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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Washington

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Pens trade for Neal and Niskanen from Dallas for Goligoski (4:27 PM).
  • Here’s the scoop on the trade from Ray Shero (7:07 PM).
  • Staal to play, Martin is out, Fleury starts vs. Caps (11:35 AM).
  • Kunitz out tonight vs. Caps (11:26 AM).
  • Neal highlight video (7:04 PM).
  • 13 Pens took part in the morning skate (10:38 AM).
  • Letestu, Jeffrey and Comrie skated before practice (10:18 AM).
  • Kunitz, Goligoski (the departed) and Sterling spit knowledge (12:13 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on the Capitals (12:08 PM).
  • Pens pics (10:50 AM).
  • Caps skate (12:15 PM).
  • “She need her daddy, baby please. Can't let her grow up in that Ghetto University…” (10:00 AM).

7:07 PM:
For all the scoop on today's trade from GM Ray Shero, click here.

Or if you want the info straight from the horses mouth, Shero transcript is here.

7:04 PM:
Here is a highlight video of new Pens forward James Neal.

4:27 PM:
The Pens have made a trade. Pittsburgh has acquired James Neal and Matt Niskanen from the Dallas Stars for Alex Goligoski.

Here's some quick info on the new guys courtesy of Michelle Crechiolo and Tony Jovenitti.

Left winger James Neal brings an impressive youth presence to compliment the Penguins’ young roster. At the age of 23, he already has three years of NHL experience under his belt. This season, he tickled the twine 21 times, and tallied 39 points through 59 games.

Neal was drafted in the second round (33rd overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The Whitby, ON native made his debut in the 2008-09 season for the Stars, scoring 37 points (24G-13A) in 77 games, making him the first rookie to break the 20-goal barrier since the Stars franchise moved to Dallas. He also competed in the NHL YoungStars competition in the 2009 All-Star Weekend in Montreal.

He followed his rookie season with another impressive year with 55-points (27G-28A) in 78 games.

Matt Niskanen adds a dynamic presence to an already strong Penguins defensive corps.

The 24-year-old, who is in his fourth NHL season, is averaging 15:44 of ice time and has six helpers, 97 hits and 51 blocked shots through 45 games played.

After two seasons at the University of Minnesota-Duluth from 2005-07, Niskanen made the Stars’ roster out of training camp in September 2007 and wasted no time in contributing to Dallas’ blue line.

He got off to a hot start in his rookie campaign in 2007-08, playing in the 2008 Western Conference YoungStars Game at the NHL All-Star Weekend while finishing the season ranked first among NHL first-year defensemen with a plus-22 rating.

The following season, he led all Dallas defensemen in scoring with 35 points (6G-29A). The durable backend has dressed in over 73 games in each of the past three seasons.

Niskanen competed for the United States at the 2008 World Championships, scoring three points (1G-2A) through nine games played. He also competed for the United States in 2005 at the World Junior Championships.

12:15 PM:
The Caps also held an optional morning skate at CONSOL Energy Center.

Mike Green

Backstrom (right)

12:13 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Chris Kunitz

On his recovery:
It feels good. It felt good to have equipment on and go practice with some teammates.

On if he’s ready:
I have to talk to doc tonight when he gets here, then we’ll have a timeline from there. I’m still just resting.

On if he could be a game-time decision

On if he could come back in this next stretch of games
I have no idea. I still have to talk to doc and make sure I have a full range of things and feel good.

On how tough it is to sit there and watch his team play in one-goal games:

The team’s done a good job with all the adversity of guys going out and guys coming up and playing in key situations. It’s exciting to see when we can pull them out and score late in games. It would have been nice to get the one in overtime in Chicago, but I guess it’s a really big learning experience for a lot of guys.

