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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Washington

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  • All the details on Crosby (12:14 PM).
  • Crosby cleared for full contact (11:25 AM).
  • Malkin a game-time decision vs. Caps (11:44 AM).
  • Mearsy brings you the PensTV Game Day Report (2:34 PM).
  • Crosby's media scrum (11:41 AM).
  • Malkin media scrum (12:12 PM).
  • Crosby wearing a black helmet (10:34 AM).
  • Pens lines at morning skate (10:36 AM).
  • PP lines (10:49 AM).
  • Kunitz signs a two-year contract extension (10:00 AM).
  • Kunitz talks about his new contract (1:48 PM).
  • Scouting the Caps (10:12 AM).
  • Who will be the first to hit Crosby, my guess at (1:56 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Malkin, Kunitz and Crosby (1:36 PM).
  • Crosby pics (1:43 PM).
  • Pens pics (12:24 PM).
  • Media scrums pics (1:06 PM).
  • Caps pics (1:51 PM).

2:34 PM:
Steve Mears puts the "game" in Game Day Report...

1:56 PM:
Coach Bylsma was asked about who will be the first teammate of Crosby's to hit him in practice. He joked that it should be Ben Lovejoy:

"We’ve joked about it. Have you ever been Ben Lovejoy in the morning skate on the penalty kill? That’ll be enough," Bylsma said. "Ben never stopped going when Sid was healthy. Sid and him always had battles as long as Ben’s been out there. So we’ll just put him on penalty kill during our morning skate and that should be enough for Ben to play 100 percent and give him some contact."

I know there is one guy (or cardboard) who would love to be the first with contact...

Cardboard Orpik vs. Sidney Crosby

1:51 PM:
By the way, the Caps also had a morning skate. Here is the evidence...

1:48 PM:
Kunitz talks about gardening, philanthropy and...oh his new contract!!!

On being on his way to retiring as a Penguin:
It’s a great organization to be a part of. This team is going to have many chances to win the Stanley Cup with the young core of guys that they have here. It’s an exceptional place to play. Me and my family felt it was the best choice for us to be here.

On if the negotiations went quickly:
It was a few weeks, maybe two weeks almost, going back and forth. They obviously showed interest. That’s a great thing. We know that we liked it here. We like the coaching staff, like the players and like the management. When you’re comfortable as a hockey player, it makes it a lot easier to do your job.

On if he gave any thought to exploring the free agency market last summer:
Pittsburgh is our first choice no matter what. And if we could get something done, you don’t know what the value is until you get to that free agency. So you try and put a number out there and see if you guys can get together. That’s my agent, and they did.

On having the same cap hit and not insisting on a major raise:
It’s a little bit of everything. You don’t know what the market is, so you check some of the contracts out there. If you go to free agency, there may be somebody else that wants to and is willing to pay you more, but I like my situation here. I like how I fit in with the team. I like the group of guys and the coaches and management. With our family, it’s a great place to live and raise our kids. That’s important to us.

On Crosby having a winger that he likes locked up:
Yeah (laughs). I mean, we have the young guys coming up that need their contracts done too. You definitely want to get it done and out of the way and start concentrating on hockey. Just getting some wins on the board.

On these systems fitting his style as a player:
I think the way that our coaches put the systems out there, it’s something that I maybe excel at in going in and creating havoc and turnovers and using your speed. It’s something that I’ve always fit and felt good in from Day 1. Playing with some of the best centers in the world makes your job easy. You do the little things right and that’s something I pride myself on. It seems to work out that way.

On what impresses him about this organization:
The systems (the coaches) implement, I like playing. I think it’s a good fit. It’s a fun game to play. But the management with Mario and Ron Burkle – it’s something where they want to have a winning team. They put the money forefront to bring the guys in and make us a Stanley Cup contender every year as long as we’re healthy. I think we’re getting on the road to getting back to being healthy and having one of the best teams in the league.

On Ray Shero fostering a family environment:
It’s a first-class organization. My wife loves it. The other wives and the family room area, it’s a lot of fun to bring your kids to the game. It’s definitely a family-oriented area. They let our kids come in here after the games. You might lose some games, but you still get to see the smiles on the faces of the kids coming around and getting to hang out in the locker room.

