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Penguins Report: Practice 1/31/11

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Malkin is traveling with the team to New York, but will not play Tuesday against the Rangers (3:49 PM).

  • Full update on Malkin’s injury status (4:30 PM).
February's Mustache Boy is... (drum roll please) (2:54 PM).

  • Bylsma gives an update on Crosby and his light workouts (3:50 PM)
  • Michalek, Rupp and Fleury share their thoughts (4:33 PM).
  • Malkin and Mark Letestu speak (6:15 PM).
  • Bylsma goes in depth on Malkin, why Fleury and Letang skated and how the team will come out after their long break (5:33 PM).
  • WBS is hosting Football Friday! (6:38 PM).
  • Evgeni Malkin skated at practice (1:49 PM).
  • The Pens didn’t just sit around over break (6:34 PM).
  • Visual evidence of Fleury and Letang on the ice (1:47 PM).

  • The Pens’ lines, with Malkin rotating at center on the fourth trio (2:03 PM).
  • Pens’ pics (2:14 PM).

  • The boys are back in town (for a day...) (1:40 PM).

6:38 PM:
What are you doing this Friday? If you're a Steelers and Penguins fan, perhaps you should be at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is proving that they bleed black and yellow, as they're presenting Football Friday as they take on Manitoba on Feb. 4. Coolest part? A Steelers logo will be at center ice. So legit.

6:34 PM:
Although the Pens got a five-day break from their grueling 82-game schedule, they're not just lounging around doing nothing when they're off the ice.

Strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar puts together programs for the guys to follow when they're off. Pascal Dupuis said it best when he remarked, “We know what needs to be done. It’s basically accountability to your teammates. I know the guy next to me will stay in shape, so I try to do it myself.”

6:15 PM:
PensTV got Geno on video and also chatted up Mark Letestu:



5:33 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On the statuses of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin:
Sidney Crosby is cleared to do very light exercises as part of his functional rehab. Until he progresses, we’re not going to the next level for that. Evgeni Malkin practiced with us today, and he’ll be going on the trip with us but will not be playing in tomorrow’s game.

On the process of Malkin learning to play at his best level when injured:
I think there’s probably a spotlight on a more gifted player, a more higher-end player when they’re injured, because he’s a scoring champion and a Conn Smythe winner. So (with) a drop in level of play or production, you may look for reasons. But that’s part of playing in the National Hockey League, you’re rarely at 100 percent. So dealing with that and playing your best given those circumstances is a challenge a lot of players go through on a yearly basis. That’s been a challenge for Geno. Certainly last year he had a few games out around Christmas, in the December time period, with a shoulder injury, and this year he’s had time off with a nagging knee injury. Playing at that level, the best level you can, in those circumstances is a difficult challenge and the spotlight is probably on you a little more when you’ve had a previous scoring champion out there right now. So Geno’s dealt with that, and much like any player, you have to get ready to play your best. And Geno has played some good hockey and hasn’t got the production for us this year. He’s worked on other parts of his game and I think has gotten better in some of those areas, but hasn’t gotten the production so the spotlight is on him. Dealing with that spotlight has probably been the most difficult part of that process for him.

On what Crosby’s light workouts consist of:
Light rehab is very light exercise. Moderate, very moderate biking activity. He’s been on the ice, but literally, he’s in track pants, (going) up and down the ice, not in a workout-type mode. It’s very light activity, and that’s part of what the doctors have prescribed as his functional rehab at this point. Again, progressing to the next level means he has to get better in certain areas, and he’s going through that process right now.

On why he’s already decided that Malkin won’t play Tuesday, and if the team does anything different coming off a long break:
It’s just dealing with his current injury. He’s not ready to go in for tomorrow’s game. And yes, there are certain types of things that you talk about team-wise, both from an execution standpoint and getting back into the flow of a regular game. For us and the Rangers, we’re both going to be in similar boats where we have not played and they have not played. You’re going to be dealing with a little bit of that execution level and timing that may not be there, but also how you feel and how your legs feel is not going to be up to speed yet. So shortness of shifts, how we manage the puck and the execution level that we expect is going to change a little bit. We want to put ourselves in the best position to have success as a team. All those things will go into our game plan and talking about our players and what we should be executing at and what we’re going to do in the game.

