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Penguins Report: Gonchar Practices

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins blueliner Sergei Gonchar participated in his first full practice since suffering an undisclosed injury at New Jersey on Dec. 30 and said that he his optimistic about playing in Pittsburgh's Thursday night showdown with division rival Philadelphia Flyers at Mellon Arena at 7:30 p.m.

"I'm getting better and better everyday. Hopefully it will be better (Thursday)," he said. "We're going day by day. (Thursday) we'll make a decision.

"I had a chance to finish practice and I’m making progress, and because of it, I’m going to try to skate (Thursday) in the morning, and then we’re going to make a decision after that."

"He had a full practice (Wednesday)," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "It was better than (Tuesday). (Tuesday) was significantly better than the day before. Again, we’re optimistic that (Thursday) might be the day but we’ll have to wait and see."

Gonchar has missed the last three games after blocking a shot against the New Jersey Devils that hobbled the veteran defenseman. After blocking the shot, he fell to the ice and struggled to get to the bench. Gonchar returned to finish the game but he has been sidelined ever since.

"I finished the game but the next day I was in so much pain that I couldn't walk," Gonchar said. "I knew it was going to be a battle.

"I knew (the shot) was coming. I knew it was going to hit me. I wasn't jumping in front of it. It was in an area where there is no protection. It's painful, I can tell you that."

2:16 PM:
Pittsburgh Magazine released an issue with Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin on the cover. We took some behind the scenes pictures from Bylsma's photo shoot.


1:29 PM:
The Penguins received good news that Chris Kunitz's surgery was a success.

1:11 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room:

Dan Bylsma
On if he’ll keep the combination of Caputi-Malkin-Fedotenko:
I would see that being how we start the game. Also Rupp will probably see some time on that line as well.
On one win erasing the frustrations of the losing streak:
I think the way we started the game you saw us being a little tentative and reacting. They won some faceoffs and got some shots. That put us back on our heels a little bit. Credit our power play. It changed momentum of the game and got us back into it with five or six shots. After that point we were able to play our game and react to situations and execute the way we need to execute. Getting two points can alleviate some of that holding the stick. I think as the game went on you saw the team play with some confidence. You react to them scoring goals the way you expect our team to react, getting back to our game and executing. We got two points. There are a lot of games left. We got better in a lot of areas that we needed to. There were signs of improvement in some of the details. Now we have a chance to add to the rival game where we should be focused on playing a solid game, playing an energized game and an emotional game.
On if he wished he had more practice time or preferred playing right away:
I’d like an extra couple days in the schedule a different times but I’m certainly happy that we played an Atlanta team, got the two points and we had some success. Now we get to go play a Philly team. Some of the things that take away from your focus, this game brings you right into that focus with the rivalry. It always makes for an interesting matchup.

Sidney Crosby

On what it meant to get that win last night against the Thrashers:

It’s nice. We played well for most of the game. Our start was a little slow, but I think we got to our game for most of it, and that’s what we’re looking for.  Obviously you want the results, but we want to play the right way, and if we seem to do that, we get rewarded.  So, we were fortunate to get rewarded, and we’ve got to build off of it.
On the seemingly improved defense in last night’s game:
I think it’s everybody. Everybody needs to help – whether it’s getting the puck out of your zone or executing and making sure that you limit the other team from holding onto the puck. There are a lot of different things that go into that, but we know what it looks like, and we did a good job of keeping the puck in the offensive zone and giving ourselves a chance so teams weren’t really fresh when they come in, and that’s really what we wanted.
On having a strong third line:

It’s important. They’ve chipped in a lot of different times in a lot of big situations, as well. So, they had a big game for us last night, but they’re effective every night even if they don’t put pucks to the net. They weigh the other team down each and every game. They’re tough to play against – they get a lot of assignments against their teams’ top lines and things like that. So, they’re a big part of our team.
On playing Philadelphia on Thursday:
Yeah, we want to get on a roll and make sure we’re playing the right way and build off of last night. So, we know it’s a rivalry and a game that everyone should easily get up for. It should be a good challenge for us.
On Johnson’s performance last night:

He’s playing great. You know what? I think that’s all you can really ask for when a guy doesn’t play as much. He’s thrown in there, and it’s not always the easiest job. He’s been making it look pretty easy.  He’s doing a great job and giving us a chance every time he’s out there.
On Philadelphia getting a turnaround in the last couple of games:
I think it’s not surprising at all. They’re a good hockey team, and I’m sure it wasn’t easy with the changes and the things like that. We went through that last year, so there’s a bit of time it takes to adjust and adapt to the way you need to play and things like that.

Jordan Staal
On the hard work of Johnson:
Johnny, he’ll stay out as long as we want if we want to take some shots. He’ll be there for you. He practices hard and he works hard. He is a great goalie. He plays well in big games. Last night we really needed him and he stepped up big for us.
On everyone stepping up:
We needed to get out of this slump. We knew we had the guys to do it. I thought everyone had a great effort last night. Hopefully we can keep that going.
On focusing on the right things:
It is the little things that you don’t even realize when you are playing well. When you start losing then you start to see the details you need to improve on. I thought last night we improved on those little things. It was good for us.

Alex Goligoski
On defensive improvements:
We started out a little slow but I think we played a good game defensively. Guys were working hard to get to their spots and it made it a lot easier for everybody else.
On whether that was the biggest difference between winning and losing:
I don’t know. The game is decided by bounces a lot of the time. A couple of those games we could have won and a couple of the other ones we played terrible in. It is just one of things where some nights you get those bounces and some nights you don’t. If we play like we did last night a majority of the game we should be getting a majority of those bounces.
On playing the same way against Philadelphia:
We want to play games right now. Nobody is really satisfied with where our game is yet. Everyone wants to get better and play better. It’s a good time to play a lot of games.
On the play of Fleury and Johnson:
We are confident in both of those guys. They are both great goalies. There is no difference to us who is in the net. It’s a pretty comfortable situation.

Assists Jason Seidling and Caitlin Kasunhich

12:38 PM:
Bylsma addressed the absence of Maxime Talbot and Ruslan Fedotenko from Wednesday's practice.

"Maintenance days and getting evaluated for various injuries. We’re planning on both being healthy. But we’ll see. They’re being evaluated and with the doctors as well."

11:53 AM:

Sergei Gonchar practiced with the Penguins on Wednesday, his first full practice since suffering an undisclosed injury at New Jersey (Dec. 30).


11:18 AM:
The Penguins are on the ice at Mellon Arena for a Wednesday afternoon practice. Two notable players that are absent are forwards Ruslan Fedotenko and Maxime Talbot.

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who has missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury, is on the ice and participating with the team. That is a great sign for the Penguins.
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