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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. San Jose

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Pens’ lines (10:35 AM).   
  • Mark Letestu could possibly play this weekend (1:46 PM).
  • Martin, Kunitz, Asham and Comrie work before practice (10:46 AM).
  • Coverage of the new guys' arrival (1:17 PM).
  • Neal and Niskanen spit knowledge (12:30 PM).
  • Photos from Neal and Niskanen’s first 2 days with Pens (5:04 PM).
  • Ray Shero appears on NHL Live! (4:56 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on the new guys, Michalek and Sterling (12:38 PM).
  • PensTV talks to Flery and Letestu (1:24 PM).
  • Bring your Huggies to the game (4:58 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:09 AM).
  • Random pics (12:36 PM).
  • Sharks pics (12:42 PM).
  • “My dear there is no danger. Can’t you see they turn blind eyes to we swift and spotlight strangers?…” (10:15 AM).

5:04 PM:
Check out photos from Neal and Niskanen's first few days with the Pens (both from Tuesday's work outs and Wednesday's morning skate).

4:58 PM:
Don't forget to bring your diapers to the Pens-Sharks game. No, I'm serious (read here).

4:56 PM:
Ray Shero was a guest on NHL Live! this afternoon.

1:46 PM:
Mark Letestu told PensTV on his knee: "It's day-to-day. We'll see how it reacts after intense skating. (Playing) this weekend is definitely not out of the question."

1:24 PM:
PensTV chats with Fleury and Letestu...



1:17 PM:
Here is all of our coverage of the two new Pens (Neal and Niskanen).

12:42 PM:
Emulsions of San Jose's morning skate (which was optional)...

12:38 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bysma…

On his first impression of Neal and Niskanen:
Asking how they picked things up, that makes me laugh, because there is so much going on – between getting physicals, getting their headshots, to listening to their new coach. I joked with James Neal, he’s from Ontario so I only expect him to pick up 50 percent. We’re asking them to go out and play their foundation and their game, and not worry about making a mistake in where they’re at. Certainly, we gave them an idea, but they’re just going to go out there show what they can bring to the table, show their foundation of their game and what kind of players they are. They’ll assimilate themselves in to each part of the game. It won’t be seamless, but it wouldn’t be for you and I either.

On Neal’s locker stall being next to Sidney Crosby’s:
You read way too much into that. If you’ve been in our locker room enough, you know that the spot next to Sidney is open. It was not open waiting for James Neal. It’s occupied right now because we don’t have any more stalls in the dressing room. But that will change when we have some vacancies. He’ll move over to a different spot. That’s all. You shouldn’t read too much into it, and you shouldn’t read anything into it when he moves from that spot later on.

On the adjustments for Neal and Niskanen, and if they’ll benefit from his system
I hope (Neal) benefits a lot. The words that were used from people that we talked to about his game and what we can expect, he’s more than a handful to handle when he’s in the offensive zone. He plays a physical offensive zone game. And he’d like to play there, and we want him to play there and encourage him to be that guy when he plays with that physical offensive zone presence. He’s a handful, and his shot’s overpowering. I was on the ice with him (Wednesday) afternoon, and that’s the first impression that I got. And I think Flower got that impression of him in the morning skate. So, he can skate and move, but he’s got to work on bringing that physical, offensive zone presence to his game on a consistent basis. That’s where he needs to work as a player – shooting the puck and being a factor in that regard, whether it’s in the offensive zone or on the rush on the power play. He’s got to be a factor that way. The challenge will be bringing that consistency to his game. He’s got to work on it and grow as a player. In terms of Matty Niskanen, we’re going to have Brooks Orpik talk to him with another player right after our meeting this afternoon. I’ll paraphrase what Brooks said. 'When I first heard what you said, I thought you were crazy. I thought you were nuts about how we go back for pucks and come out of the D-zone. Now, I know that helps us out in the way we play and limit our time there.' So I think initially, there is a hesitation or a questioning of what we ask. So we’re going to have Brooksie and a few other guys talk to him and say, “I know what you’re thinking and I know what you’re feeling, but this is how we do it, and these are the details that can help us play our game.” It’s not an easy assimilation. It’s not going to be a snap your fingers thing or anything. Hopefully, he sees and hears what we’re saying, and with the help of his teammates he’ll understand.

