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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Vancouver (Season Opener Edition)

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • PensTV game day report with an extra special host (4:25 PM).
  • Orpik is a game-time decision (12:44 PM).
  • Line combos/ D-pairs (11:35 AM).
  • Yellow Man > Green Man (5:45 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma talks Sedins, Kennedy and the season starting (1:27 PM).
  • Words of wisdom from Staal, Martin and Fleury (1:01 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:56 AM).
  • Canucks pics (11:00 AM).
  • “I turn it on, I set the tone, I don’t know, I’m ready to go…” (10:00 AM).

Forget Green Man. Meet Yellow Man. Yellow Man > Green Man...Holla!

Here's the lowdown on tonight's game with your favorite monotone PensTV field reporter....

Opening-night coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On making sure Orpik doesn’t come back too early even if he wants to play tonight:
I think at this point in time, the way we talked with Brooks (Wednesday) was that he will be game-time (decision) for tonight’s game depending on how he feels this morning and where he’s at. I do know that it’s Game 1 of a long season and we’re not going to rush him or put him in a spot where we think it’s going to do any damage long-term or make him sit out any longer. So we’ll see how he was this morning and go from there for tonight.

On if playing a team who made it to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final adds something extra:
I think a Game 1 vs. the Vancouver Canucks makes it something different. They have been a great team. They’ve got some great players and they just went to the Stanley Cup Final. They’re a team that’s probably going to be right up there again for the Stanley Cup. So we’re talking about Game 1, but certainly a big game against a good opponent.

On if he’ll take notes in case this ends up being the Final matchup:
Always (laughs).

On what he sees in the Sedin twins that sets them apart:
The scary part for us is we see them at their best on the highlights. That’s the scary part for our players. We see them make great plays. We see them work off each other. We see them do great things on the power play. We don’t see them play 60 minutes of ice hockey very often. So we see a lot of good things. We don’t want to be waiting for a great play. We don’t want to be stuck in awe and stuck in the mud on their power play and let them make good plays. We had pretty good success against them last year being aggressive and trying to limit their time and space to not let them make those plays they so often can do if they have that. That’s the challenge. We don’t want to be in awe. We don’t want to be in awe Game 1. We don’t want to watch them get off to a good start. We’ve got to be ready to defend and take away time and space both 5-on-5 and PK.

On if he holds his breath when a player loses an edge like Tyler Kennedy did this morning:
Yeah, he took two pretty hard tumbles in the morning skate. TK’s a pretty tough guy, so as soon as I saw it was 48 I was pretty sure he was going to be all right. But any time a guy crashes into the boards like that, I think you hold your breath.

On if he gets anxious when this day finally arrives:
Absolutely. We’ve consumed a lot of coffee this morning. We’re pretty amped up and I know the players are feeling the same way after three-and-a-half weeks of training camp. This one matters and this one’s going to be added to the standings. There’s definitely a jump for everybody. The coaches were pretty jacked up this morning as well.

On Kris Letang playing the left side:
He’d be the other right-handed defender that’s going to play on the left side tonight. Someone has to go there if Brooks does not play. Kris has had the most experience and been the most comfortable there. It’s not a lot of experience, but it’s the most experience. He played there a little bit last year. He played there with Ben Lovejoy last year when Brooks was out at the end of the season, in a matchup situation a lot of times. So it’s not a ton of time, but he’s known here in training camp that’s a situation where he’d play on the left side a little bit. He’s practiced and gone through some reps. So it’s not a ton of experience, but Kris’ skating abilities allow him to probably be the best situation for us there.

On having the top PK last year and what it will take to get back there:
I think we’ve been very good in that area for a couple of years. When you’re talking about the top five, you could probably change that after one game or it could change after one bad penalty kill when you’re up that close. That’s where we want to be. That’s where we think we can be. Our guys have been together for quite a long time now and we’re really on the same page. Tony Granato has got them on that page. It’s a really confident, really aggressive group. We know special teams is going to be a factor in every game. It’s going to be a factor for our team and we expect our penalty kill to be a factor for us again helping us win games.

On if he uses the NHL’s videos as a teaching tool for Matt Cooke:
In regards to the rules and the adjustments the league has made, we’ve all been watching the video together. We’ve watched every one as a team. We’ve watched every situation. We’ve talked about them. We talked about what we thought of the situations players put themselves in, both the hittee and the hitter. We’ve talked about some of the things to look for in those situations, so we’ve listened to Brendan Shanahan. I think it’s been great. Since we’ve been on the road we told everyone to look at the video that shows the positive hits – the good ones – and the situations where the players took the opportunity to recognize some difficult situations on the ice, and let up. So we’ve done that as a team – every player. I think it’s a great clarification and great that we’re trying to get an understanding of where we can be physical on the ice and where those spots are that you need to understand the situation a little bit better.

On if it’s practical for the coaches to know too to avoid suspensions:
We definitely don’t want (suspensions). We don’t even want to just be penalized in the game. It’s not just about that. There are situations where boarding penalties in our exhibition games have gone way up. That’s something we’re aware of. We’re aware of those situations and I think you can expect that call to be made more often now. It’s not just about preventing suspensions. It’s about situations where the ref is going to call a boarding penalty now where maybe we didn’t have that in the past. We’ve got to be aware of that as well.

