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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Toronto

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Game day final thoughts:

  • Defensemen Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek are out of the lineup, while Mike Comrie will be a game-time decision (11:18 AM).
  • The new line combos (10:37 AM).
  • Jordan Staal skated prior to the Pens morning skate (9:40 AM). He had talked to the media in the locker room (11:45 AM).
  • The greatest fu-manchu of all time (12:07 PM).
  • Bylsma talked about Staal, Comrie and the defense (12:18 PM).
  • D Andrew Hutchinson was recalled and chatted with PensTV (12:01 PM).
  • Gustavsson in net for Maple Leafs (12:15 PM).
  • Good ol’ Billy Guerin stopped by to see the Pens’ practice (11:15 AM).
  • We caught up with Leafs coach Ron Wilson and former Pen Colby Armstong (12:53 PM).
  • PensTV chatted with Crosby, Fleury and Engelland (11:58 AM).
  • A great cause by the Penguins in the community (5:14 PM).
  • Pens pics (10:55 AM).
Tune in to Jason Seidling's in-game blog at 7:30 p.m. tonight for all the up-to-date info, stats and injury updates. Let's do this.


5:14 PM:
The Penguins and NHL are teaming up for an awesome community service. The league-wide initiative takes food not sold in the concessions during games, and donates it to local food banks and homeless shelters. The Pens and NHL get a big thumbs up for that.

12:53 PM:
We stopped by the Toronto Maple Leafs locker room after their morning skate at CONSOL Energy Center and had a chance to chat with former Penguins forward Colby Armstrong and Leafs head coach Ron Wilson. Here is what each had to say:

Colby Armstrong

On CONSOL Energy Center:
It doesn’t even feel like we are in Pittsburgh right now. They did a great job. It looks huge out there on the ice surface, which is a little different than Mellon (Arena). Coming into the visiting locker, this is almost nicer than the old Penguins locker room at Mellon. It’s really comfy to come in here as a road player.

On answering questions about the Penguins leaving when he played in Pittsburgh:
It was weird sitting in the room sometimes fielding questions about where we were going to be until one day when they said we were staying for good. It was really up in the air for a long time.

On being part of the nucleus of a Penguins team that everyone could tell was rapidly improving:

It was very similar to this Toronto team last year. We finished the end of the season very strong with a young group of guys who all got called up together and the next year we made the playoffs. We had a young group that came up together in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. We just grew together as a team. It reminds me of our situation (in Toronto).

On missing out on the Penguins’ Stanley Cup victory:

I don’t know. It was a few years after I was traded, which was nice. I knew the hype that was building. The team was getting better year after year and the city was getting more and more excited. I knew it was going to be pretty special. It was a great group of young guys. 

On choosing Toronto:
It was my first time heading into free agency, so I didn’t know what to expect. Toronto came calling right away and started it off. I was obviously super excited about it. I thought it was a great opportunity for me and a great place to play. It was pretty easy to make that decision.

On building something special in Toronto:
We have a lot of great players in here. Phil Kessel is 23 (years old); Dion (Phaneuf) is 25. We have a lot of good, young talent. Our D-corps is very young and has big, strong guys. Hopefully we are building towards something in a positive way. I think everyone can see that.

On playing in Toronto versus Atlanta:
It’s completely different. It’s pretty exciting for sure. The fans are incredible in Toronto. The attention is crazy and the rink is packed every night. It’s a pretty great place to play. It’s something totally different than Atlanta.

Ron Wilson

On Jonas Gustavsson playing:
We planned two weeks ago how we would start – with Giggy (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) getting the first two games and ‘Monster’ starting here. You don’t want him sitting around too long to where he goes in rusty in the first five minutes of the game once he plays. He looked good in practice and is ready to play.

On Gustavsson being more consistent this year:
We won’t know until he plays. I am assuming he is going to play as well as he did in the last month last year. He played well during training camp and in the exhibition games, and he has looked good at practice.

On days off at the beginning of the season:

I think early in the season you like to be able to work on things. We are still trying to get down all the little details in our game. The way we played against Ottawa, you would like to continue playing the next night, but I don’t see this as being detrimental to what we are trying to do at the start.

On Colby Armstrong:
He wants to do anything to help the team win. He is positive in the room. He chirps a lot on the bench and he keeps things light at times when you need it. He has played hard in every situation we have put him in.

12:18 PM:

Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On the defense playing well:
I certainly will be dealing with Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek not being in tonight so that will change our dynamic. But we have some depth there. Last game, shorthanded, they played a strong game and they’ve played well in that aspect this year. You can look at the stat sheet and see that Sid and Geno haven’t been where you maybe expect them to be on a point-per-game basis, but look at the amount of posts and good chances that we’ve had. They both know and we know that if they keep working to get those opportunities and if they keep playing that way, they will find the back of the net.