On Zbynek Michalek’s offensive role:
The answer to your question is two parts. We didn’t hold Zbynek back before Monday’s game. And we didn’t unleash him. Yes, we’d like to see him use that shot just like that when he gets on the power play. And we’d like to see him use that shot and create a little more offense for our guys. And yes, he’s going to get a few more minutes in those situations – a little more power-play time, and in those situations with the personnel we have right now. But we weren’t holding him back before.

On if he’d rather have more practice time or more game time with new players:
I would prefer the practice time to going right into the games. It’ a little bit of a crash course and we have to be careful not to ask too much of them and jam it down their throats and have them worry about different things instead of playing their game and what they bring. It’s a challenge. We’re not jamming everything down their throats. We don’t do that to our team right away, and we’re not doing that right away to them. But we try to give them enough information to be able to work with their linemates and with your partners to be able to play the way we want to play. But also they have to bring their foundation. They’re going get a chance to do an awful lot of that the next few days. We’ll try to supplement a little bit of video in reinforcing how when they’re in situations that they do the right thing, or things they need to improve on. They’ll get that chance. Hopefully, they’re going to go out and play with a free mind and bring their games tonight.

On facing a hot goalie and the offense of San Jose:
Are you telling me that Niemi is starting tonight? I’d appreciate it. We heard a little differently last night from the broadcasters. But, they’re a good team with a hot goalie right now. They’re playing well defensively. From what I’ve seen – not from what I remember from playing them the last couple years – you see a real focus from their team playing real solid defensively. They don’t give up a lot of ice or space. So that’s something we expect. We expect a real solid game from these guys. And they have (Joe) Thornton, (Patrick) Marleau and (Devin) Setoguchi firing the puck last night. They still have some weapons on the power play and five-on-five that can be dangerous. So we’re expecting to play a very good San Jose team – one that’s not going to give us a lot, the goaltender is playing well. We’re going to have to win positionally in this game, where the puck and where the game is played at. We’re just going to try to have success against their weapons.

On if Brett Sterling will step up on the power play with Goligoski gone:
For at least half the season, Paul Martin carried the puck up the ice, and Paul’s still going to be doing that when he gets back in the lineup. As for tonight, with the roster we have right now, Kris (Letang) is the best guy to carry the puck up the ice, and will do so. We have it in our mind right now to use Sterling on the point for the power play. It’s certainly not a position he’s completely comfortable with. It’s something he did for the first time last game. He got more comfortable as the game went on, and hopefully he’ll be more comfortable tonight in that position. We’ll also have four tonight, with Niskanen as well out there on the point. I would say it’s going to be two units – with (Letang) and (Sterling) as one defensive pairing and (Niskanen) and (Michalek) on the other. Hopefully, we see (Niskanen) or (Michalek) slide up to the top depending on the situation. But hopefully, Brett Sterling, with one game under his belt like this carrying the puck up the ice, he’ll be a little more comfortable back there on the power play.

Calm under pressure: Tony Jovenitti

12:36 PM:
Random pics...

Dallas Stars equipment bag with a Pittsburgh airport ticket

Name plates

12:30 PM:
New sounds heard around the locker room...

James Neal

On joining the Penguins:
It’s exciting. I’ve never been traded before. Meeting the guys and seeing the (locker) room has been great. I’m looking forward to tonight.

On if it’s a tough transition with a new team:
I’m not sure. The first morning skate everyone is pretty loose, there’s a great vibe in the room and I’m feeling pretty good. I’m excited to get going and really happy to be here.