On what went into Letang and Fleury practicing and how much he has looked at February’s tough schedule:
I've looked at it quite a bit, and understand the couple different stretches this month we have this month have a lot of hockey in them. In terms of the All-Star break, you mentioned Kris and Marc. They did have a chance to get a couple days of break where they were on vacation prior to the All-Star game and going to Raleigh. So that factored in to them coming back. Also, talking with both players, they felt like – especially Marc – they wanted to get some work in today, to try to get back up to speed. It kind of felt like he did a lot of stuff, (but) he didn’t do a lot of hockey stuff in the last couple days, so he wanted to get on the ice and get lots of shots and get back up to speed. They felt pretty good that they got a couple days where they got to have some rest and relaxation and they also wanted the opportunity to get back on the ice and get back on the hockey page, so they practiced today.

4:33 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...


On the shootout at the end of practice, and getting a last chance on Fleury:
He made a pretty good save. Give him credit. It was my last chance, but it didn’t work.
On if he’s looking forward to the mustache:
No, not really. I never had one. This is going to be the first time, so we’ll see how it’s going to look.

On Mike Rupp’s mustache:
I don’t think the guys were too happy with Rupper. I think there was some shaving or something going on. So I have to make sure I follow the rules. I don’t exactly know how it works here, but I’ll have to ask the guys.

On what his wife will think:

My wife knows that it’s part of the deal. I told her that I will probably lose one of these one of the months on the season.

On if he feels even more a part of the team now:
I guess. Everyone has to go through it at least once, and it makes you part of the team. It’s fun to do, and it’s something that they’ve been doing for a while.


On shaving his mustache:
I didn’t know we were doing it today. I had clippers I was going to bring to the bench. But we’ll get it off here as soon as I shower. The worst part, I think, is that I haven’t really shaved in a couple years. I usually just use the clippers and keep the stubble. That was the worst part, just shaving the rest.

On advice for Michalek:
I have a feeling it’s going to take him a while to see something. You just don’t want to lose the second time. I was down to the last five there so I got a little nervous.

On if he would ever keep it:

Absolutely not. If I would have gone on a run, then maybe. Last year, Billy (Guerin) went on a scoring tear when he had his. But that didn’t really happen for me. So we’re not too concerned about keeping it.

On getting ready for the second half of the season:
It was a good time to get away and maybe heal up a bit physically and get mentally refocused. We have 32 games left, and it was a good breakup in the schedule.
On having seven games in 11 days:
That’s usually the schedule the second half of the year. But you kind of like it that way. It’s going to be tough on us, and most teams are probably going through the same thing. It gives you an opportunity every night to get the two points.

On getting Evgeni Malkin back in practice:

It was good to see him out there today. He was able to do a little bit over the last few days, in terms of his physical activity, so it doesn’t look like he’s missed too much.


On his rough start in the All-Star Game:
I was looking to the bench to see if I was going to get pulled or something. It was a little rough to start with, but it was fun. It was good that it was tied after the first. And even Thomas let four goals in, too.

On getting the win:
Yeah, and Tanger didn’t score on the breakaway or the shootout, and then he lost the game. So I beat him pretty good.

On Letang:
He played pretty good. He was maybe more offensive minded yesterday, though.

On if he got any rest:

We had Wednesday and Thursday off, and then Friday we didn’t skate either. So it was a few days without skating, so it was pretty nice in the middle of the season.

Shorthanded goal: Tony Jovenitti

4:30 PM:
Malkin spoke to reporters in the locker room following practice. While he said his knee feels "100 percent," he's still dealing with a sinus infection. Click here to see what Geno had to say.

3:50 PM:
Bylsma also gave an update on the status of Sidney Crosby, who has missed the past nine contests with a concussion.

