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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Toronto

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

1:16 PM:
More Pens pics...

Pens ambassador to France - Pascal Dupuis (left); Look at Geno waving to the camera on the far right. So presh (right)

Pens ambassador to Costa Rica - Matt Cooke (left); Steve Sullivan is stuck between Dairy Queen and ketchup - deadly combo (right)

1:11 PM:
If there's is one thing Steve Mears knows, it's how to speak into a camera lens. He also knows hockey. Here he imparts some knowledge on tonight's game against the Mighty Leaf.

1:08 PM:
Leafs pics...Is that Wendel Clark stretching?

1:02 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room…

Marc-Andre Fleury

On getting a rest during the All-Star break:
It felt good. It was nice to be able to relax, get some sleep, and be energized for tonight.

On playing the Leafs:
They’re a good team. They’ve been having a good season. We have to play a solid game from start to finish to make sure we have a chance at winning it.

On penalty kill team:
They’re doing a great job. There are guys diving in front of pucks, blocking a lot of pucks, taking rebounds away, forcing teams to make mistakes, and getting the puck in their zone.  All around they have been doing a great job.

On a comfortable number of games played in terms of being rested for the playoffs:
I don’t really set a number on it. I just go one at a time and we’ll see when we are there. 

On giving up the net:
I know Brent (Johnson) will play. I love to play. I love to be in there and play the game. “Johnny” goes in, I cheer him on, watch him play. I can learn some stuff.

Zbynek Michalek

On your expectations of the Leafs as they fight for a playoff spot:
Hard working team, fast team. They play with a lot of pace. They are battling for a playoff spot and we are. We don’t have anything set yet. They are only five points behind us. It’s a big game tonight. We had a nice long break here, but it’s back to business tonight. We have to be good to win. 

On playing them on consecutive days:
It’s kind of like the playoffs. To play against a team like that who’s trying to catch us in the standings, it’s a huge two games. We have to make sure we come out strong and play our game and hopefully we can do some separation between us the next two games.

On the team morale:
I think we’ve been through some tough times with a losing streak. We stuck together and now it feels good, we are playing well and throwing everybody around. It feels great we are doing it with the guys in the dressing room. It’s fun right now and we want to keep it going. It’s all about winning. We are having a good time right now and we want to make sure we play good and continue winning.

On after five day break knowing both teams have to give it their all:
There are no easy games no matter what. We have to make sure we are ready to play and they are going to play hard. We have to make sure we play our game.  Worry about our game first. Do the same thing we did last time in games. I’m sure if we do that, we’re going to be fine.

Working overtime: Brittany Goncar

12:54 PM:

During Dan Bylsma's media conference, a member of the media's phone went off in the middle of the coach's answer to a question. Coach laughed it off and said...

12:45 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On the Maple Leafs:
Playing the Maple Leafs, clearly you can look at the standings and see where they’re at and where we’re at. They’re five points behind us in the ninth spot. They have a game in hand and we have two games coming up here against them, so it’s two big games coming out of the break for us. We’re looking at a team with a top line that has a lot of firepower, Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel in particular. There’s lots of goals, lots of playmaking and lots of speed there. So we’ll see that tonight. In addition to that, they’re leading the team on the power play, which is going to be a factor in the game. They’re just about 20 percent on their power play. Kessel has six power-play goals and Lupul has five. (Dion) Phaneuf has five. Phaneuf is certainly a factor on that as well, but I think their second-line center might be just as dangerous as the top line with (Mikhail) Grabovski and the year he’s having with 16 goals. We’re certainly anticipating a lot of speed and skill from that team tonight and are looking to make sure we’re aware of the players and how to play against them.
On Fleury’s workload:
Before the season starts, we have a rough 60-20 ratio. Obviously there’s two games left there, but before every month we try to plan out the games that Marc will play and the games that Brent (Johnson) will possibly play. I would say there have been maybe two occasions this year where we haven’t gone on that plan, maybe one earlier in the year and one later. We play a lot of games in February, we play a lot of games in March and several back-to-back situations, where we are counting on both goaltenders getting some work here. We’re still on that plan right now. Marc did play a lot. Part of it was the schedule, part of it was knowing we’re going into the break and having 5-6 days of rest here coming up. Coming out of the break, we have some back-to-backs right away and all this month. We’ll stick pretty close to that game plan.
On the seven-game winning streak:
The one clear difference in our team has been the attitude of which we’ve played. How we’ve come out in games, statements we’ve made. Then our attitude and response throughout the whole game has been something that has been different from this seven games than the previous six. I think we played well in some of the games that we lost. I think we had dominating periods of hockey against good teams. But right now, and starting maybe even with the game we lost in Washington and the attitude of which we’ve been out on the ice, the statement we’ve been making with our play has been the biggest difference. That’s something that, with a six-day break, we’re certainly looking to get back right away. You have a break and have some rest, which are all good things, but that attitude and the statement with our play is really the most important thing of getting back to here after the break.

On the coincidence of a seven-game winning-streak coinciding with Sidney Crosby’s joining the team on the road:
It’s not a coincidence. A couple things changed, our focus and our attitude changed a little bit. Sidney coming there, wanting to be with the group, sometimes as a player you don’t want to be an interruption or distraction when things are going well. When things weren’t going well Sid wanted to be there. Sid knew he was going to be in the stands, but he wanted to be there with the guys and with the team.  I think that was part of the difference. Certainly we played that game in Washington with a different attitude, but our team went out with a different attitude and I know Sid’s part of our team and certainly was there for the change of that attitude. 

