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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Washington

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Quick hits from the Penguins' Thursday morning skate:
- There was no Talbot, Dupuis or Fleury, although Talbot and Fleury did some work on the ice prior to the skate (see 10:21 AM entry)
- Dustin Jeffrey and Nick Johnson were recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and will be in the lineup tongiht. (see the line combinations at 10:37 AM entry)
- The Capitals recalled John Carlson for the game (see 12:55 PM entry)

12:55 PM:
The Capitals recalled John Carlson. Here is the release sent out by the team's PR staff:

"The Washington Capitals have recalled defenseman John Carlson from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL), vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.

"Carlson, who turned 20 on Jan. 10, is a first-year pro who stands 6’3”, 208 pounds. The Natick, Mass., native leads AHL defensemen in points per game (0.78). He ranks tied for 11th among AHL defensemen with 25 points (one goal, 24 assists) in 32 games. He is tied for 10th in the league (second among rookies) with a +17 rating.

"January has been a busy month for Carlson. He played in two games for the Capitals last week, represented the Bears in Portland, Maine, on Tuesday in the AHL All-Star Game and led the U.S. National Junior Team to a gold medal in the World Junior Championship earlier this month, scoring two goals in the gold-medal game including the overtime winner.

"Carlson has played five games for the Capitals this season, averaging 14:34 of ice time with a +4 rating. The Capitals selected Carlson in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft with the 27th overall selection. Carlson, who is No. 74 with Washington, is eligible to play in tonight’s game at Pittsburgh."

12:53 PM:
More sounds heard around the locker room:

Sidney Crosby
On if he thinks that people are starting to see the game as the Penguins vs the Capitals and not Crosby versus Ovechkin:
I think they do see it, and there’s a lot of great players on both teams. It makes for an exciting game with the playoffs and what happened last year. I think it just adds to it. So, I would say that’s the case.
On if the Capitals will be gunning for the Penguins tonight since it’s the first time that both teams have met since Game 7 of the playoffs last year:
We always expect that kind of game when we play Washington. I think it’s been a rivalry for a long time even before our match-up. So, I think it’s always intense, and I expect for it to be pretty much that.
On if the game tonight means more than any other game this time during the season:
Well, it’s the second-half of the season. We’re playing a good hockey team here. We want to make sure we’re at our best. When you have two competitive teams like this, you want to make sure that you bring your best and give yourselves an opportunity to measure up. I think both teams want to do that.
On Alex Semin’s skillful playing:
He’s got great hands and can shoot the puck. He’s a great skater, so he’s really dangerous. They have a lot of guys both up front and on D that can score and make plays, so they have a lot of guys who can create a lot.
On if Crosby noticed a change in Ovechkin’s game since he has many assists this season:
You know what? I haven’t watched him a whole lot to be honest. We’ve been playing every second night like most teams, so I haven’t really watched as much as I probably typically would. But, I’m sure with the way they’re playing and things like that, that that’s something that just happens naturally. They have some great players up front like that who are making plays. I think we always think of Alex as a shooter, but I think for the most part he’s playing with some guys who move around, as well.
On if he thinks he surprised the Capitals by how many goals he has been scoring:
I don’t know. You’d have to ask them. I just want to try to be dangerous in different ways, and that’s good. If they have to think about me shooting the puck a little bit more, then that’s good. That’s going to help. So, that’s why you shoot the puck more. You want to be unpredictable, and that’s what I’m trying to do. If that’s something that they say they notice, then that’s good.
On the Russian team in the upcoming Olympics and their star power:
Well, they have a lot. It’s always been the case. I think we’ve always looked at Canada and Russia – and you look at the U.S. now, and those teams are pretty heavy favorites now. But, that match-up is always going to be talked about, and it goes on for a long time here. That’s always going to be a rivalry, and the way it is today just adds to it.
On the pressure that the Canadian team will be under while playing in Vancouver:
We always have pressure. That’s not any different whether it’s World Juniors or the Olympics or whatever the case is. That’s kind of what we grow up accepting and understanding. The fact is in Canada, for sure, you want to be that much better. But, I don’t think you can really put more pressure than there already is. Everyone expects to win, so that’s pretty much it. There’s no real beating around the bush. That’s the way it is.
On what Crosby hopes to take out of the game tonight:
You’re never going to play a perfect game. I think for the most part, we’ve been playing really good hockey. The most important thing is that when you get to these big games, your team raises its level. That’s the biggest thing. As we keep going, your games are going to get bigger and bigger. You want to make sure that everyone responds the right way, and you respond by playing your game, not getting away from it. If you’re able to do the things you want to do, that’s a good sign when you’re playing a good time. That will be important for us. You look to these games as good tests, and you want to see how you respond to that.
On Malkin being a difference maker for the Olympic team:
Well, yeah, Geno has proven that for a while now – that he can be that guy. But, you can go down the list on their team of guys who might be game-breakers for sure. You look at Geno and Alex and Semin and the list goes on. They have a lot of dangerous guys. That’s their team, and that’s their makeup. It’s still going to take the team, but at the same time, they have a lot of guys who can do the job for sure.
On what’s more enjoyable – making a nice setup or scoring a goal:
I still think a goal. But, don’t get me wrong, I love to set up guys every night. There’s nothing wrong with that either. I think we all know that it’s fun to score.
On the Penguins’ biggest challenge for tonight’s game:
Well, they just have a lot of depth. They get offense from every line. Their defense is a part of that, as well. You have a guy like Green back there who can make a lot happen just by himself. Really, they’re playing well as a team, and they’ve got a lot of depth. Just because you shut down one line doesn’t mean you’ve had a successful night. You’ve got to make sure that each time you’re out there, you’re gaining momentum and carrying it yourself, because they can get it in a hurry with the lines they have. 

