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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Toronto

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

4:53 PM:

Tyler Kennedy (left) sports a nice 70s moustache while PensTV's Steve Finerty (left) films practice behind Martin Skoula.

12:13 PM:
With the Leafs dropping a 3-2 game to Montreal last night in Toronto, the team had an optional morning skate in Pittsburgh. The only players that took the ice were Luke Schenn, Garnet Exelby, Jeff Finger and Vesa Toskala.


12:08 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room:

Dan Bylsma
On the power play
I think the past seven games or so our power play has been much better at doing the necessary things to have success. We've been doing a better job of evaluating ourselves and the power play after each game, with what we need to do. Last game, starting with our faceoffs - which i think are very important - breakouts and retrievals were excellent. That allows you to get set up in the offensive zone. We've been executing much better. We had 0 for the New Jersey game but we still did a lot of good things. We've been doing a lot of good things for about six or seven games. Hopefully you'll see situations like last game where, special teams-wise, we win a game because of our power play.
On if the Christmas break hurt the team's momentum
We talk about this more after a loss than a win but we evaluate what we did in the game. We gave up 25 scoring chances in a game. That's not something that we want to do very often. We gave up one in the game before that. We evaluate how we play. We certainly did some good things. Our power play was very good. But we need to play better defensively, defensive zone coverage and coming out of the defensive zone, we need to do better. So while we are happy with the score and some of the things we did, there are also things we need to do better. We need to do better in those areas. I don't mind the break. I don't mind forgetting some of the good things that we felt because there are parts of our game that we need to get better at. We had a short time to address them.
On why the Penguins have struggled in the defensive zone
I think we didn't reveal anything the way we played last year or this year to other teams. The key to playing in the defensive zone is to not be there. It's the truth. It's going back for pucks, breaking out and then coming out of D zone as quickly as possible. It minimizes your time there. We need to do a better job in both of those areas. While we're in D zone, we need to be quicker. Our first man needs to be quicker in the confrontation. The support guy needs to be in better position and we need to be quicker when we cycle the puck, we need to be quicker getting pressure on the puck and the guy going after the puck. Once there is a loose puck we need to come out of D zone a lot better. We're playing a team tonight that is going to try to get to the offensive zone. They do a very good job of throwing pucks at the net and crashing. They established that that is the kind of team they're going to be over the last 15 games or so. They've been able to put up 40-plus shots a game. They did it last night. We need to be ready to go back for pucks and get out of D zone as quickly as possible. In D zone we have to be quick to those loose pucks, quick in our defensive zone coverage and minimize the time they spend there and then get to our game, which is in the offensive zone.
On being harder to break cycles:
I think many teams have gone away from man-on-man because of the new rules. I don’t think it has been more difficult over the past four or five years. If you play on the inside they are going to have zone time then you have to make an effort, you have to be quick and you have to be physical in the confrontation to create those loose pucks so you can hem the cycle immediately.
On how Toronto has changed since the Oct. 10 game:
I think the thing I immediately notice when I watch their games or their highlights over the past 20 games is they are willing to throw pucks at the net and go there. Point-wise, in-zone wise and rush-wise they are creating a lot of havoc for teams by throwing the puck to the net. It is not that hard to defend a team that plays in front of you. When they start throwing pucks to the net and they make you turn and there are rebound situations where you have to battle at the net then those rebound situations are even harder to deal with. It creates havoc for the other team. They have been able to do that with their speed and their willingness to put pucks there and that has changed since the first week.
On personnel changed against Toronto:
I am going to have to do something different now because you have figured me out. We are going to go game-time on the lineup to see if we have any changes. Mark Eaton will not play tonight if that is a question mark. He is doing well and I think you will see him take a full practice the next time we get on the ice together. We will see how he responds. He is looking pretty good. With three (games) in four (days) it’s possible we will see two goalies.