On if that’s commonplace in the NHL:
I think every place has it’s own feel. Everybody is different. I’ve only experienced a few of them, but right now this is the best place for us.

On if they did anything for his kids when he was first acquired:
My wife was pregnant right when we got traded, so we ended up having both our children here born in Pittsburgh. We love the area.

Unstoppable: Michelle Crechiolo

1:43 PM:
Crosby gallery...

Crosby (left); Crosby (right)

Crosby (left); Crosby (right)

Crosby (left); Crosby (right)

1:36 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On having a limited amount of practices this month and the possible affect it can have on Sidney Crosby’s progress:
Well it makes it difficult. You look at the schedule and there’s not a lot of practices. We’re traveling and we’re on the road for some games so it makes it difficult which is why today and even the morning skate he participated on a line. He hasn’t been on a line for some of the practices. Trying to give him those situations a little more often is something we’re going to do every chance we get.  That’s why he participated on the power play this morning as well. To get some reps with the possible combinations he’d be playing with. It’s difficult and we will make adjustments to get everything we need, and it might mean more practice time or additional practice times if we can’t do that with a regular practice.

Coach Bylsma answers all your questions
On the expectations on Evgeni Malkin returning to full strength after his knee injury:

On Chris Kunitz’s role since joining the team in 2009:
Chris has been with Sid a lot. He started with Staalsy (Jordan Staal). He’s been there 60-plus games without Sid as a centerman. He has net-front presence, physicality, there’s speed to his game. A lot of it is how we want to play the game and adds a part to what we want to play. The other part of Chris’ game too that has grown significantly since he’s been here is his leadership in our room and leadership on the bench. That’s something that Chris has brought over the last year. It started in the beginning of last year and I think in the absence of some other players he has been that for our team. He’s been a good complimentary player but I’d never call him a complimentary player. He’s an in-first, physical, tough guy to play against. He’s tenacious. He’s one of the signature guys doing it the right way. It’s good for Chris and I’m happy to have him in our uniform.

On how the time without contact will affect Crosby’s game:
I’m not going to give you a timetable. I think going through training camp and to this point, given where he came from, is a significant help to that process. He’s been in full-feel practices, he’s been in a line, he’s been in the drills, he’s been in even D-zone cover unit drills that have contact and he was wearing a different color helmet to not be a part of the contact, but he’s been in those situations. It’s significantly different coming in the halfway point of the year and trying to start and get into those situations. The month of September for Sid and our team is he’s been apart of that training camp, that type of mindset and being in a line so I think that helps out the situation. It’s going to be difficult right now. We play 13 games in this month. There’s not a lot of practice and a day like yesterday, we take some time off. For some players it’s not a full situation and we see those now that Sid’s getting to contact. It’s going to be more situations like that in the next week, two weeks, three weeks so luckily we had training camp and he’s gone through a lot of that mix. We’ll see how he progresses and how his injury to contact responds and try opportunities to get him involved in that.

On how he goes about instituting the contact for Crosby:
We’ve joked about it. Have you ever been Ben Lovejoy in the morning skate on the penalty kill? That’ll be enough. Ben never stopped going when Sid was healthy. Sid and him always had battles as long as Ben’s been out there. So we’ll just put him on penalty kill during our morning skate and that should be enough for Ben to play 100 percent and give him some contact. I think Sid’s the type of player that he instigates contact. He’ll do something that will warrant that from a player. He’ll go out and do something, I don’t think anyone has to worry about that. There’ll be some jossling and some hitting going on, and during training camp when he’s been healthy there’s been jossling with a player or the ire’s gotten both guys, and that will happen again just because of the way Sidney competes. He’ll go after someone or go to the net. He’ll do something and there’ll be some contact there during the normal course of events.