On if he sees himself meshing with any of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton players
Wherever Coach puts guys, you just try to be successful in the situation. You can’t really change your game to play with other guys. Sterling is playing well right now, and I think anybody would want to be on the ice with him because he seems to be around the net banging goals in. A lot of guys are just playing different situations and different roles. Craig Adams is playing really well, so is TK. Our goaltending is great. It’s just one of those things where you want to get back in the lineup. You don’t really care who you’re playing with.

On if he cringes when he sees a player go down like Staal did Sunday:
Definitely. Just watching the game at home and texting guys back and forth, when it looks like someone gets hurt, it’s unbelievable to think that we can keep going down this road. Some teams can go all year without having key guys get hurt, but we’ve had a lot of guys out.

On how he monitors his recovery:
It’s just talking to the doctor and seeing what he thinks. You have to make sure you don’t go out there and reinjure anything. That’s probably the worst thing you could do, going out too early and having a setback.

On if he was able to do what he wanted to on the ice at practice:
Yeah. Obviously there was no contact. It was the first time wearing equipment. It was nice to be out there, but there are a lot of areas to work on.

Alex Goligoski

On getting points:
All points are good right now.  Going into Chicago, being down a goal with less than five minutes to go, a point looks pretty good at that point. But they’re definitely important right now. With the guys we have out, we need to keep playing like that and getting points.

On if this season’s theme is overcoming obstacles and playing the role of the underdog:
Maybe a little bit lately, but I don’t think anyone really feels sorry for us. Every team goes through it – maybe not as bad as we are right now, but it’s part of the season. The whole first half we were mostly healthy, but at some point it catches up with you.

On if they’re treading water trying to win:
Not really. We know everyone here is capable, and we can play with anyone with the lineup we have. We’re looking to go out there and win every night.

On Marc-Andre Fleury:
He’s unbelievable. He’s been so consistently good this whole year, it’s been fun to watch and fun to play defense in front of him.

On the power play:
It’s alright. We have good streaks and then some streaks that don’t go so good. We’re still trying to figure it out. We have a lot of guys playing out there, so we have to work hard to get pucks back and make sure we’re talking and getting spots.

Brett Sterling

On the trade deadline:
I don’t follow it. There are tons of rumors out there. Whatever they do, they’re going to try to do it for the best opportunity for this team to win a Stanley Cup. Whatever happens with me in that process, I’m a part of this organization. And for the organization to win a Stanley Cup would be a huge thing. Obviously, I want to be in the NHL, but whatever they do, I’m going to live with it and continue to work and hopefully stay here.

On what he’s learned:
One of the biggest things is don’t worry about everything else. You can only worry about how you play and what you do on the ice. And even after that, if they want to send you down, they send you down. If they want to play you less, they play you less. You can’t control that, and I’m not letting that get to me. I’m just going out there, doing my job and having fun. I’m just looking to produce and stay here.

On his point-per-game pace:
I hope it continues tonight. I’m playing with great players and getting good opportunities. Hopefully, I can continue to put the puck in the net.

On how he feels:
I feel confident out there. When I have the puck, I don’t think I have to shoot quickly. I’m just playing. If I see the shot, I take it. If the pass is there, I’m taking it. It’s good to be in that zone where you’re just playing and you’re not thinking about everything out there.

On if the puck seems to just find him:
I think (Sunday’s goal) was just a great play by TK and Jordan causing havoc in front of the net. The puck was just wide open. When I see an open puck, I try to get there as quick as I can.

12:08 PM:
(Shortened) coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On the season series with the Caps and what he expects tonight
Every game against them feels like a big game and has a unique feel to it, given the media attention and obviously playing a good opponent. I feel like this game in particular is a little bit different than the previous three. We’ve got back-to-backs; we are dealing with some injuries in our lineup. I think back-to-backs – both traveling – it’s going to take an interesting feel in the first period to see where this game is going to go and how it’s going to unfold. But I know we’re going to be concentrating on playing a solid puck possession game, a solid management game, good defensively and getting to the offensive zone and see if we can’t gain an advantage in zone time by the way we play and manage the puck. I think special teams is going to play a big factor as well.

