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Penguins Report: Late Night at Southpointe

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

9:03 PM:
Dan Bylsma
On the hard practice:
Speaking for myself, and myself alone, I had some food so it was a good time to get out. I think today is a day where you are not going to feel great but you have to get some of the lead out of the legs. Hopefully we did that.
On Toronto playing Saturday:
Santa has been good to us in that regard. I haven’t looked but I’d imagine the schedule is going to have to even out in some aspect. I think with the tight schedule every team will have suffered some effects of having to play back-to-back nights. We have been a benefactor of that. Again, it’s a situation where it might even be more beneficial for them having played tonight and then play us tomorrow night. We are going to have to get the lead out. We are going to have three days without a game and two days off. It will be a challenge for us to get our feet moving and our legs moving in that game.
On following other big games around the league:
Do I pay attention? Yes. Is it immaterial? No, I guess it’s not. I am going to watch them and it is going to be an interesting game to see how they stack up. They are division leaders so it is going to make for some interesting hockey to watch. It’s too early in the season to say it has an impact on what we are doing and what we are trying to do and how we are going to respond. It’s far too early to talk about it in that regard. We will watch it and we will be interested in it. I will be interested in terms of another good team playing New Jersey and how they can get to them and what they can do, and try to learn off that. We are certainly more focused on what we can do right now.
On the players playing in the Olympics staying focused:
Each person you have to deal with individually on that and their mindset. There are different things that are in every one of our players’ situations whether it’s a contract year, whether they are a young player. Every player is having to deal with their certain world. Everybody you deal with individually. I think you deal with (Sergei) Gonchar differently than you would deal with (Evgeni) Malkin. I think it will affect them differently in their mindsets because one is older and a little more experienced and one is relatively young in the league. Each individual is different and there won’t be a set plan on anybody. It is something to keep in the back of our mind about their circumstances.
On his experiences coming back from the break as a player:
I think luckily with this break we have two days coming back here. We luckily have a day to practice before having a game day. A lot of times you just get the game-day skate and then you have the game at night, which is a very difficult thing to do. Having this practice after our break I feel comfortable you can get the lead out, get the food out and get the travel out today. Then tomorrow can be a normal day. That is a big benefit to us. You are not going to feel great so you should doing some skating and moving up and down the ice or get on the bike so you can get some of that out even though you don’t feel like it, even though you don’t feel good, it’s pretty necessary to get that to rev the engine a bit and get out the garbage. That is a big part of what today was. It wasn’t so much how pretty the practice was. We had some drills that got us up and down the ice and some battle drills to get the mind back into hockey. Hopefully tomorrow we can be focused on a pretty normal game day.


8:34 PM:
The Penguins Report caught up with Eaton after his first practice since suffering an undisclosed injury at Buffalo on Dec. 19 and asked if he's ready to return to the ice.

"You’ll have to talk to the head ice hockey coach about that one. It’s good to get back out there, back on the ice again. You never like to be out for too long. I think it was a week for me (Saturday). It’s good to back out there and get some of the rust off."

So what did the head ice hockey coach have to say?

"I think today was a week," Bylsma said. "Today was his first test. I think for him and us it was a disadvantage not being able to be on the ice the past few days to test it. This will be his first test so we will see how he responds and how he is in the morning."

7:15 PM:
The crowd was treated the practice-ending shootout. The fans roared as Eric Godard roofed a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury. Then the crowd really let loose some screams as Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby added goals on Fleury.

In the end, Martin Skoula was the last man standing.

7:01 PM:
The Penguins held a late practice at Southpointe on Saturday night. To ensure that the players had enough time to arrive back in Pittsburgh and make it to practice following a two-day Christmas break, head coach Dan Bylsma scheduled practice to start at 6 p.m. The practice was full with spectators, who cheered with every goal.

Two notes from the practice were that defenseman Mark Eaton, who missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury, participated and Jordan Staal, who had worn a full-shield mask the past two games after getting struck in the face by a puck, switched to a half-shield.

The stands at Southpointe were packed by fans taking in the practice.

To absolutely no one's surprise, Evgeni Malkin (left) and Sergei Gonchar (right) were named to Team Russia.

Jordan Staal (left) wore a half-shield at practice. Mark Eaton (right) returned to practice after missing the last two games with an undisclosed injury.

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