On how he plans to defend Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble tonight:
I think he’s (Knuble) scored or has been on the score sheet every game but one the last couple years so he’s been a factor – maybe the hardest one or the guy that flies under the radar hurts us most. We’ll have a focus on matchups in this game, but I think three guys in particular will be given that matchup, not just one pairing. Kris Letang, with (Paul) Martin and (Zbynek) Michalek depending on the situation if they’re penalty kills or power plays, it’ll be a combination of those guys. I think the difficult part and the problem that Mike has given us is that he’s on the inside giving the problem. He’s the guy pretty much around the net and at the net. You might focus on (Ovechkin), you might focus on some other players. You might focus on the power play and (Mike Green) and (Nicklas Backstrom) and (Ovechkin), but (Knuble) has been the guy at the net that’s hurt us the most. It’s usually been right at the net. That’s something we have to be aware of and do a better job of because he’s been the guy who scores a big goals at the net. If he’s not scoring a goal he’s the guy whose got our goalie back in the crease while one of the more skilled guys is putting it in the net. So there’ll be a matchup and there’ll certainly be a focus on what their strengths are. It pains me to say that because he’s from Grand Rapids and a long time friend.

On the perception of Washington putting more importance on games against Pittsburgh:
I have not heard the perception. It’s certainly not the perception in our room. I know this game against a good team that’s been at the top of the conference, their division, one of the best teams in the league, the best team in the league different years. You’re playing a game against one of the best players in the world. It’s a measuring stick game, it has been for us as long as I’ve been in that dressing room. Whether we’re playing here of there that’s the way we’ve approached it. I think that the sense from our group is we started in Vancouver against a really good team that went to the Stanley Cup Final, but we think this team’s different. A different sense from our guys, our team. Totally different feel to the morning skate because we know we’re playing a very good team so the perceptions not coming from our team or us.

On the Lokomotiv Yaroslav fundraiser and what it means to players like Malkin:
The amount of people that are apart of or touched or played with or coached by or came from the same country as a lot of people on that team is amazing. We have several players that are touched by it significantly. I played with Ruslan Salei for four years. Geno immediately, has deeply been touched by it, and immediately wanted to partake in this game. Raising money, raising awareness right from Day 1. Geno hasn’t asked for a lot of meetings with Ray Shero and myself in my time here, but right away he was like we got to do something. Not just for this game but for the families and for the team, for his los, for the country’s loss for hockey’s loss. You see the wives from around the league, the response from the wives has been amazing. Almost every team has been stricken and it’s not just the players it’s been the wives and they’ve been doing a lot. I think our lives, our families, our hockey families, we see that response in a bunch of different ways and tonight Geno and Alex being from that country, their participation in the game, we’ll see it on the draw, you’ll see it on the jerseys and stickers.

Game face on: J-Crew (Justin Criado)

1:06 PM:
Media scrums!!!

Crosby answers questions about fish (left); The media surrounds Crosby's stall ready to attack with leading questions and yellow journalism (right)

Malkin wearing the Lokomotiv patch at his stall while he talks to reporters (left); Malkin wearing the Lokomotiv patch at his stall while he doesn't talk to reporters (right)

12:24 PM:
Pictures that are cleared for full contact...

Sidney "full contact at practice" Crosby taking a shot (left); Asham and Adams tell jokes in the background (right)

Kunitz was in the news today, but I can't remember...oh yeah, he's sticking around for a while (left); Asham was in the news today, but I can't remember...oh wait, no he wasn't (right)

See if you can find 5 differences between these two photos. Good job!! Now see if you can find 50 differences. Ready? Go!

Now that Kunitz has a contract extension, he's working on scoring between his legs (left); Malkin is a game-time decision tonight (right)

12:14 PM:
Posted my story on Crosby's full contact status. Click here for all the details. Or don't and be the only person on your street corner that isn't "in the know."

12:12 PM:
Evgeni Malkin talks about his status and knee injury...

On if he is going to play tonight:
I feel good, but I can’t say now. It’s a game-time decision. If I feel better tonight, then I will. But if not, I can’t play.

Malkin at his locker stall
On looking better in today’s morning skate:
Yeah, I had a couple days off and my knee feels better. I had a good warmup today and we’ll see tonight.