Dustin Jeffrey
On making his season debut in a rivalry like this:
This is a huge rivalry. I am really looking forward to tonight.
On how things have been going in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and what he expects from tonight:
It has been going really well there. I was playing more of an offensive role. I was being counted on to score some goals. I got a lot of power-play time. Coming up here, after talking to the coaching staff, I am being looked at more as an energy player. I am going to be out there killing penalties, blocking shots and stuff along those lines. I am looking forward to that tonight.
On coming back up:
I don’t think it would matter what game it was with this being my first time up this year and to finally get to play in (an NHL) game this year. I think the excitement is going to be through the roof. Coming into this rivalry should make for an awesome game tonight.
On how his role in WBS has evolved this year as opposed to last season:
I think it has totally changed with the guys we lost from last year. We lost guys like (Janne) Pesonen, (Jeff) Taffe and (Chris) Minard – they all moved on – and that opened up a lot of ice time that was available coming into this season. They put me into a role where I was going to take up and eat some of those minutes and get a lot of time on the ice and was expected to score, so that’s how I think the role has evolved this year.

Brooks Orpik
On hitting Crosby or Malkin in the Olympics:
Maybe take them out of the play – yeah. I would think naturally you would let up a little bit. In terms of just battling you cannot let up on those guys because they are so talented that if they get a step on you then you can’t recover.
On this game meaning more:
It is definitely something you have marked off on your schedule. It’s weird how the schedule is because a team like Florida, I think we are done with them already and we haven’t faced these guys yet. It’s definitely something we have had marked down for a while. I’m sure they were thinking the same thing. Guys who are saying it’s not are probably lying.
On the key to stopping Ovechkin:
You look at his previous game and he had zero shots – that is tough to do. It’s really about limiting his time and space. He is so dynamic with the puck that you have to hit him early. If he gets that speed going through the neutral zone, that is when he becomes really dangerous. Hopefully if the forwards can get a piece of him early on, that is the biggest key.

Assists Jason Seidling, Caitlin Kasunich

12:37 PM:

Alex Ovechkin is the most dangerous sniper in the NHL. His 30 goals rank third in the league and are two behind Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

Mike Green leads all NHL defensemen with 50 points (12G-38A).