On if he was surprised:
It’s a shock when you get traded. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s an exciting time right now and there’s no better team to come to.

On joining a team long-term:
When you feel welcome, it’s flattering to come into that environment. To see the facility and atmosphere here, it’s great. It was a shock to get traded, but I’m excited to come to this team. I’m really looking forward to it.

On scoring goals:
I’m going to come in and do the same things that I’ve done throughout my career. I want to put the puck in the net, but there’s no added pressure to do that. Talking to the coaches, they just want me to come in and play my game. Hopefully, if I’m doing that I’ll find a way to put the puck in the net.

On knowing the Sharks better than the Penguins:
That’s right. I gave the tips up on the Sharks because we’ve seen them a lot. It’s an exciting time right now and we’re looking forward to get going.

On getting to Pittsburgh:
Travel was tough. The airport shut down here so we flew into Newark and got an early flight out yesterday. It was a couple long days, but it’s good to be here and I’m really happy.

On when they arrived finally arrived in Pittsburgh:
We came right to rink, did the physicals and got that out of the way. We watched some video and had a late skate.

On playing with Staal:
It’s exciting. He’s a great player. I’m just looking forward to it. It’s a real exciting time for me.

On joining a team with Crosby and Malkin:
I don’t think you can come into a better situation than I’m coming into here. Being a younger guy I just want to come in and do the things that help everybody out and compliment my linemates – whether its Staal and TK or Dupuis. Just do the little things and help the team.

On what he knew about the Penguins before:
You see so much of them. If there’s a team you’re going to watch, you’re going to watch the Penguins. There is no better team I could have come to. It’s a real exciting time.

Matt Niskanen

On what he thinks of being a Penguin so far:
It’s been good. Just meeting all the guys and the staff and getting kind of acquainted here, I’m trying to learn on the fly as fast as I can go. Everyone’s been very helpful, very good to me and are making me feel welcome.

On how tough it is learning on the fly:
For the most part, hockey’s the same no matter where you go. But there’s certain details in the way they want to play the game here that I’m just trying to pick up as fast as I can and buy into that system and hopefully be good right from the start.

On if he was surprised that he got traded to the Penguins:
Yeah. I guess I somewhat suspected something might happen, I think every player thinks that somewhat. But you’re still surprised when you get traded, I guess. It was quite a day two days ago – a little bit of trouble getting in here, but we’re here finally and happy to be here. We’re really excited.

On what it was like for them on the plane when they heard they were getting diverted to Newark:
I think we were flying around, waiting and hoping they’d open up the airport, but they said we had to divert to Newark. So we spent the night there. ... They still delayed the plane another hour, so we didn’t get to make it to practice. But we’re happy to be here now, and here we go.

On what him and Neal discussed during their travels:
We talked a lot about the players here. There’s just a lot of questions. We were wondering what it was going to be like and trying to figure out what to expect. We were talking about what we were going to do for places, restaurants to eat – there were a million things going through our heads. We were pretty excited to get in here and try to get settled in.

On if the guys have brought up his fight with Crosby:
Nobody here, no. A lot of friends back home asked me about it, but no one’s mentioned it here. That’s the good thing about hockey players, nobody holds grudges or anything. That’s not what that was about. So I met him here this morning, he seems like a very good guy, so I’m excited.

On if Crosby referenced the past:
No, he didn’t. Not at all. That’s a good thing, obviously. I didn’t expect there to be any bad blood. There’s no reason to. So I’m happy to be his teammate now, that’s for sure.

On how he would describe himself as a player when he’s at his very best:
Skating, getting involved in the attack up the ice and moving the puck quick. I think one of my best assets is my skating legs and being a mobile defenseman, so I’ve got to use that to my advantage and be involved all over the ice and get up the ice and be involved in the attack as much as possible.

On how he would rate his offensive capabilities:
The potential’s there. A couple years ago I thought I had a real good offensive season. I did a lot of good work on the power play in Dallas. The last two years I’ve kind of slipped, so that’s where I’m working to get my game back to.