On the penalty kill with Orpik and Michalek being out
Jordan Staal is out and he’s one of our best penalty-killing forwards, so we’ve had that issue with our forwards units, but Orpik and Michalek being out was certainly taken into consideration on how we decide our lineup for (Wednesday), the fact that our penalty kill needs to have some good solid players out there on the ice.

On Orpik’s and Michalek’s injuries:
We have a better diagnosis for Brooks, he’s got a groin strain. Michalek is being seen by a physician later this afternoon and we’ll know more about where he’s at tomorrow.

On if Michalek’s injury will be long term:
He’s not in there tonight and we’ll see what the doctor says when he’s evaluated.

On Jordan Staal being on the ice:
He’s on the ice right now getting comfortable. It’s not really a test for his foot. He’s just getting on the ice and getting into the skates in addition to his off-ice workouts. It’s nice for him to get out there and twirl around a bit. We’re not to a point yet where he’s decided he wants to get into gear and go out for a more serious workout.  But it’s a sign that he’s progressing and he’s able to get out there and get some work in. He hasn’t been able to do that for a while. But I need to reiterate that there’s no rushing Jordan back. This is a sign that he’s ahead of schedule. He’s healing, he’s getting better, and he’s working hard off the ice.

On how important it is for Staal emotionally just to get back out on the ice:

 If you’ve spent a little bit of time with him throughout this thing at all, there have been some ups and downs and setbacks. So it definitely gives him a lift in his mindset here to get back on the ice and feel like he’s on the road to recovery. There’s been a jump in his step now that he’s back on the ice.

On the defense:
It’s been a focus for our team going into this season, being better in the defensive end. We want to be a team that can win a tight game, and win a one-goal game, a 2-1 game or a 3-1 game. We’ve played well and we’ve had that focus. We clearly had that hiccup there against Montreal with goals 24 seconds apart late in the game, but we came back with a strong effort, not only from our defense but with our whole team.  That will be something that we continue to talk about and focus on knowing that when we get in those situations being in tight games.

On Toronto:
They’ve played well and they’ve been aggressive. They have some dangerous components to their team. Also, special teams have been a factor them last year and is again for them this year. When you’ve had two goals from Tim Brent in you’re first two games, it’s going to help you get a good result. They’ve got a pretty good all-around team with some dangerous players and some pretty good guys back there on defense. J.S. Giguere, I think, is poised to have a good season and he had a great Game 1. So I think we should be ready for a team that’s going to compete pretty hard and come at us.

On Comrie being in the lineup:
It’s a game-time decision.

On having Paul Martin on the top power-play unit:
He’s been on the top unit and he’s had two goals there. As we said early on in training camp, we can expect to see all those guys – Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Alex Goligoski – on the top unit at any given time. Tonight, it’s going to be Paul Martin and Alex Goligoski. Paul will be the guy working the middle of the ice coming across the blue line, so it’s a different look, but that’s what he’s been doing on the second unit. He’s obviously gifted with the puck and poised.

On if points early in the season are important:
I think there’s an urgency on the team right now, based on last year, this summer and going into camp. I don’t think there’s a real focus to break down the season and say ‘we have to get points right now because they’re going to be tough to get later.’ But I think there’s an urgency that should be there right now, getting to our game and coming back home for our third home game. We haven’t got a win here yet, so I think there’s going to be some urgency to get back to winning games here and making this a tough place to play.

Assist: Tony Jovenitti

12:15 PM:
It looks like the Leafs will be starting Jonas Gustavsson in net tonight.


12:07 PM:
The Maple Leafs are finishing their morning skate at CONSOL Energy Center. Here are some pics courtesy of T-Bone:

Former Pens Colby Armstrong (left) and Mike Zigomanis (right)

Jean-Sebastian Giguere has been stellar in the pipes for Toronto this season.

Phil Kessel (left); Tomas Kaberle (right)

But we must stand back in awe and admire the unbelievable fu-manchu below. Mike Brown gets an A+


12:01 PM:
Defenseman Andrew Hutchinson was recalled to Pittsburgh Tuesday and will make his Penguins debut against the Leafs. Hutchinson had a big opening game for WBS, posting two points (1G-1A) in a 3-2 win over two-time defending Calder Cup champion Hersehy.

Here is what the offensively gifted blueliner had to say after the morning skate...

On getting recalled early in the season:
I just want to come back and fit in like I did during training camp. I had a good training camp and learned the systems. That’s all they wanted from me. I just have to get the puck out of our end, make one pass and add some offense.

