about third in the league. Obviously that is a factor. They have a lot of offensive weapons. We need to be at our best on the PK for sure. Our power play is always big for us. Not only scoring goals but if they can do the right things and get chances and shots it can get us momentum.
On what makes the Flyers power play so successful:
They have some guys who can shoot it and they are not afraid to shoot it. That is first and foremost – they put shots on net. They have some guys who are creative as well and can make some plays. It is a talented group.
On how the Penguins PK has to adjust to what Philadelphia does:
I think we know what they are trying to do. I think it just comes down to execution. A lot of it is goaltending and getting the bounces here and there. We need to be on the same page and stick to what we are trying to do. We also need to block shots and things like that and gets pucks out when we get the chance.

Marc-Andre Fleury
On what the Olympics will be like for Canadians:
It will be pretty crazy. I have always been a fan of those games. Even if it is not hockey I always cheer for Canada. To (Canadians), hockey is our sport like football is in the U.S. I think everybody takes a lot of pride in that.
On being in goal for Canada in a potential Gold Medal Game:

I’m sure it will be a little intense and I might be a little nervous but it would be a great honor.
On getting back in the net:
I am very anxious. The Flyers are always a fun team to play against. It is always pretty intense and physical. I am looking forward to it.
On what makes the Flyers power play so successful:
I just think the players they have. They have some guys with some skills. They get good shots from the point from their defensemen. They also get a lot of scoring around the net and do a good job creating screens and getting to rebounds. We have to make sure we are ready for them.
On the Flyers offense coming to life:
They struggled for a little while at the beginning of the season. We know they can be dangerous. They have shown it in the past couple games. It will be a good challenge for us.

Maxime Talbot
On the frustration of getting to 100 percent:
Like I said, if you are on the ice you want to do the things that help your team win. Injured or not you need to be the player you can be. Lately, I haven’t been. I’m going in the right direction. The main thing for me is getting better and better. I never have the best starts to the year so I am looking positively down the road so I can perform how I did and even better than I can do.
On the shoulder playing into that:

I don’t even want to talk about my shoulder. It might have been an issue but you don’t want to talk about it because when you are on the ice I need to do what I can to help the team. I need to be 100 percent. I don’t want to use that as an excuse. Let’s put that behind me.
On the Flyers power play:
They are third in the league so they are really dangerous. They have two units which work on different sides. They have two lefties on one unit and two righties on the other unit. As a penalty killer you need to be ready on both sides. You need to be ready every shift because they have a lot of fire power out there and they are a really dangerous group.
On there being a guy to key in on during their power plays:
I think (Danny) Briere is a dangerous guy but so are (Mike) Richard and (Jeff) Carter. They are guys who can really shoot the puck. They are not only pure goal scorers but they are playmakers too. I think every guy on their units are willing to shoot the puck and they are willing to make plays too. It’s dangerous as a penalty-killing unit. You look for the pass before the shot. They are a dangerous group.
On how their power play is different from other teams:
I think they have two really good units. Some teams are out there for a 1:10 and then their second unit won’t really be a factor. Against that group of guys they have a second wave coming and you have to be ready until that two minutes ends and you can attack. They have 10 guys who are talented.
On being due for a shorthanded goal:
I don’t know. You always tell me my stats but I don’t know how many games it has been without a shorthanded goal. Yeah, I don’t think I have one this year. I’m not sure. I’m due then.
On Daniel Carcillo or other Flyers trying to mix it up:
We are used to playing against that team. We know how these games are going to play themselves. I think this team here is going to initiate and they are going to retaliate so you have to turn your back and move on. We can play a hard, solid game. They can run around as much as they want but if you don’t pay attention to these guys at one point or another, you will fall into what they do. We have played enough games against them that we know them.
On Carcillo’s goal against Toronto on Wednesday:
It was a nice game. These guys agitate a lot but if you look at Carcillo’s goal last night, it was a pretty goal. You also look at a guy like (Sean) Avery last night – everybody thinks they just agitate but they are really good hockey players. In the NHL you can’t just agitate and not play. Everybody is here to play hockey. You need to keep and eye on these guys but, yes, that was a nice goal.

Assists Jason Seidling and Caitlin Kasunich.

12:30 PM:

Forwards Ruslan Fedotenko and Maxime Talbot were both at the morning skate Thursday after missing practice on Wednesday.

Sergei Gonchar (left) will be a game-time decision.


12:18 PM:
Penguins assistant coach Mike Yeo returned from Florida Wednesday and rejoined the team Thursday. Yeo was treated in Florida after feeling ill and stayed behind in a hospital to have some tests conducted while the rest of the team headed back to Pittsburgh.

"Mike Yeo is back with us," Bylsma acknowledged. "In Florida he had a stress test and everything was negative. He’s back and we’re easing him back in to his responsibilities. He was here this morning, working. He was happy to be seen and the guys were happy to see him back at his desk working on video."

Yeo did not go on the ice for the team's morning skate and will not be behind the bench for the Penguins Thursday night against the Flyers. He did do some video analysis as the team slowly works him back into his normal duties.
"When you have an individual like Mike and have an issue with health and you don’t know quite what it is, you evaluate what the situation is," Bylsma said. "We’re happy to have Mike back. We’ll evaluate and let him ease his way back into it. I think with the Olympic break we have to make adjustments as a staff, not only for our players but for our staff as well."

Bylsma was also asked by the Tribune-Review's Rob Rossi about the stresses and time demands that the coaching profession entail and balancing that with a personal life.

"This isn’t any different as things that you question after a win and a loss," he responded. "You have to evaluate what the situation is. I know my family members called me and talked to some other coaches, not just hockey coaches, about the lifestyle and the grind. Certainly you consider that. We try to keep that perspective as a staff. When it comes time to take time off or going to see a kid’s hockey game, we make sure we aren’t watching video nonstop. We could do that if we choose."

12:09 PM:
The question of whether or not defenseman Sergei Gonchar will return to the lineup will not be answered until the start of the game. Gonchar has missed the team's last three games but on Wednesday, the stalwart blueliner said he was hopeful to play Thursday night.

The only lineup decision that head coach Dan Bylsma would reveal was his starting goaltender.

"The lineup, besides our goaltender being Marc-Andre Fleury, will be a game-time (decision)," he said.

10:44 AM:
The Penguins held an optional morning skate at Mellon Arena on Thursday in preparation for their showdown with division rival Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m.

The players that took part in the optional skate were forwards Sidney Crosby, Ruslan Fedotenko, Mike Rupp, Craig Adams, Tyler Kennedy, Jordan Staal, Maxime Talbot, Luca Caputi and Eric Godard, defensemen Martin Skoula, Alex Goligoski, Brooks Orpik, Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang, Mark Eaton and Jay McKee and goaltenders Brent Johnson and Marc-Andre Fleury.

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