Alexander Semin is one of the most underrated talents in the league. He has 20 goals and 44 points in 40 games this season.

Nicklas Backstrom has developed into a great setup man, and his goal scoring has risen this season. He already has 20 goals this season and should shatter his previous career high (22).

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

Dan Bylsma
On the Capitals game:
It’s just another day in January, the dog days. There is certainly a different feel leading up to this game and in the morning skate. At the end of the day these are two teams that want to consider themselves good teams, elite teams, that are seeing each other for the first time. Just like in other games we play, there is a rivalry there and a past history that makes it interesting.
On playing for the first time since last year’s playoff Game 7:
There are a couple different story lines that anyone can pick and say why the game is going to have some intensity to it. I know it’s been mentioned in the media about our (Stanley Cup) banner being raised, and us ending their season and that adds incentive and salt to the wounds. That’s their last memory of last season. They’ll maybe use that as motivation. There are other storylines as well.
On Marc-Andre Fleury’s new glove:
I don’t know exactly how it went to today other than the fact that I saw him catching pucks with his glove. The plan was for him to stay out prior to practice, which he did. He was taking a lot of shots, taking full shots and shots in the glove. I don’t know how that felt or what his readiness for a game might be. We’ll evaluate that and go forward.
On other injury updates:
Sergei Gonchar, much like he was yesterday, he’ll be game-time but it looks like he’ll be ready to go as well. Day-to-day on Talbot and Dupuis. They’re progressing and we’ll see where they’re at.
On Jeffrey and Nick Johnson:
They should be comfortable with our system and how they’re supposed to play and what they’re supposed to do. They should be comfortable with the opponent. They see the Hershey Bears an awful lot and they play with the same system. There shouldn’t be any surprises with what the other team is going to do as well. That should give them some comfort. For Dustin, he’s played some games in the NHL. I expect him to be a little bit more comfortable. I think he was this morning. Nick Johnson is testing the waters for the first time. Dustin is a smart player, great positionally, that’s the strength of his game. Nick has some speed and more of a power forward in the corners type of guy, with a good right-hand shot. The key for them is getting to their game right away, managing the puck the right way. That allows them and their line to have some success and not worry about who is on the ice, or how big the game is, or if it’s their first game. Hopefully the situation of knowing what we expect and who they’re playing will give them that comfort to get right into their games.
On if the Washington offense will make the Penguins focus more on their defensive game:
That’s a pretty astute assumption going into the game tonight. We’re playing a team that looks for offense in a lot of different areas: their power play, their defensemen, their forwards. We know some of the firepower they have. It’s very key for us to manage the puck the right way. To get to the offensive zone is the best way to slow a dangerous team down. We have to make sure we play that way. It’s our game and we can’t try to fight offense with offense. We have to play the right way, manage the puck, execute, get out of the D zone and hold onto the puck for long periods of time. There’s almost an incentive to manage the puck a little better and be more attentive to the other side of the puck. That will lend to us having more time in the offensive zone and keeping their guys out of those dangerous areas.
On how they held down Alex Ovechkin from last season’s series:
We made some adjustments with how we dealt with their rush. Those are things we got better at as the series went on. Yesterday when joking about that series last year, I don’t think anyone called us and asked, ‘How did you shut down Ovie in that series?’ He was a dominant offensive force. We got one more goal than he did, is how it ended up playing out. There are certain things in certain areas of the ice where their offense is dangerous, not just Ovechkin but Semin as well. We have to be very careful with managing the puck. We have to be very careful with our F3, tracking back and sorting out versus their rush. Those are areas we focused on and got better on in that series last year. Those are ones that we will be acutely aware of tonight.
On Penguins vs. Capitals being good for hockey:
I think one of the things hockey has not been great at is identifying their stars and using their starts for publicity and putting their game in the forefront and making it a story. They have that with Sid and Ovie. They have done that with Sid and Ovie. There are some other matchups that are that way as well. It’s a great thing for our game. Hockey will be, and always will be, about the team and how teams play. Good players can only be out there for one-third of the game. There is another two-thirds for other guys to play. One player is never a key on the ice at a time. It’s five guys. The power play is about a five-man unit and being dangerous. That’s a strength of the Capitals power play. Yes, we talk about Ovie. Yes, there is his shot. But there are other guys that make them very dangerous as well. I think we’re going to be focused on making sure we play a five-man game and not make it a head-to-head matchup. That was the strength of our team last year. They certainly have great, skilled players. It’s a team game, you need a team concept and you need to play the right way to have success. That will be our focus and that always has been our focus.
On if he thinks Ovechkin is passing up shots in recent games:
I read the articles about his last game before I saw his last game, about him not getting any shots. I think he took 10 shots and from really good scoring chances. On the power play was a one-timer. There were a couple right in the slot that got blocked. He either missed the net, but most of them were blocked. They were good shots on net. He wasn’t passing up any opportunities to shoot that pill. I read the media and thought he may not have gotten his opportunities. But he got them and in good spots. He had chances to score. There were a couple nice blocks by Detroit players on the power play and defensemen getting in the way of pucks. He was getting his opportunities. They just didn’t get on net or were blocked. I didn’t see him passing up those or not going to the areas where he gets his shots from. In the two games that I watched, he had his chances.
On this game being a measuring stick:
We have been in a situation in the last two weeks, three weeks where we’ve lost our game and we’re trying to get our game back, attention to details. We used the road trip to do that. We know we’ve gotten better. We’ve paid a little more attention to managing the puck, to get to our game and now we’re coming back with 11 games to the break. We’re really focusing on this 11 games to continue that, to make a push going into the break. We have good opponents in this stretch. We have some tough road games. Eight of them were at home and this is the second at home against a tough opponent. Is this game a be all or end all for either team? Not at all. Is this a great chance to measure yourself against a team at the top of their division, another team that won the Stanley Cup last year? Yes, it is. Are these two good teams, talented players, dangerous in different situations? Yes, it is. I think it’s a challenge to continue to play the right way, to know this is how we need to play, this is how we need to execute and manage the puck to play our game against a very good opponent – who is dangerous in the offensive end and on the power play. That’s what we’ll take it as. We are acutely aware of who we are playing and how we need to play. We’ll make assessments of how we played after the game and where we need to go.

