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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Toronto

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Lineup updates from coach Bylsma (1:56 PM).
  • All the coverage of 'Le Magnifique' (5:13 PM).
  • Martin, Engelland, Letang and Jeffrey absent from practice (10:33 AM).
  • Pens' lines at morning skate (10:34 AM).
  • Crosby has been cleared for contact (10:25 AM).
  • Crosby spoke about how he's feeling (3:22 PM).
  • Bylsma on Crosby, Fleury and matching lines with Carlyle (2:36 PM).
  • Mearsy with the Verizon Game Day Report (4:14 PM).
  • Pens pics from morning skate (3:24 PM).
  • Pre-unveiling pics of the area around the statue (10:15 AM).
  • Hockey legend and icon Mario Lemieux will be immortalized in bronze today (10:00 AM).

5:13 PM:
Our staff is wrapping up our coverage of 'Le Magnifique,' a spectacular statue honoring the career and achievements of Mario Lemieux that was unveiled in a gorgeous ceremony earlier this afternoon. Here's what is already posted on (stories, photos and videos galore):

4:14 PM:
Steve Mears found the time during this busy afternoon to bring you the Verizon Game Day Report. Take it away Mearsy...

3:24 PM:
A little delayed, but here is the evidence that the Pens skated this morning at CONSOL Energy Center...

Kennedy with Brad Thiessen, who will start in goal tonight (left); Fleury with countryman Dupuis (right)

Smiles abound at the morning skate (left); Crosby was cleared for contact Tuesday (right)

Staal was back at practice after a maintenance day Tuesday (left); tonight will mark Strait's second game in a row with the Pens (right)

Fleury was all over the ice this morning

Dupuis goes to hang out with a teammate (left); Staal, Malkin and Kunitz (right)

3:22 PM:
We caught up with Sid after today's morning skate. Here's some of what the captain had to say...

Sidney Crosby

On if he’s excited now that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for returning to game action:
I think that excitement is always there. I think if anything, you try not to let yourself think about that too much. You never know how long the process is going to be so you don’t want to get too far ahead. But I think that thought and that excitement is always there when you’re hurt, no matter what it is.

On how impressed he is at what the team has accomplished without him:
I’m impressed, not surprised. I think we have a lot of character here. A lot of guys that have won and understand the adversity that teams go through during the season. We’ve missed a lot of guys at a lot of different points this season. Unfortunately, that’s been something we’ve had to deal with over the last few seasons. I think there’s experience with that. we’ve handled it great and continue to do that.

On if everything is feeling good after being cleared for contact Tuesday:
Yeah, it was good. Today with a morning skate, there wasn’t much going on there. But the days in between games, I’ll try to make the most of those and get some contact. Try to push myself there and see how I feel. (Tuesday) went really well.

PensTV actually spoke with Marc-Andre Fleury as well, who will back up Brad Thiessen in tonight's contest.

2:36 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On how he’ll fit Crosby back into the lineup when he returns:
It’s a great problem to ponder and to think about, where you fit in what line he would play on. Certainly (Chris) Kunitz, (Evgeni) Malkin and (James) Neal have played spectacular and has been possibly the best line in hockey for two-and-a-half months. The thought of putting Sidney Crosby in the mix there – having the best player in the world in that mix as well – is certainly a good thing to ponder. Sid has been working hard. There was always talk around the trade deadline that the Pittsburgh Penguins could get the best trade deadline acquisition in Sidney Crosby. Obviously, we’ve all thought about that (possibility happening at some point in time). We have won some hockey games, but we all know that being able to add him into our lineup would be the best acquisition anyone could make. The possibility for that would be certainly welcomed sooner than later.

On if he’s thought of who will be Crosby’s linemates when he returns:
I think it’s natural to have thought long before yesterday about where Sidney would play and what line he would play on. There’s certainly a lot of thought been given to that. Had (casual) conversations with Sidney about that as well. When we have a time where he’s going to be getting back to that, we’ll have a better idea. We’ll let you see what that might be when he does possibly get back. 