Ready to Go: Michelle Crechiolo

Sounds heard around the visiting locker room...

Jordan Staal

On the Canucks wanting to win the Stanley Cup after coming so close last year:
Well, you know how hard it is to get there and obviously there is a long road ahead. Mentally, you just want to be there again. It’s not easy, but they’re going to be a hungry team this year. They have a lot of good players that will make for a good challenge for us tonight.

On opening the year against a more unfamiliar team:
It’s definitely a different start than usual. It’s nicer to come up here right now then in the middle of January anyway. So it’s a good thing and we’re excited to play these three teams.

On if playing a similar team to them adds something extra to the opener:
Yeah, it’ll make for an exciting game, I’m sure. There’s definitely a lot more riding on it than usual. We’re excited about it and it should be a fun match.

Paul Martin

On how much he’s looking forward to getting back into meaningful game action:
Yeah, it’s been a while. Obviously preseason is over and you’re excited for the puck to drop. You always want to start and start well. It’s tough on the road, but it should be fun tonight.

On how to defend the Canucks’ offensive firepower:
They’re one of the best in the league for a reason. They have a lot of top-end guys. You come in with a game plan that you try to execute every night against them. Take away their time and space and try not to let them have the puck. There’s a lot of things that go into it and it takes everyone on the team to make it happen.

On if there’s still a feeling-out process at this juncture:
Yeah, I think so. Everyone’s got that anxiety and is a little nervous. It’s the start of a new season. It maybe takes a couple shifts to calm yourself down and get back in the rhythm of playing games again. There definitely is some nervousness that goes into that first game and that first couple of shifts.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On if it’s important to see both Crosby and Malkin on the ice for practices:
Definitely. It’s a big part of a team, just trying to see them out there having some fun on the ice and in practices. It’ll be nice to see Geno go tonight and then hopefully Sid pretty soon.

On how ready Malkin looks:
He’s been amazing for us in preseason. He played a lot of games and every night he was very dominant. It seems like he’s having some fun and he looks hungry to play. It will be fun to watch him tonight.

On the challenges of matchups with Western Conference teams for a goalie:
We don’t see those players as much during the season. But I think those games are fun, you know. You come into town here and I haven’t played in a long time, so I’m looking forward to playing here. Just try to have some fun and win the game.

Head coach Dan Bylsma said Orpik, who is recovering from lower abdominal/hernia surgery on his right side, will be a game-time decision for tonight's season opener.

"I think at this point in time, the way we talked with Brooks (Wednesday) was that he will be game-time (decision) for tonight’s game depending on how he feels this morning and where he’s at," Bylsma said.

"I do know that it’s Game 1 of a long season and we’re not going to rush him or put him in a spot where we think it’s going to do any damage long-term or make him sit out any longer. So we’ll see how he was this morning and go from there for tonight."

Pictorial evidence of the Pens morning skate...

Players gather to await instructions from HC Dan Bylsma

It appears Orpik will not be in the lineup tonight (left); An unsuspecting Orpik is ice sprayed by Evgeni Malkin (right)

Bylsma stealing pucks...or just carrying them maybe (left); Sullivan will make his Pens reg-season debut tonight (right)

Team Talk (left); Team Talk 2.0 (right)

Pens on the ice for their morning skate and they're already in their line combos. Same ones as Wednesday:



Note: Orpik and Jeffrey were running shifts as D-partners, just like they did Wednesday.

Canucks morning skate...

General Vigneault (left); Group stretch (right)

Sedin twin 1 of 2 (left)

Luongo at the ready (left); Luongo springs to action (right)

Kesler is out tonight with a hip injury, but still suited up for the skate (left); Team discussions (right)

Go Green (left); Higgins left practice Wednesday, but is expect to play tonight (right)

In the beginning there is the dream.

Every NHL team starts a new season with a clean slate, filled with high hopes, motivation and ambition. Though the logos on the front of the jersey and the names on the back may differ, every team and player has the same goal: raising the Stanley Cup high above his head.

For the Penguins, a team build to compete for the Cup every year, the goal never changes. No matter who is in the lineup, or who isn’t in the lineup, this team strives for championships. But only one team can achieve such glory and must meet a level of excellence to transcend the other 29.

On Thursday night, 20 men will pull the black Penguins jersey over their backs and prepare for a long and taxing task. Ahead of them stands 82 regular season games and all the pains, pleasures, exasperations and exhilarations that come over the course of an six-plus month battle for grandeur.

But every endpoint must have a starting point. The Penguins’ journey will begin Thursday night when they face off against the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks.

The season is upon us. The time is nigh.

In the beginning there is the dream. Will the dream become reality in the end?

That question can only be answered with the passing of time and through the sweat and exertion of the men standing in the Penguins locker room.


To get you pumped for the big opener (though I'm sure you're already psyched as it is) here is Martin Solveig's "Ready 2 Go." Nothing quite gets the adrenaline going like an upbeat techno mix with synchronized dancing in a football (translation: soccer) stadium.

Are you ready 2 go? I sure am. Let's do this.

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