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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Tampa Bay

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Game day final thoughts…

  • Fleury gets the start in goal tonight (11:18 AM)
  • Tonight’s lines, looks like Conner in for Pittsburgh (10:38 AM)
  • Coach Bylsma talks Malkin, Conner and tonight’s theme (12:24 PM)
  • Crosby and Martin share their thoughts (12:22 PM)
  • Michalek and Talbot talk to PensTV (5:13 PM)
  • The Pens’ wives and girlfriends take part in a good cause (12:04 PM)
  • Only two Lightning players get on the ice (12:01 PM)
  • Pics (10:48 AM)
  • “Make up your mind, decide to walk with me….” (10:25 AM)

That’s all from Friday’s morning skate. Check back with me at 7 p.m. for the in-game blog. Should be a fun one tonight with Crosby and Stamkos going head-to-head.


5:13 PM:




12:24 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On getting Chris Conner in the mix
The speed that he brings—and again I commented to the media two days ago about how much I heard about this guy and how well he’s doing down there—he’s a guy who’s come and showed he can add speed to this team. Against a team (Friday) that doesn’t have a lot of physicality to it we’re going to look to (Conner) to bring that energy to our lineup.

On Malkin’s injury:
It’s not structural, so we’re not talking about those issues, which obviously would be a much different thing. He has some pain I think, but it’s not like we’re dealing with a stretched ligament or a meniscus. When he gets in there, there are points like last game when you saw him buckle, but it has nothing to do with the structural part of his knee.

On if moving Malkin back to center had anything to do with his combination with Cooke and Asham:
I think largely it had to do with Jordan Staal being out for the additional six weeks. But we’re seeing Geno now in a role we’ve seen him before. He’s playing some center, but he’s also playing the wing at certain points in the game. That’s the way it’s been for Geno for a good year and a half. But I do like that line. Matt Cooke’s a physical force. He’s good away with the puck, and he’s good at the net. And Arron Asham has played some good hockey since he came back from that injury. Also he has physicality for Geno to get some room.

On if Malkin plays better with linemates who get the puck behind the net:
Yes, I think even with Sidney Crosby, their best work is down low in the offensive zone. They certainly score off the rush, but they’re at their best in that area of the ice—working and playing hard down there. Lines that get it there for them help.

On striking a balance between protecting a lead and not being too passive
When the word aggressive is used, we all think offensively, but it works in both aspects of the game. There’s not a change or a shift in our game no matter the situation. We’re always trying to play defense and keep it out of our net. That’s always a focus for our team. We want to always have that in our game. We want to always play with the puck going north, that’s a good defensive game. And when you are playing defense, it’s important for all five guys to be quick to get back. Our mentality doesn’t change because we’re always conscious of playing defense. We always want to play good defensively, be good in our own end and then execute north as quickly as we can so we can play in the offensive zone as much as possible.

On if the players take the system too literally and don’t adapt to game circumstances:

We always talk about situational elements of the game—the first shift of the game is something we talk about, last minutes in the periods, and when you’re out at the end of a shift against another team’s top line. Those are all situational elements where consideration to your puck management and your caution should be given and always talked about.

On what the theme for Friday’s game will be:
Yesterday we talked about percentages and adjusting our game to those percentages. If you’re playing a 50-50 puck, that’s no way to play a game or to take a chance and take a risk on it. We were too much in favor of that in the Boston game, so yesterday we talked about percentages and making those plays. We talked about when to make the decision to pinch down and try to keep the puck in given the time of the game and given the situation of the game and factors of the game, like the players on the ice. Those are some of the things that we talked about today on the ice. We need to give ourselves permission to win. We did a lot of good things, and we’re a good team. We know how to play, but we need to give ourselves permission to win. In the Boston game we took it away from ourselves. So tonight, we’re going to be focusing on that.

On Tampa Bay:
The one thing that Tampa Bay does really well is that they’re very quick to attack. Once they create a turnover. They create turnovers in the neutral zone real well and they’re very aggressive in the defensive zone. They’re very quick to transition with speed north. On neutral zone faceoffs, they’re  very quick to attack, and once they get in the offensive zone they’ve done a very good job. They did a very good job against us in October and last night (against Washington) playing around the goal line and getting pucks in and around  the goalie—causing havoc that way. Those are areas we have to be ready for. They do it very well, it doesn’t matter who they have on the ice.