Empty-net goal: Michelle Crechiolo

11:35 AM:
According to Bylsma, Jordan Staal is available against Washington. Staal had a scare after getting hit with a puck in Sunday's game against Chicago. Paul Martin will be a game-time decision. Kunitz is progressing to a full practice.

Also, Marc-Andre Fleury will be starting in goal.

"(Staal) will be available for tonight's game," Bylsma said. "I don't know (if he'll wear a protective shield). I know after his evaluation he checked out fine. I don't know if he can fit the bump in his cheek under a protective shield.

"Paul Martin will be a game-time decision. He went into the boards pretty roughly. He came back and finished the game after a brief hiatus.

"Chris Kunitz, it's very good see him on the ice. He's been skating on his own without gear. He got out there today. Hopefully, this means he's progressing towards a full practice and playing in the near future. ... Hopefully, by the end of the week, possibly (against) San Jose. But hopefully by the end of the week."

"Marc-Andre Fleury will be starting in net."

11:26 AM:
Chris Kunitz is not playing tonight against Washington. He will meet with doctors tonight to discuss his progress.

"It feels good to have equipment on and go out and practice with teammates," Kunitz said. "I have to talk to doc tonight when he gets here. We'll have a timeline from there. I'm still just resting."

10:50 AM:
Pens skate pics...

Kunitz (left)

Wallace (left); Sterling (right)

Lovejoy (left); B.Johnson (right)

Craig (left); Rupp (right)

10:38 AM:
Thirteen Pens are on the ice for the optional morning skate. Chris Kunitz, who has been working on his own, is participating - a good sign that he is close to returning.

Another interesting note is that Marc-Andre Fleury is not on the ice, so Brent Johnson may be in net for Pittsburgh. But we'll wait to get official word on that.

The players on the ice are Sterling, Kennedy, Rupp, Conner, Wallace, Vitale, Craig, Godard, Kunitz, Goligoski, Engelland, Lovejoy and Brent Johnson.

10:18 AM:
Since the Pens played last night, head coach Dan Bylsma gave them the option of skating at today's 10:30 a.m. morning skate.

However, prior to practice a few injured players continued their progress with some on-ice work. Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey did some drills with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar. Meanwhile, Mike Comrie did some light skating in warmup gear on his own.

Dustin Jeffrey

Mark Letestu

Mike Comrie

10:00 AM:
The Penguins are coming off a gutsy 3-2 shootout setback in Chicago Sunday in which the team netted one point in the standings despite suiting up a depleted lineup against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. Matt Cooke was a beast in his return from a four-game suspension.

There is no rest for the weary as the Pens will now host the Washington Capitals tonight at CONSOL Energy Center. The puck will drop at 7:30 p.m. (instead of the usual 7 p.m. start) because it will be broadcast on Versus Network.

To get you pumped for today's Pens-Caps rivalry showdown, we're going to turn up all of the lights with Kanye West. His song "All of the Lights" is both dramatic and intense. Love him or hate him, Kanye's abilities as a producer really shine through in this song. The combination of rapid trumpet horns with a heavy drumbeat and Kanye's angry growl in the chorus build into a transcendent crescendo of cacophonous harmony.

"All of the Lights" is a monster collaboration with Elton John, Alicia Keys, Fergie, the Dream, Tony Williams, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, John Legend, Charlie Wilson, Ryan Leslie and Elly Jackson - although the song was cut down in the video. To hear the full song (which I highly recommend), click here.

As for the video, which was directed by Hype Williams, it leaves a lot to be desired. It starts with a soft piano melody as a young girl wanders the big city streets in black and white film - a blaring contrast to the overwhelming bright and colorful signage that hits next in spelling out the song lyrics. It seems like the rapid-changing light flashes are suppose to be as disorienting and hyper as the tempo of the song.

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like a song this powerful could have done so much more in the video. But regardless, it still comes down to the music. And there's no doubt "All of the Lights" is both passionate and inspiring.


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