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Penguins Report: Practice 12/1/10

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Crosby named NHL player of the month (2:40 PM) and Newsmaker of the Year (11:56 AM).
  • Civic Arena seats are on sale to the public (12:07 PM).
  • HBO 24/7 preview clip (11:50 AM).
  • Mustache Boy postponed (11:44 AM).
  • Pens’ lines, spoiler alert – no changes (11:33 AM).
  • Johnson misses practice with illness (11:06 AM).
  • Lovejoy reads to sixth grade students (4:47 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on the PK, Malkin and Atlanta (2:46 PM).
  • Words of wisdom from Fleury, Crosby and Dupuis (2:37 PM).
  • Tonight is the City Game, go Duquesne! (2:45 PM).
  • Pens pics (11:26 PM).
  • “She likes her hair to be real orange. She uses tangerines…“ (10:54 AM).

4:47 PM:
Dartmouth grad Ben Lovejoy took some time out of his day to read to sixth-graders.

2:46 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On the penalty kill:
Well, we talk about it every game, and in every talk about winning hockey games, special teams is a key. So it may not be as hot of a point as the power play is, but it’s essential to winning games and to giving yourself a chance to win. I think it’s more of an important statistic in the playoffs than the power play is, and it’s a battle (where) we go out every night and step over the boards not worrying about where we’ve been at. We don’t care what our percentage is, it’s about the next one. It’s about winning the special teams that night, and that’s probably one of the best things our PK has done—they go over the boards every PK knowing that it’s the most important one of the game, whether they’ve given up a goal or have given up a goal or what the score is. With the Rangers (Monday), we had two big ones in the third, and they went over the boards with an aggressive tone and did a great job of limiting chances, got pucks down the ice, and that’s what the PK is all about.

On if people are overlooking Malkin’s game:
If you’re busy trying to do a comparison between this game and last, or points he’s getting this year or two years ago, you can lose sight on the game and what we’re doing as a team and what he’s doing. There are areas of the game he’s worked hard on and is still working on but getting better at, and he’s a guy we count on to be a big player for us in a lot of different areas. He is being that for us, and certainly he works to do more, he’s got a 115 shots, which leads the league. He wants to put more points on the board for us, and I think the work ethic has been there. (Wednesday) he’s on the ice first and off the ice last. If he keeps going to the net, if he keeps getting shots, he’ll get the results.

On Matt Cooke’s importance to the penalty kill
There’s been a lot of consistency with our group now for quite a few games in almost two full seasons, and Matt Cooke’s a big part of that. Our defensive corps, with Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Alex Goligoski, Max Talbot—those guys have all been out there together for a long time trying to be aggressive, push teams into certain areas, limit their opportunities, and a lot of that is reading off each other and reading the situation. They’re all doing a real good job of that. Matt Cooke and Max Talbot in particular have added shot blocking to their game, and you see them getting in lanes and taking shots and not having it faze them. They’re getting clears and it adds to an aggressive penalty kill, it adds to a tough group, it adds to the mentality we have over the boards, and Matt’s been a big part of that.

On what he sees with Atlanta at this point:
When we played them not too long ago, I really felt that they had dangerous weapons from the back end, they join a lot on the rush. Certainly (Dustin) Byfulgien is a guy who is noted for that, his skating ability and his shot, he’s very dangerous. But they have other guys who are joining, like (Tobias) Enstrom. Their core is joining on rushes in the offensive zone and they’re active. Their power play is dangerous, shooting the puck from all over the place. They’re a hardworking group, but add that dangerous element with the power play and what they can do there and with their goaltender playing very well, and you see them put together a string of games in a row. It’ll be interesting to butt heads and go toe-to-toe and see who comes out on top.

On his defense developing synergy:
Playing defense is always a focus for our group. We want to play quick and aggressive and we want to limit time and space. With this group that we have and their skating ability (we certainly have physicality back there as well), but we can skate and take away time and space whether it’s a rush (which I think we’re doing a great job of limiting) or having a great gap and limiting space on the rush in the D zone. Quick and physical, good sticks, we’ve really worked on angles and as a result, we’re starting to limit the scoring chances against other teams. Part of that is the group coming together, but it’s a focus that we’ve had all along and we’re getting better at that. I think this group in particular, this team’s puck decisions—the decision we’re making on the ice away from the puck—are conscious of limiting other team’s opportunities and their chances, and as a result we’re playing good team defense. With that group of defensemen, the way they can skate and defend, we expect to be a tough team to get scoring chances against and they’re doing that.