12:22 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Sidney Crosby

On Friday’s game:
We’ve got a game to win and we’ve played some good hockey the last few. We want to continue that and get rewarded for it.

On if it’s too early to call recent struggles a crisis
I think so. We’ve played some pretty good hockey the last few, and we haven’t got the results we wanted. But it’s a pretty competitive league and there are times when it’s tougher to win games. Hopefully, we’re right on the edge of getting through it. We want to make sure we keep playing the way we’re playing.

On how the team focuses on protecting leads
I think it comes with having (leads). The more leads the better, and the more experience you get with having them the more confidence you get. That comes with doing it. When you look at teams who win games and you look at teams who drop a few, the difference is usually handling those situations. There’s no doubt we can be better. If we are, we will have some wins.

On taking the system too literally:
Everyone needs to play the same way that we’ve been playing the last few, I don’t think guys need to change anything. Obviously there’s a system and guys know how to be aggressive within that. I don’t think there’s a concern there. We’ve made a few mistakes, so it’s more execution within the system, but that’s something that we can clean up pretty quickly here.

On how power play points can separate players in the scoring race
I don’t really think of it totals-wise. I think of it more as creating things in the game. They’re a guy down and you’ve got more time. You have to take advantage of that, get pucks through and make plays when you get a chance to make them. That’s an area to really take advantage of things. As far as totals go, you look back at the end of the year and I’m sure that’s a big part of it. But going in, I think you’re mindset is more to take advantage of those opportunities. You still have to have that same work ethic and you can’t forget that their penalty kill is working pretty hard to keep you off the sheet to.

On the team leading the league in fighting majors:
It’s early. You can go through the stats right now and they’re going to be totally different by the end of the season. Whatever it is, you can’t pay too much attention to it, but it doesn’t feel like there is anything out of the ordinary.

On Steven Samkos:
The fact that he scores so often from the same spot, that lets a lot of teams know that it’s the spot he likes to shoot from and a dangerous area for him to be in. They are just finding ways and creating things, so that’s pretty impressive.

Paul Martin 

On stopping Steven Stamkos:
He’s a talented player. He does really well when he has time and space. He’s got a lot of great players to play with that give him the puck, and he’s able to create on his own. He’s going to get his opportunities, but you try to limit them, take away his time and space, keep him to the outside as much as possible. It’s a group effort. You can’t have just one guy on him. Everyone needs to be aware of where he is on the ice. You just need to be in a position to help out.

On Stamkos being as dangerous as Alex Ovechkin on the PP:
He’s got a really good shot. He’s good at finding seams and getting open. It’s tough to sit on him when he’s got other guys that create plays for themselves. It’s tough to not give up anything. You just try to do your best, and hopefully get in the way a little bit.

On Lecavalier missing the game:
That’s the tough part of the game. For us it’s good that one of their key guys is out. But that’s not going to effect the way we play. We need to do the things that are making us successful


12:04 PM:
The Pens' wives and girlfriends contributed to a great cause, "Operation Christmas Child." The women bought items that will be shipped to less fortunate children overseas. For more details read Tony Jovenitti's story.


12:01 PM:
Defenseman Matt Smaby and goaltender Mike Smith are the only Tampa Bay Lightning players on the ice. The Lightning dropped a 6-3 decision in Washington Thursday night to the Capitals. The Lightning also lost captain Vinny Lecavalier to a broken hand in the game.

Smith (left); Smaby (right)

11:18 AM:
Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start in goal tonight. The media chatted with the 'Flower' after the morning skate.

On getting the start tonight:
I’m just really excited. I’m looking forward to getting back in there and play and try to get a win.

On what he needs to do tonight to get a win:
I try not to think too much, just be myself. I just want to go in there and stop the puck.

On what he sees in video from his past performances this season
I watch every game. I think the overall game there isn’t that much difference from how I played last year and a few years ago. It’s just little things here and there that cost a goal. I have to stay consistent in my game.

On needing confidence to be a goaltender:
I think no matter what sport you play, a big part of it is in your head. You can’t just wait for things to be good to be feeling good. I try to do well in practice and get some confidence there and try to get ready for the next game.


10:48 AM:


10:38 AM:
Looks like Conner may get in the lineup tonight. Here are the lines from the Pens morning skate:

The "fifth line" featured Comrie and Godard skating with various partners.

10:25 AM:
Time for a little morning pick me up. Today's installment is from the Toadies "Possum Kingdom."

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