On working the left side:
Yeah, I did a lot my first year, then at times over the last two years. I was fortunate enough my first year to play with Sergei Zubov and I was on the left side and learned a lot from him. It’s something that I’m comfortable with and I actually prefer it in a lot of areas in the game. There’s a lot of advantages to being on your off side.

On if he’s comfortable carrying the puck up or letting someone else do that:
Both. Obviously your first option is to headman the puck. There’s a lot of good forwards on this team, so I want to get the puck in their hands as quick as I can and have them skating up the ice. But sometimes, if you have open ice, you’ve got to get your feet moving up the ice and kind of start the play yourself if there’s not an available play right away. You’ve got to take your ice. So both of those things.

On how much PP and PK time he’s seen:
My first two years I did everything. PK, I played mostly on the second unit on the PP, sometimes on the first depending on the injuries we had. The last couple of years I haven’t penalty killed much. We just had defensemen there that did that mostly. I did some work on the second PP unit the last couple of years.

On working with Todd Reirden one-on-one Tuesday and his impressions from Wednesday’s skate:
It was good. He’s been very helpful so far I think, just kind of getting me up to speed on what they’re trying to do here. He seems like an awesome guy to learn from. So I’m really looking forward to working with him. Morning skate was good, I got to actually do a few of the things they’re talking about in the video and in the meetings, so it was helpful this morning to get out, get a good sweat and kind of get used to the guys too.

Assist: Michelle Crechiolo

11:09 AM:
Pens practice pics...

Coach Bylsma introduces the new guys to the team and the players respond with some stick tap love



10:46 AM:
Before the Pens' morning skate, Paul Martin, Chris Kunitz, Arron Asham and Mike Comrie did some on-ice work.

Martin (left); Kunitz (right)



10:35 AM:
Pens' lines at the morning skate:


10:15 AM:
Another California team invades CONSOL Energy Center as the Pens will host the San Jose Sharks tonight at 7:30 p.m. on FSN (locally) and Versus (nationally).

With another California team in the house, let's start the day with Cali group A.F.I. This group was my FAVORITE band in high school - at the height of my skateboarding days. When they broke on the scene with "Answer That and Stay Fashionable," they were a typical skate-punk group: fast paced; power chords; screaching (screaming) vocals.

A.F.I.'s sound has evolved over the years - and for the better. They've matured musically, lyrically and vocally. Their late 90s release of "Black Sails in the Sunset" was less punk rock and more polished and heavy sounding. Davey Hovok's vocals became less screaming and more singing and his cryptic and metaphorical lyrics perfectly fit the new sound.

The band has been around since the early 90s, but ironically won MTV's Best New Artist in 2002 (or maybe 2003, can't remember) with the release of "Girls Not Grey." I'm not sure how a band that's been around for a decade can be considered a "new artist," but whatever. Any recognition is better than none, especially if it is long overdue.

Like I said earlier, A.F.I. (which stands for different things if you ask different band members, but my personal preference is A Fire Inside) has always been a favorite of mine so I could go on for days about how awesome they are and how many great songs they have. But I'll spare you and simply suggest (strongly) you check them out.

We'll start the day with a song off their latest record "Crash." The song is called "Beautiful Thieves." I'm not quite sure the theme of the video. The band arrives at a high class party and then spikes the punch. Havok is kidnapped for no apparent reason. The entire band looks absolutely bored to death throughout the video - even bassist Hunter, who is seduced by a beautiful brunette. The video ends with them leaving as everyone is passed out - though I don't think they steal anything which is ironic with the song being title Beautiful Thieves.

Anyways, enjoy.

BONUS!!! Again I'd love to play 50 songs by A.F.I., but I'll add just one here for the audience. This song is called "This Time Imperfect." It is a hidden track that appears on the album "Sing the Sorrow." Havok's vocals really shine as the intensity of the song builds to a violent crescendo. The song is plain sick.

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