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Penguins Report: Practice 4/1/11

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Bylsma updates on Asham and Dupuis (1:37 PM).
  • Crosby skates, but not full practice (12:08 PM).
  • Asham and Dupuis miss practice (11:45 AM).
  • Neal’s fish prank (12:16 PM).
  • Neal reax to the prank (1:57 PM).
  • Today’s wrap video (3:33 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on injuries, Comrie and Crosby (2:09 PM).
  • Crosby and Letestu spit knowledge (1:44 PM).
  • Method to the madness of today’s prank (2:13 PM).
  • Practice pics (1:32 PM).
  • “The question becomes was the mob sent to draw us to the crime scene .... (glasses) .... or sent to destroy it?” (11:00 AM).

3:33 PM:
Here's today's off-day wrapup with yours truly that has interviews and practice highlights - including Neal's priceless reaction to his fishy day.

2:13 PM:
I hope this doesn't give away the culprits, but the fish on Neal's back was a Poisson D'Avril.

From Wikipedia:

The April 1 tradition in France and French-speaking Canada includes poisson d'avril (literally "April's fish"), attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim's back without being noticed. This is also widespread in other nations, such as Italy, where the term Pesce d'aprile (literally "April's fish") is also used to refer to any jokes done during the day. In Spanish-speaking countries, similar pranks are practiced on December 28, día de los Santos Inocentes, the "Day of the Holy Innocents". This custom also exists in certain areas of Belgium, including the province of Antwerp. The Flemish tradition is for children to lock out their parents or teachers, only letting them in if they promise to bring treats the same evening or the next day.

2:09 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On injury updates:
Arron Asham has a minor lower-body injury. Pascal Dupuis, it was a maintenance day for him.

On if Asham is still with the team and could be in Saturday:
That is correct.

On having so many guys dealing with long-term injuries and if there are things he can do as a coach to help them stay a part of the team dynamic:
Yes, there is, and yes, we do. There are various things depending on the player and on the situation. Some players watch video on their particular aspect of where they may play or what they may do for our team and their role, and help out in that regard. We’ve had players watch from the press box and have somewhat of an eye from the sky type of scenario. But also, with how we integrate them back into practice as well. To say and be a part of the team and treat them like a part of the team and have them be around for that depending on what their injury is, where they’re at in their recovery and where they’re at in terms of being on the ice or not (has helped). So we’ve done lots of different things.

On why it’s important emotionally for a guy to feel like he’s as much a part of the team as possible:
I think if you want to describe the team as it is in that room, there’s 20 guys that spend every day (together), go through a lot of fight and a lot of battle and a lot of ups and downs and every scenario. When a team’s winning, you feel like you’re on the outside and you might not want to mess up what’s in there. If there’s some difficult times, you’re stepping in there and you don’t feel like you have a say in anything or are a part of the struggles and the battles that guys are going through, the team is going through. You can feel somewhat like you shouldn’t be in the middle of the room. It’s many different ways where we try to make sure that’s not the case for our players and our guys.

On if he feels for a guy like Mike Comrie:
Absolutely. He’s a guy who wants to help, wants to get in a situation where he can help himself but also the team. He hasn’t been around on the ice with us for a long, long time, and was doing a lot of rehab, a lot of minor rehab. But to Mike’s credit, there wasn’t a game that went by that he wasn’t a part of it, during the game, after the game and with the guys. Now as he works his way to get back and he’s trying to get the full speed, he wants to do everything he can in every way to be a part and help our team. It’s been a difficult year for him and I think if you play long enough, sometimes you run into those situations. Luckily for him, he’s gotten back to a point where he can now hope to get back to full speed and be a help in the playoffs.

On if he lets himself think about what it will be like when Crosby is officially cleared to play when he sees him on the ice with the team:
I have not thought that one time. The only time I think about it is when ROOT Sports flashes it up on the screen where the goal differential without Sidney is – that’s when I think about it. But on the ice, again, it’s great to see him out with his teammates, it’s good to see him in those drills and flying around, and you can see that Sidney Crosby is Sidney Crosby. But the progression that he’s at is still a long ways away. The timetable hasn’t been established at all and he still has several other aspects to go through in terms of what he needs to do. So I don’t see that when I see him out on the ice, it’s just good to see him out there and I do enjoy the speed at which he practices.