Sidney Crosby
On the holiday break:
It was good to get home and enjoy some time with family. We’ve had a couple practices now. It’s good to get those under our belt. I got some home cooking and hopefully I’ve worked it all off here over the last couple practices.
On the power play:
We’ve been doing a lot of good things. We’re working hard. That’s the main thing. We’re really working to get the puck and control it. When we do get chances we’re executing. We’ve just got to keep doing the same thing. If our work ethic is there we should continue to generate chances.
On the Toronto Maple Leafs:
They come pretty hard. They forecheck hard. Lately they’ve been getting a lot of shots each and every game. That’s something that we have to be aware of and make sure we’re getting out of our zone well. We’re trying to make sure in their zone, take away as much of their forecheck as we can.
On the health of the Penguins:
It’s something that we haven’t seen a lot of. It’s always a good sign. It’s always a little bit better for everyone, as a far as adjusting and making sure what we need to do. Everyone is pretty comfortable with their role. It makes things a little bit easier. Hopefully we can keep it that way.
On changed-up line combinations:
We’ve only played one game here, but as long as everyone is playing well I don’t think it matters what the combinations are. We all know what we have to do on each respective line. It’s a matter of doing it. I though (Wednesday’s game against Ottawa) was pretty good. We played well. We’ve got to make sure that we do the same thing here (against Toronto).
On the possibility of being Canada’s Olympic captain:
I’m just thinking about being there. It’s not something that I’ve really thought about at all or really expected. It’s been fairly easy throughout the whole year to just worry about playing here (in Pittsburgh) and doing my best here. I’ll worry about (the Olympics) when the time comes. We’re a few days away here (from the roster announcement), so it will start to pick up. It’s something to be excited about. But at the same time it’s been pretty easy to just worry about things here.
On different Penguins playing for different Olympic teams:
It’s pretty cool to see that. You’re talking about representing your country. It’s a great honor. Guys are all proud of one another. We’re teammates. And you want to see your teammates do well. I think as things are announced things will get funny around with guys playing on different teams. It’s a pretty unique situation. I think everyone is happy for one another.

Marc-Andre Fleury
On seeing a lot of shots against Ottawa:
I think when there are that many shots it is always easier to focus on the game. It is just easier to stay in the game when you are under siege all game long.
On bouncing back from the New Jersey game:
It was fun to get a win right away and get that game out of my mind.
On the Toronto shooters:
They have been picking up their game. Our coaches told us that a lot of time they have been getting 40 or even 50 shots even. They are going to put pucks on the net and go for rebounds. They have guys who have very good hands. (Phil) Kessel has great hands and a great shot. It should be a good challenge.
On Kessel leading the way in shooting from anywhere:
He is a guy who can make very nice plays and can beat guys one-on-one. He shoots a lot and he has a good shot so he is going to get some goals and some rebound goals. We have to keep an eye on him.
On his game as we approach the halfway mark:
I think it has been going pretty well – knock on wood. We are up there in the standings and that is good.


11:23 AM:
Mark Eaton announced that he will not be in the lineup for the Penguins when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight. Eaton will miss his third straight game with an undisclosed injury, though he will continue to practice and feels a return is close.

Here is what Eaton had to say in the post-practice locker room session:

On how his injury responded to Saturday night:
It feels fine. The knee I don’t really consider it an issue right now. It is just getting the rust off from not skating for a week. I think yesterday and today have gone a long way in doing that. I look forward to getting a little more physical in practice tomorrow and testing it that way. It feels pretty good.
On playing against Toronto:
No, tonight is out of the equation.
On just working on getting back:
I have had this kind of injury before so I kind of know when you are ready to get back. After skating yesterday and today it feels pretty good.
On whether the holiday break lengthened his recovery time:
I don’t think so. We would have gone about it the same way. Christmas might even have helped matters with having two days off and just being able to rest, relax and let the body heal a little bit. Maybe it came at a good time.

11:10 AM:


10:59 AM:
Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton participated in the team's Sunday morning skate in preparation for its showdown with the Toronto Maple Leafs at Mellon Arena at 7 p.m.

Eaton has missed the past two contests with an undisclosed injury, which he suffered Dec. 19 at Buffalo. Though he skated, we will wait for official word from the team regarding his playing status. 

The Penguins made no changes to their forward combinations at their Sunday morning skate. The groupings remain the same from the previous game:


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