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Penguins Report: Practice 12/13/10

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins


Malkin says he's close to returning, possibly as soon as Tuesday in Philadelphia (12:56 PM).
Head coach Dan Bylsma gave an update on the status of Chris Kunitz, who missed today's practice, and discussed Evgeni Malkin (12:36 PM).
Bylsma went into further detail on Malkin, Kunitz and the rivalry with the Flyers (1:48 PM).
The Pens lines got slightly shuffled with Kunitz out and Malkin in (11:22 AM).
The players discuss what's at stake against cross-state rivals Philadelphia (5:30 PM).
Feedback from Crosby, Malkin and Cooke on Tuesday's game and the win streak (1:37 PM).
Fleury named one of the NHL's 'Three Stars' of the week (3:50 PM).
Pens pics (11:16 AM).
Fleury making a diving catch...(11:48 AM).
Who's got Bieber fever?! "I don't need too much, just somebody to love..." (10:37 AM).

5:30 PM:
Just when you thought the rivalry between cross-state rivals Pittsburgh and Philadelphia couldn't get any juicer, it gets amped up as both teams have a lot on the line.

3:50 PM:
The Flower has been blooming and everyone's noticing in these dreary winter months. The NHL named him their 'Second Star' for the week ending Dec. 12.

3:15 PM:
PensTV caught up with Flower before he hit the road.


1:48 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On Evgeni Malkin’s health:
I haven’t had an in-length discussion with Geno yet, so he’s still day-to-day and we’ll see. Obviously he’s been working, and he got back into full practice today. So we’ll hopefully get to see more (Tuesday).

On how they will evaluate Malkin on Tuesday:
It will be important (that there’s no soreness). He’s gone through a couple workouts where he hasn’t had any pain. But today was another level out there in contact practice. We’ll see (Tuesday) morning. He’s skating well and he’s doing better. Hopefully we’ll see a continued improvement (Tuesday).

On Chris Kunitz:

Kunitz was banged up in the game in Buffalo and he’s day-to-day.

On if Malkin will play with Sid or center his own line:
Great question. It really depends on the other roster situations. Without Chris Kunitz out there today, we saw him with Sid. That would be a possibility if (Kunitz) wasn’t playing and (Malkin) was.

On if being the top two teams in the league adds anything to the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia rivalry:
I think regardless of where both teams are at, this one always has a little intensity to it and a little different flavor to it. I think the fact that you saw Philly in front of us for most of the season, and now us catching up and being a little ahead. I think that gets a little more interest in the storyline. But we’re going into Philly and going against the black and orange, and I’m pretty confident that their fans are not going to like us going in there. It will have some intensity to it.

On if playing the Flyers is fun:
That’s probably not the first adjective I’d use, but it is something that you always look forward to. You always know at the start of the season when you play them. We knew we played them three times at the beginning of the season and we circled this one right now. We’ve known for a little bit that this one was coming up on the schedule. And again the fact that the two teams are playing really well will definitely add to that. Definitely, fun is not where I would go, but it is intense. These are the games you look forward to playing and we definitely look forward to going in there (Tuesday).

On establishing a home ice advantage:
I think there were some questions when we didn’t win some games (at the beginning of the season). There were enough bounces for some people to talk about flukes and jinxes. But whether we play at home or on the road, we want to play the right way. We’ve been doing a lot of that lately, and that’s turned into a consecutive run at the new arena. So we’ll keep riding that when we get a chance to. We’ve also been winning games on the road, so there are a couple of streaks we want to make sure we take care of the next two days.

On if the team is hard on itself when assessing their play:
They’re not hard on each other or hard on themselves in a getting-down sort of way, but I’d say they’re honest. I think we, as a group, have developed that whether we’re winning or losing. Whether we win a game because our power play was good one game or we didn’t do some things in different areas, I think we’re honest with each other. And there are certain areas of the game where I think we can get better at, or maybe we’ve not done as well at certain times of games. In the Toronto game, we played two great periods, but we felt like the third period was an area where we have to be better at. And that’s just an example of the group being honest.

On if they learned that honesty from last season:
I would say that we learned something from last year in that regard. Accountability is talking about a standard and the team buying into that standard and expecting that of each other. I think when we talk about every game, whether we won or lost it, we’re talking about holding ourselves to a standard on how we play and what we do and how we work. That’s why I think we’ve been honest. We know we can still improve on areas and we'll focus on those going into our next games.

On if Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are similar teams:

I think when you talk about winning games, you’re talking about doing certain things right. And those formulas aren’t a mystery. When you score goals and don’t give up goals, you’re going to win some games. And Philly has certainly done both of those. Their goaltender has been a story for them this year. Special teams are a factor, and they've got a nice recipe to win some games. I think we’ve been able to do some similar things. We’re similar in a lot of ways but we play a little bit differently. You’re going to see two teams that do a lot of things well--play defense, play offense. The goaltenders are going to be clashing in this one and it’s going to be a physical contest. So you’ll see two good teams.

Empty-net goal: Tony Jovenitti

1:37 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...