On what your third line has to offer:
I don’t even want to joke about their age. They have probably been our most consistent scorers and contributors outside of (Evgeni) Malkin’s line, which has been a big part. I also think that line is an interesting line because it’s got some grit on it. Matt Cooke is playing more physically involved and is a factor in the last 7-8 games. The way he’s played I think Richard (Park)’s one of the smartest, consistent guys we have through the middle of the ice. “Sully” has got some speed and some skill component to that line. I also think their line has been really good on the forecheck. Part of it’s physical. Part of it’s speed. Part of it’s playing smart hockey. They scored a goal in Tampa bay off a forecheck. They had seven scoring chances for our team at Tampa Bay and three of them were on the forecheck. “Cookie’s” a little bit differently on the forecheck than Sully is, but he’s gotten there with speed. They’ve been factors. They’re doing it against other teams, some good players as well. They’ve added that balance to our team with their different aspects. Some of it’s been their age and intelligence as well. 

On any changes in Evgeni Malkin during winning-streak:
I think he’s a guy who is certainly leading with the way he is playing.  There is no question about it on the ice. He’s been dominant. Seems to have an energy resource that I don’t know where he sometimes gets it with the number of minutes he’s playing. He’s coming up big at key times for us. In third periods he’s responded for us with his lines play. With James Neal and (Chris) Kunitz as well. I also think there’s been an aspect of “Geno” where the leadership on the bench, in practice, in the dressing room has been a real big factor. There are moments in Florida and throughout other games where he’s really stepped up. It certainly happened on the ice, but even more so as a leadership guy in our dressing room and on our bench, has really been a factor for our team. That’s where he’s been his best and done his leading. Certainly when you go up and get a natural hat trick in Tampa Bay you can say that leads in of itself. I think the response from him and the way he went out, one of them was a forechecking goal and one of them was a stripped (puck). He got a turnover and scored a goal. It wasn’t a dangle and dance. It was a forecheck goal. They chipped the puck in on a forecheck and won a battle, we scored a goal. The game-winning goal there. The goal that tied us up in Washington too, it’s a second effort. It’s a battle and winning the puck in the corner and making a play. He’s really had a leadership aspect to his game. I think he’s at a different level.

Running for the thrill of it: Michelle Crechiolo & Brittany Goncar

12:30 PM:
Coach Bylsma said that Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net tonight for the Pens and the rest of the lineup will be decided at game time.

Bylsma added that Arron Asham, who did not skate, "is still suffering from concussion symptoms." And that the injured players will not be traveling with the team to Toronto tonight for Wednesday's game.

(Getty Images)

12:23 PM:
Pens coach Bylsma said there will be an update later on Sidney Crosby today. Of course, we'll bring you all the details once they're available.

(Getty Images)

10:45 AM:
Pens pics...

Kennedy changes his shirt/allegiance N.W.O. style

Fleury with the high leg stretch (left); Mustache Boy(s)? (right)

Niskanen avoids danger by keeping his skates tied (left); Kunitz pays respect to the holy glove on the ice (right)

10:33 AM:
No Asham at the morning skate. McDonald also not here, though he played in the AHL All-Star Game last night so he might not have arrived in Pittsburgh yet. We'll have to get confirmation from coach on that. Below are the Pens lines:



10:10 AM:
Pens captain Sidney Crosby joined injured teammates Jordan Staal and Simon Despres for a pre-practice skate on Monday (full details here). Tuesday morning the trio was working again before the team's morning skate with strength coach Mike Kadar.

Kadar with Crosby, Despres & Staal (left); Staal & Sid (right)

Sidney (left); Crosby (right)

10:00 AM:
It's Tuesday, so the time has come to take a walk down memory lane with Bob Grove. This week Grover looks at Joey Mullen's 8 goals in back-to-back games from 1991.

9:50 AM:
The Leafs are in town, and here is what to watch for in tonight's contest. Below is a scouting report on Toronto. (One interesting note for tonight, the Pens will wear their white "road" jerseys and the Leafs will wear their blue "home" jerseys).

9:40 AM:
The Pens made an early roster move by recalling forward Colin McDonald from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

McDonald, 27, appeared in two games with Pittsburgh earlier this season, going scoreless with a plus-1 rating while averaging 8:38 minutes.

McDonald leads WBS in assists (26), points (38) and rating (+13) while appearing in 41 AHL games. His 26 assists have already established a career high, eclipsing his previous high of 16 set last year while playing for Oklahoma City.


9:30 AM:
Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center! Tonight the Pens will battle the Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. (please note: a change from the original time of 7:30 p.m.). The two teams will meet in a rare home-and-home, back-to-back series as Pittsburgh will play at Toronto tomorrow night.


The Pens got back to work Monday following the All-Star break. During the time off a lot of guys, got away from hockey for some much deserved rest and relaxation (as Brittany Goncar discovered). The majority of guys seemed to migrate south for some sun.

So, we'll open the day with Empire of the Sun's "Walkin on a Dream." Enjoy.

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