Nick Johnson
On being thrown into the rivalry:
Exciting – that is the only word I can use to describe it. It’s going to be fun.
On skating with Malkin and Fedotenko:
When you first think about that it is pretty nerve-wracking because those guys are pretty good. Hopefully by game time I just play my game. They are going to be open. It’s going to be exciting – that’s the only way to describe it I guess.
On tonight being an intense matchup:
It’s obviously a rivalry. They have an up-and-coming team. This will be something else:
On whether debuting in a game like this adds pressure:
A little bit, maybe. By game time I will figure that all out. It’s going to be great.
On whether his family will be able to make it in:
Some of them – yeah. They are way out in Western Canada in Calgary.
On if his parents will be among that family:
I don’t know, we will see. I have to talk to them this morning. They may have been able to get a flight.
On how his season has been in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:
It’s been a little up and down. I was injured for a little while. Our team is starting to come along as we get (our) older players (back from injury). We are a little up and down but I think we are going to have a good team coming down the stretch. It’s going to be fun.
On what he does best:
I am a right winger that just goes up and down the wall mainly. I look for offensive opportunities. I have to throw my body around and get to the net. That is main thing – get to the net and try to bang something home.
On what the coaches are expecting from him tonight:
A little bit. We are going to have another meeting later on to hammer everything down and get ready for the first one.
On a bunch of Dartmouth guys coming into the league:
We have had a good run of guys coming in with my class and a few other classes. It’s an exciting time. It’s good to see those guys doing well. I’m glad I’m getting an opportunity tonight.
On what Ben (Lovejoy) (another Dartmouth grad) said to him:
I haven’t talked to him since yesterday but he obviously said that it will be fun and see what happens.
On the similarities in systems between Pittsburgh and WBS:
With (head coach) Dan (Bylsma) being there until halfway through last year everything is pretty similar. We have the exact same stuff down there. Even the drills in the morning skate are similar so it’s nice to jump right in. That will be make it easier. It will still be a challenge but that helps.