On how they have to make sure that penalties don’t get away from them against Philadelphia:
I think last game especially, we were probably a little too emotional and guilty of being a little too aggressive. But at the same time, those games are going to happen sometimes, and you’ve just got to recognize it and make sure that it’s not something you make a habit of. But at the same time, I think you have to like the way we’ve stuck together. I think the most important thing is to know the different scenarios and situations to do that. (Tuesday’s) not that time, the intensity’s going to be there. We don’t have to add anything to it, and we’ve got to play a good game.

On whether their superstitious nature increases on a winning streak like this:
No, not really. I don’t know what the difference is between superstition and routine now. They’re kind of hand-in-hand. I think that’s the whole point of why you have a routine and why you try to prepare the same way. It’s just so that whether you’re winning or losing, you know you’re doing the same thing to prepare and get ready the same way. I think if anything, that’s probably more what it’s for—to know every game, you’re ready.

On his mustache:
No, that’s not a routine (laughs). It was Mov-ember, a lot of guys throughout the league did it for prostate cancer awareness. I decided to keep it, it was going well then, so I decided to keep it. Hopefully I’ll keep giving it time to grow, that’s the idea.

On if it’ll stay until the streak ends:
There’s a good chance, yeah.

On if the Penguins and the Flyers respective statuses as No. 1 and 2 in the league add something to Tuesday’s game:
It’s hard to think that you can add to it. It’s always intense no matter what. But I guess if there was a way to (add to it), it would be now with the way the teams are playing. The rivalry’s already there, but I would agree with that. There’s a little more with the teams being so close. Both have a lot of pride, and it’s been a while, so both teams want to show what they’ve improved on and where they’re at.

On the difference between going to the Flyers arena now versus in the spring for the playoffs:
There’s a little more Christmas cheer in December, I guess (laughs). I don’t feel the difference. It could be December, it could be March, it could be October. It usually feels the same. It’s a challenge. I like to think that both teams bring out the best in each other. It always makes for intense games. They’re challenging, and that’s why you play—to play in those big games, those intense games. It always has a little something else added to it.


On skating lately:
I feel better everyday. Today I skated pretty hard. I feel alright.

On his injury:
It's tough when I'm not playing. But I understand I need rest because my knee was a little bit sore. I hope I play tomorrow.

On playing tomorrow:
I can't say now. We'll see in the morning skate tomorrow. I feel pretty good. We'll see tomorrow.

On percentage of playing:

On wanting to play Philadelphia:
It doesn't matter which team I play. If I come back against the Rangers, they're a tough team too. We are playing very well right now. I'm trying to help my team. My first game I'll play a little simple, more defensively. It doesn't matter which team we play.

On taking more time with the team playing well:
There's no pressure. I feel alright now. I skated the last couple days. It's not sore. I'm ready. If I'm sore tomorrow then I won't play. It's not pressure on myself.

On the team playing well:
We're playing well right now. I'm excited. I want to play too. It's tough watching games on TV. I think I can help my team score a couple goals tomorrow. We'll see.


On how the team prepares for each game being on such a streak:
I think we’ve just got to make sure we refocus ourselves each time. It doesn’t get any easier. Teams are gunning, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re at our best every night. And to do that, you’ve got to make sure you’re prepared for the task at hand. Tuesday night is Philly, they’re playing well. They’re a tough team and it’s a tough place to play. We have to go in there and be at our best.

On the pressure that comes with not wanting the streak to end:
I think that realistically, it’s been a good run. You want to win every game, but we don’t add any extra pressure. We just want to make sure that if it ends, we’ve played our best hockey and not gotten the win. We don’t want it to be for a reason that we went out and took it for granted.

On how Malkin looked at practice:
It’s always a good sign to have that guy on the ice. He’s a big part of this team, this hockey club. The sooner he gets back, the better for us. He’s a guy that helps our team.

On what they need to do to get a win in Philadelphia Tuesday:
We need to continue to do what we do. We need to make sure that we are committed to managing the puck properly and executing at a high level, and forcing them to deal with our speed.

12:56 PM:

There's a possibility that Evgeni Malkin may play on Tuesday in Philadelphia against the Flyers. Sam Kasan has the scoop on his status.

12:36 PM:
According to Bylsma, Chris Kunitz got "banged up in the game in Buffalo, and he's day-to-day." Evgeni Malkin is close to returning to the lineup after participating in his first full practice since suffering a lower-body injury. We'll have more details for you on that momentarily.

11:48 AM:
Fleury having a little fun at the start of practice. He threw a puck into air and made a diving leap to catch it. We're just glad he chose hockey instead of baseball.

11:22 AM:
The lines got shuffled a bit this morning, with Malkin filling in for Kunitz on the top line:


11:16 AM:

Malkin's in attendance (left).


11:04 AM:
The only Penguin missing on the ice is Chris Kunitz. We'll provide an update on his status from head coach Dan Bylsma after practice.

10:53 AM:
The players have started filtering onto the ice for their skate. Evgeni Malkin is in attendance; he was one of the first Penguins to head out there.

10:37 AM:
While we wait for the team to take the ice here at Southpointe, I've got to play a song in honor of Justin Bieber. The Canadian native and hockey fan will be stealing the hearts of young girls in Pittsburgh when he takes the stage at CONSOL Energy Center tonight.

DISCLAIMER: This song choice was not approved by my co-workers Sam Kasan and Tony Jovenitti, who are both self-proclaimed "non-Beliebers.
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