On coming back up so soon:
I think I have been gone for a week and a half. I basically went for a vacation to eastern Pennsylvania, played a game and now I am back because of the injuries. I just want to come up, show myself at the NHL level and have fun.

On playing the left side:
I played the left side during training camp, so I am comfortable with it. It hasn’t been too bad.

On his one game with WBS:
It was very positive. I created a lot of chances. It’s a really good team down there. They play the exact same system down there so it should all be about getting comfortable with a new partner as soon as possible.


11:58 AM:
Sounds heard around the locker room....

Sidney Crosby

On gripping the stick tight:

I think (it’s too early). We’ve had some good chances and have been creating a lot. That’s hockey.

On the team’s defense:
We’ve got a lot of guys who can move the puck and create things. I am not surprised to see that.

On the chemistry between his line:
I think we are used to playing with different guys. We are all three comfortable playing with one another. We’ve gotten used to that. I think it has been OK.

On looking for the first win:
We want to make sure we win. We played a good game last game. Even the two losses we had here we did a lot of good things. We want to get a win (at CONSOL Energy Center). We know that Toronto is playing well.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On the new arena:
The fans have been great following us even in the old rink. It would be great to get a win for them tonight.

On the defense
We have great personnel. We have a great bunch of guys. Throughout the preseason and the regular season they have been playing very well.

On his mindset:
I am just trying to make some saves and keep the team in the game.

On the Maple Leafs:
They are a little bit different, but we are going to have our meetings on them (after practice), so we will see what kind of systems they use.

Deryk Engelland

On getting the first win:
That first win in always the hardest one. Hopefully we can keep it going from here.

On his mindset changing with the injuries on D:
I just have to take advantage of the opportunity. Hopefully my minutes go up a little bit. I still have to play my game – simple and physical – and go from there.

On getting extra minutes following the injuries on Monday:
Going to five D, you don’t have much time to think about it. The more time you play, the more comfortable you get.

On the organization’s depth on defense:
No matter who is in the lineup we have a good mix of guys up here and at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. We both use the same system so I think anybody can step in and go from there.

Assist: Jason Seidling

11:45 AM:
Jordan Staal chatted with the media after the Penguins morning skate. Here is what he had to say...

On skating:
It was really nice. It feels good mentally and for the body to get out there, get on the skates and get moving again.

On his timetable:
I never really had a timetable. We never decided on a date. It’s very hard to tell right now. I’m just trying to get comfortable out there and get the feel back of skating.

On if he’ll keep skating:
I didn’t run into any problems. Hopefully, I can get on the ice everyday and getting back into the swing of things.

On the objective of the skates:

Getting in shape, I haven’t done a whole lot throughout the summer. My right leg is not as strong as my left. I’m trying to get my balance back and getting the right leg a lot stronger and quicker.

On being behind:
A lot of guys skated in the summer and a month before training camp. I can’t tell how I’m going to be out there. I’m feeling really good and happy to be out there. It was a long summer and I’m feeling good about where things are heading right now.

On if he’s skated prior to Wednesday:

I skated two days ago and again today. 

On the disappointment of the setback:
Again, it’s been a long summer, a lot of ups and downs. I had a lot of good people around me, family and friends to help me through that. It was very difficult, but I made it through.

On watching games:

It’s never easy watching your team play. You want to be out there and a part of the team, and try to help get some wins. Hopefully, they can do it tonight.


11:18 AM:
A few quick notes from Dan Bylsma's post-morning skate media conference:
- Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek will not play Wednesday night against the Leafs. Orpik has a groin strain and is day-to-day. Michalek will be evaluated by doctors later today.
- Mike Comrie, who didn't skate with a line at the morning skate, will be "a game-time decision."

11:15 AM:
The Pens had a special visitor to CONSOL Energy Centet for their Wednesday morning skate. Former Cup-winning 'guin Bill Guerin was in the new house to take in practice. Guerin was not here to rejoin the club. He only came to visit the new rink and say hi to some old friends.


10:55 AM:
Here are some photos from today's morning skate:





10:37 AM:

The Penguins had some new pairings at their Wednesday morning skate. Pascal Dupuis was elevated back to the top line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. Mike Comrie did not take part in any line shifts. I'm not sure if that is a sign or not.


The six defensemen rotated in sets of three.

10:29 AM:
Defensemen Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek were not on the ice for Pittsburgh's Wednesday morning skate.

9:40 AM:
There was some big news early Wednesday as Jordan Staal skated at CONSOL Energy Center. Staal has been out of the lineup while recovering from a procedure to cure a foot infection. For more details click here.

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