"Sidney Crosby is cleared to do very light exercise as part of his functional rehab, and until he progresses, he will not go to the next level for that," Bylsma said.

When asked what light exercise entailed, Bylsma responded, "Light rehab is very light exercise. Moderate, very moderate biking activity. He’s been on the ice, but literally, he’s in track pants, (going) up and down the ice, not in a workout-type mode. It’s very light activity, and that’s part of what the doctors have prescribed as his functional rehab at this point. Again, progressing to the next level means he has to get better in certain areas, and he’s going through that process right now."

3:49 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma just announced that although Malkin will be traveling with the team to New York, he will not be playing in Tuesday's game.

"Evgeni Malkin practiced with us today," Bylsma said. "And he’ll be going on the trip with us but will not be playing in tomorrow’s game.

"It's dealing with his current injury," continued Bylsma, who confirmed that Malkin's injury was still sinus/head-related. "He's not ready to go in for tomorrow's game."

2:54 PM:
It's the last practice in January, so you know what that means... Mustache Boy! 

Michalek and Talbot were the last two men standing in the shootout. Talbot beat Fleury with a nifty move, while Johnny stoned Z. Z got one last chance to redeem himself, but Flower came up with a beauty of a save.

And with that, Zbynek Michalek, one of the most clean-shaven Pens in the locker room, replaces Mike Rupp as the new mustache boy!

2:47 PM:
The Pens are gathering at center ice for their traditional shootout. As they gathered, Craig Adams asked his teammates, "Does someone want to buy immunity?" We're not sure what that means, but we're going to try and find out. To be continued...

UPDATE: We just realized that Adams is sitting alone in the penalty box while the rest of the Pens shoot on Flower and Johnny. We've seen players there before, but never realized what it meant. I guess that means Adams is safe from today's end-of-shootout punishment. I wonder how one earns such immunity.

2:14 PM:
Visual evidence of the Pens at work:

Mad SuperSkills Flower denying Talbot (left); chatting with goaltending coach Gilles Meloche (right)

Speedy Dupuis (left); an unidentified Pen -- can you guess who it is???

Talbot (left); Staal (right)


2:03 PM:
Malkin is skating on the fourth line, sharing the center spot with Craig Adams. Eric Godard is partaking in another full practice. Here's what the Pens lines look like:


1:49 PM:
Evgeni Malkin is on the ice after missing the last three games and the All-Star festivities with a knee injury and sinus infection. We'll keep you posted on what his status is for tomorrow's game.



1:47 PM:
The guys have already started hitting the ice, with both All-Stars in attendance. Two-goal Tanger is already back into practice mode after his stellar performance in last night's All-Star Game, with Flower out on the ice as well.


1:45 PM:
A bit of news that may have gotten lost in the All-Star excitement. On Friday, the Pens announced that Sidney Crosby has been cleared for light workouts. He's making progress!!!

1:40 PM:
The boys are back in town!!! After a five-day break that felt like forever, the team is preparing for their 2 p.m. practice here at CONSOL Energy Center. A little later of a start than usual, but hopefully the guys got plenty of rest and relaxation as they have a tough upcoming stretch with seven games in the next 12 days (including two back-to-back sets).

While some of the players went home or went to Disney World, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang participated in their first-ever All-Star Game and other festivities over the weekend. Fleury definitely has bragging rights, as he and Team Lidstrom topped Letang and Team Staal by a score of 11-10 after stoning Tanger in the SuperSkills Challenge the night before.

But Letang did have a spectacular outing, scoring two goals in the game. Good times had by all. But now it's time to get back to business!

I figured there couldn't be a more fitting song to start off the blog even though the team is leaving right after practice for New York. Hopefully it doesn't get stuck in your head all day, but I can't promise anything.

NOTE: Normally the Penguins Report is done by our fearless leader Sam Kasan, but Sam is flying straight from Raleigh to New York for the Penguins' Tuesday tilt at Madison Square Garden. I'll try to live up to his epic standards with today's blog (with assistance from Tony Jovenitti).
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