On if he sees a noticeable improvement in areas of Fleury’s game since he has coached here:
I think the first thing that comes to mind about Marc-Andre Fleury is going on runs in ’08-09 when guys were injured and the team was close to .500. Going on runs in February and March and doing that for his team, the ability to make a huge save and to have that dynamic save has always been a part of Marc’s game and on the highlights and a part of his career. But the consistency of which he’s played in the last two years especially, and again this year for us, has been really the big difference in his game and in his progression as a goalie. His consistency day-to-day, his consistency in the net, how he makes saves, his control in the net, control in the game, controlling rebounds, has been really a big part of the success over the last two years for our team and for Marc-Andre Fleury being able to get that many wins. He still has the ability to come out and do a two-pad stack on Martin Hanzal the last game and have that dramatic save. He’s acrobatic. He’s very athletic. But the consistency in how he’s played and in the net has really been solid. Making those saves for our team really gives our team a ton of confidence that we can win hockey games, whether it’s having to kill a big penalty or having to play a tighter game. He’s been that goalie for us. That’s been a real big development for Marc over the past 2-3 years.

On if he makes any adjustments playing a coach who emphasizes matching lines:
Yes. There is certainly a flow to the game that our players expect. But there’s also a flow to the game that can be disrupted if they are looking to match lines. That can be something that does happen throughout the course of the game. You can somewhat sometimes control those and who’s going on the ice for them by the line you put out. But we’re not a team that really works extremely hard to get a matchup. Our players somewhat expect a certain rhythm in the game. That’s probably more important than any type of matchup we would be looking for for our team.

1:56 PM:
I apologize for the late lineup update from head coach Dan Bylsma.

He said that although Paul Martin was not on the ice this morning, he is expected to be playing this evening. Dustin Jeffrey is still out with an illness and was not out on the ice today. Brad Thiessen will be starting in net tonight vs. Toronto.

10:34 AM:
Here are the lines the Pens are using at the morning skate...


The five defensemen rotated with assistant coach Todd Reirden.

10:33 AM:
The Pens morning skate is underway. Sidney Crosby is skating, as are all three goalies. Johnson is practicing with the team for a second-straight day as he rehabs from an undisclosed injury, while Fleury is back after a maintenance day Tuesday.

Malkin, Staal, Sullivan and Orpik are also back after having maintenance days Tuesday.

Martin, Engelland, Letang and Jeffrey are all absent.

10:25 AM:
A quick note before practice begins. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has been cleared for full contact, but there is no timetable for a possible return to the lineup.

“I was cleared to do contact,” said Crosby, who resumed contact practice with his teammates Tuesday afternoon. “We’ll see how that goes. There is no real timetable, but it’s a good step. Hopefully, I can keep the momentum and get out there soon.”

Crosby, who has been out of the lineup since Dec. 6 with concussion-like symptoms and a neck injury, was experiencing headaches, but has been symptom free for “a few days.”

The full update on Crosby's status can be found here

(Getty Images)

10:15 AM:
While we waited for practice to begin, our intern Brittany went outside and grabbed some photos of the area around the statue. Here they are for your viewing pleasure...

The plaque located at the base of "Le Magnifique"

What's under the tarp?! What Mario moment do you think it's depicting?

10:00 AM:
Hello and good morning everyone! It's a gorgeous day in Pittsburgh, as the sun is shining and the temperature is set to reach a high 64 degrees. It's an absolutely perfect day to unveil “Le Magnifique,” a spectacular statue honoring the career and achievements of Mario Lemieux, don't you agree?

The statue is located in the plaza just outside the Trib Total Media Gate at CONSOL Energy Center, near the intersection of Centre Avenue and Washington Place. It will be unveiled today at 12 noon, and the event is open to the public free of charge. So hopefully, we will see you all there, but for those who cannot attend, ROOT Sports is carrying the ceremony live starting at 12 noon. We will also have all the coverage you could possibly want here at You will not want to miss this.

While we wait for the statue unveiling, we'll have all the coverage of the Penguins' game day skate for you right here at the Penguins Report as Pittsburgh will host the struggling Maple Leafs tonight. The Pens are scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. practice while the Leafs will have the morning off after losing to Boston last night at Air Canada Centre. Stay tuned for all the updates.

In the meantime, it's a day to reflect on the achievements of one of the greatest hockey players of all time. It's a day to remember just how special of a player he was and what he accomplished both in the NHL and in his community. It's Mario's day, so what is your favorite Mario moment? Tweet them to the website writers' handle at @PensInsideScoop or and I'll do my best to add them.

It's only fitting to start the day with what Bob Grove calls "arguably the signature goal of (Lemieux's) NHL career," his goal in Game 2 of the 1991 Stanley Cup Final vs. the Minnesota North Stars where he sliced through a pair of North Stars and deked past goalie Jon Casey for the score. This one is my personal favorite. What's yours?  

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