Alex Goligoski
On facing the Capitals power play:
It’s a skilled group of guys. I don’t know what their stats are but I am assuming they are one of the top (power-play units) in the league with some of the guys they have on it. It’s a challenge but we will see tonight.
On staying disciplined against the Capitals:
You don’t want to take penalties against a team like this. You can get momentum from a power play and then obviously score from that. You always want to avoid taking penalties.
On enjoying the challenge from a game like this as a defenseman:
It’s always fun to play against teams that can light it up a bit. You can see where you are defensively. It’s a good challenge.
On the intensity being up for this game because of the Penguins eliminating Washington last season:
It is on their minds probably a little more than it is on ours. It will definitely be an intense game. I think this rivalry has grown in the past couple years. It should be a fun one.
On the rivalry being more Penguins-Capitals now than Crosby-Ovechkin:
I think both teams are really good teams now as opposed to when those guys got in the league. It’s going to be fun.
On what makes Mike Green so good:
He is just a great talent. He has a great shot. He has great instincts on when he should jump up into the play and joining the rush.
On being aware of Green:

You have to be aware when he is on the ice for sure. You need forwards coming back and helping out when Green is out there. We have to make it hard for him to play.
On the key to stopping Ovechkin:
You can’t just stop guys like Ovechkin. You can contain them and you can know where they are on the ice and you limit the time they are going to have the puck and their opportunities.

Craig Adams
On Washington being fired up for a game like this:
I would think so. It seems like a long time ago. They are having a great year and they want to win the Stanley Cup for sure. The fact that we beat them last year in an even series that could have gone either way, they probably feel like they have something to prove.
On the media making a big deal out of this matchup:
I think there is a little more to it. I think more than anything it is because we know they have a really good team. We need to be able to beat teams like that if we want to get where we want to go. It’s just a great challenge. I think it is more than just a game.
On what makes the Washington power play so good:
I don’t watch them all the time but they have great players out there – guys who can really shoot the puck and guys who can pass the puck. I think they keep it fairly simple and they try to get shots to the net. Like I said, when you have guys who can shoot the puck like that, good things are going to happen.
On preventing Ovechkin, Green, etc. shots:
The ideal thing is that you don’t let the shot get there in the first place. They have some guys who can pass the puck so they are going to get pucks to them. The next thing after that is to just try to get into shooting lanes. If they shoot the puck, try to block it before it gets to the net. Maybe if they see you in the shooting lane they will decide not to shoot it and they will stop it and move it.

Assist Jason Seidling


11:07 AM:

Dustin Jeffrey, left, and Nick Johnson, right, were recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this morning.

Sergei Gonchar, left, was back on the ice after taking Wednesday's practice off.

10:37 AM:
With Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis not at practice, and with recent recalls Dustin Jeffrey and Nick Johnson, the Penguins reshuffled their forward combinations at Thursday's morning skate:


10:21 AM:
Marc-Andre Fleury is currently testing out his new glove before the Penguins' Thursday morning skate. The glove was specificially designed to provide a better fit and more comfort for Fleury, who is recovering from a fractured left ring finger.

Max Talbot, who is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, joined Fleury on the ice. We will see if either man stays out for the morning skate and try to get status updates after practice.


 10:03 AM:
Some early news from the Pittsburgh camp as the team announced that forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Nick Johnson were recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Jeffrey is WBS's leading scorer and ranks fifth in the entire AHL with 43 points (13G-30A), while Johnson posted 22 points (7G-22A) in 26 games.
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