Assist: Michelle Crechiolo

2:45 PM:
Tonight will be the first-ever City Game at CONSOL Energy between Duquesne and Pitt. The brand-new facility was set up earlier today for the event.

2:40 PM:
The accolades keep rolling in for Crosby. He was named the NHL's player of the month for November. Crosby led all players last month with 26 points (12G-14A) in 14 games, taking first place in the NHL scoring race. He's also riding a 13-game scoring streak.

2:37 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Marc-Andre Fleury

On the PK’s recent success:
Knock on wood first to make sure it keeps going. Everybody has been pretty good. I can’t say enough good things about the guys in front of me, blocking a lot of shots and taking the rebounds away, moving guys in front so I can see the puck, forwards coming back hard in the zone, all that together makes it look simple.

On if the puck looks like a beach ball:
Not a beach ball, not that big (laughs). I feel more relaxed, more calm, confident that no matter what the score is, I always feel confident we can win.

On the relief when Pittsburgh scores an empty-netter:

It feels good. Otherwise it would be 6-on-5 or 6-on-4. There is relief that you can relax and think more about the win.

Sidney Crosby

On how to beat Atlanta:
We have to do a lot of the same things. Look back at the game we played them a couple weeks ago. That was tight, intense and physical. We have to be ready for the same thing (Thursday).

On having the ex-Blackhawks:
It helps a lot. Those guys bring a lot of experience and character. They’re really playing well as a team. They play together. They compete every night. That’s a big part of having success. That’s why they’ve had it.

On Evgeni Malkin:
I think he’s been solid. He’s creating a lot. Creating turnovers, been responsible out there at both ends. Sometimes it’s just a matter of the puck going in, or the chance you set up going in. That’s all that it has to do with. A lot of times you worry when you don’t have chances or shots. He’s doing what he can right now. The puck just needs to go in. When you play on the team you recognize all those things. You don’t look at stats right away. You recognize all the things that he’s doing and he’s creating a lot because of it.

Pascal Dupuis

On Atlanta adding several Blackhawks in the offseason:
Obviously when you add guys who have won on a team it’s going to help the team know how to win and prepare for hockey games. They changed the coach and they changed some management, and they are a better team right now.

On Dustin Byfuglien changing positions:
He played defense last year, too, when they needed him in front in the playoffs. He went back and forth, and right now he’s just a force for them. He’s playing some really good hockey and leading the league in defensive scoring.

On Byfuglien being a larger defenseman:
I don’t know how much he weighs out there, but he’s a really big dude. He plays the puck well and uses his body to an advantage. And he doesn’t get caught too much out of position, either. So he’s playing well.

On the penalty kill:
Overall, our goalies have been playing really well for us and making some big saves. It’s a little clichéd but your goalie has to be your best penalty killer.

12:07 PM:
Civic Arena seats go on sale to the general public today. Click here for details.

11:56 AM:
Crosby was named Maclean's Newsmaker of the Year, the Canadian version of Time's Person of the Year.

11:50 AM:
Speaking of HBO's "24/7 Pens-Caps: Road to the Winter Classic," check out the series preview.

11:44 AM:
Matt Cooke, November Mustache Boy
Normally on the first of every month, the Penguins hold their "Mustache Boy" shootout contest - where the loser must grow a mustache for the following month.

Unfortunately, for last month's mustache boy, Matt Cooke, he'll be rocking the lip fur for an extra seven days.

HBO will start filming the Penguins on Dec. 7 for the "24/7 Pens-Caps: Road to the Winter Classic" and wanted to incorporate the mustache boy in their shoot. So Cooke will wear the 'stache until Ded. 7, when a new mustache boy is crowned.

11:33 AM:
No change in the Pens' line combos at practice.


11:26 AM:

11:06 AM:
The players are on the ice for practice. Looks like goaltender Brent Johnson is getting the day off, as video coordinator Jim Britt is handling the goalie duties at practice in his place. Also, Mike Comrie is not on the ice. Coach Bylsma said that Comrie would need a week or so of rehab.

10:53 AM:
After having Tuesday off, the Penguins are making their way onto the ice at Southpointe for an 11 a.m. practice. Pittsburgh will host a very strong Atlanta team Thursday night at CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins are hoping to extend their winning streak to eight games.

As the players take the ice, let's kick off the day with one of the stranger, yet still awesome, songs of the early 90s, The Flaming Lips, "She Don't Use Jelly."

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