On his Lokomotiv patch:
We have charity game tonight. I talked to coach Dan and Ray (Shero) and we had a couple ideas to sell bracelets and jerseys after the game and help families in Russia.

On still signing and selling his jersey even if he doesn’t play:
Yeah, of course. We need to help because it’s very important for us, for me, for all of us.

On if he felt soreness going into the Calgary game or if he felt it later:
Yeah, after the second period my knee started to feel a little bit tired. I tried to skate but I can’t push it, I don’t know why. Nothing felt wrong before the game. I don’t know, it just got a little sore and I’m not feeling comfortable.

On if it’s where his knee surgery was:
Yeah, it’s my scar.

On if his doctors and strength coach Mike Kadar warned him that might happen early on:
Yeah, ‘Kades’ says just be careful. But I’m not doing anything too hard, so I don’t know why. Everyone has different bodies, you know. My body has a different scar, I have a big scar. Sometimes it’s sore, I don’t know why.

All over it: Michelle Crechiolo

11:44 AM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma said that center Evgeni Malkin will be a game-time decision tonight against the Caps.

11:41 AM:
Crosby talks to the media about his clearance for full contact...

On if he’s cleared for contact:
Yes, I’m cleared for full contact. It’s a good step in the right direction. We’ll see how it goes for the next little bit.

On if he’s cleared for practices only:
Yes, just practices.

Crosby talks "full contact"
On if his teammates will hit him:
I hope so. When a guy comes back from injury you’re usually a little hesitant. That’s pretty normal. I might have to do something to get them to hit me. Maybe I’ll have to bump them a little bit and get them going. As close to a game situation as we can get it.

On making this step:
It’s a big step, but with each step I have to see how things go.

On how much hitting in practice he’ll need:
I don’t know. It’s pretty tough right now, we play every second day and back-to-back games. There aren’t a lot of practices with contact per se. I’ve got to get hit at some point during practice, but we’re playing so much that it’s pretty tough to get that in right now.

On when he knew he’d be ready for this next step:
After I talked to the doctor. Doing light stuff and feeling pretty good and the way I responded over the last few weeks to everything else, it was a good sign. We discussed things and decided to go to the next step here and go full contact.

On if there are symptoms:
I’ve been good since camp. Everything has gone really smooth.

On if the skate felt different today:
You feel like you have a little more freedom to go out there and do things. Other than that, today wasn’t hitting. Nothing really changed as far as that’s concerned.

On staying patient:
When you’ve waited this long you just want to make sure you do everything right. It’s exciting if anything. I don’t think it’s hard to be patient at this point. I’m getting closer and just want to make sure that I respond well to everything in the next however long it is.

On if playing is up to him:
It’s up to how I respond to getting hit. I guess it’s up to me, but we have to see when we get to that point.

11:25 AM:
Pens captain Sidney Crosby confirmed that he has been cleared for "full contact." He added that it's a big step and he'll have to start experiencing contact in practices, however there was no contact at today's morning skate. Stay tuned for his full comments.

"I'm cleared for full contact," Crosby said. "It's a good step in the right direction. We'll see how it goes in the next little bit."

10:49 AM:
Crosby is working with the first team PP unit.

Crosby, Kunitz and Sullivan down low with Letang and Malkin up top. Malkin and Sullivan also flipped with Sullivan seeing some action down low and Malkin working the point.

10:36 AM:
Pens lines from the morning skate:


10:34 AM:
Pens captain Sidney Crosby is wearing a black helmet, just like the rest of his teammates. We'll get an update from head coach Dan Bylsma on what this means for him.

10:12 AM:
While we wait for the Pens to take the ice for their morning skate, Michelle Crechiolo has the full breakdown on this year's Capitals squad if you'd like to get caught up on one of the Pens' biggest rivals. There's an accompanying video too!

10:00 AM:
Good morning everyone!!! A lot of stuff to get to today with the Pens and Caps set to faceoff for the first time this season.

But the big news of the day Big news to start the morning is that the Pens have re-signed forward Chris Kunitz to a two-year contract extension. The deal, which goes into effect next season, runs thru the 2013-14 campaign with an average annual value of $3.725 million.

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