On how it can’t hurt for his teammates to see Crosby out there on the ice:
No (laughs). It’s a challenge to keep up on his pace.

On if he’s ever had a fish on his back during practice:
Poisson D'Avril? No. Never.

On the importance of the guys staying loose and trying to make a good run at the end of this season to build momentum for playoffs:
There’s a lot about (Thursday) night’s game where we played and you like what we saw, you like the battle from our team. And yet, we don’t like losing hockey games and we don’t like that situation. We know we’re four games, five games away from playoffs, but we still have hockey to play and be focused and we still have home ice to try to win and try to win hockey games. So it wasn’t bad to see an April Fool’s joke out there today, and I was just surprised it took Nealer so long to figure out something was going on.

On the best hockey April Fool’s joke he’s ever witnessed:
There’s been a few. The one that immediately comes to mind, I’m not going to mention.

On the penalty kill percentage dipping and the contributing factors to that:
I don’t have one specific (answer). There are specific details that are very important to it being at a high level, and some of those details have waned a little bit. Faceoffs have been an issue. Some of the nights we haven’t done well, we lost upwards of 85 percent. That was something in the playoffs last year that really hurt us on the penalty kill, was the amount of faceoffs we lost, letting teams start with the puck and having zone time. (Thursday) night was a particularly strong game, they barely had the puck in our zone to set up what was a dangerous power play and (our PK) did a good job at that. When we’re strong, we do a very good job of clears and getting clearing attempts and winning faceoffs. I think Brooks Orpik was a factor in that, and getting him back and getting him up to speed is a help in that regard. But again, the percentage of a penalty kill doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter. You let in one out of two – and that one’s in the third period of the game – it doesn’t matter what you did for the previous 77 games. We still have been strong in numerous games, we have let a couple two-goal games in and that has hurt our percentage a bit. But Brooks being back and the details of our clearing attempts and faceoffs is something that has to be very good to be as good as we were.

1:57 PM:
Neal took the fish off his jersey and stuck it to the wall in his locker after practice. PensTV and I talked to him about the practical joke.

On his teammates having a little fun with him today:
(Laughs) Yeah, I was definitely – they got me good. I just heard a lot of fish jokes on the ice and I just laughed and played along, but I had no clue what they were talking about. I kept going and then finally I skated by the glass and I got a glimpse of my back.

On if he has any idea who the culprit is:
No, but I’ve got a few guys I’ll talk to.

On if he has cooked up any schemes for payback:
Yeah, I’m going to have to think up something good. I’ll let you guys know.

1:44 PM:
Sounds heard around the visitors locker room...

Sidney Crosby

On how him skating today means he is not cleared for contact since he did not do puck battles or other normal elements of practice:
Yeah. It was nice that was the kind of practice it was. I was happy to be able to go out.

On the positive aspect of him being able to skate two days in a row:
Yeah, that’s a good part of it. But (there’s) still a long ways to go.

On the challenge of fitting in with the team after being out for so long and if the fact that a lot of guys have gone through that this year has made it any easier:
I think it’s just if you’re going through that with someone, you’re working to get back with someone, then I think that’s nice. It’s a good thing to go through. But yeah, I mean, that helps, I guess, not having to do those skates by yourself or other cases. So that helps for sure.

On if it’s a struggle since his injury is such an unknown and he’s so used to the team dynamic:
Yeah, no, it’s tough for me. You try to be as part of everything as you can, but the reality is that you’re usually in before the team and doing your stuff before they get there so everyone can do their routine. They’re out there playing and competing and practicing and traveling – all that stuff. You miss all that and being around the guys. We love to compete. We love being out there and playing hockey, but the team part of it is also what makes it so great and that changes a lot when you’re hurt.

On if the team needs more goals like the one Mike Rupp scored Thursday vs. Tampa Bay:
Yeah, and I think that’s kind of been our identity even when we were scoring all those goals. We were scoring a lot of them because of that. We were driving to the net and getting second opportunities. You need to have that consistency throughout the season because you can’t just turn a switch on when you get to the playoffs or get to times like this. So that’s why you practice those good habits and I think that’s something you’re always reminding yourself of no matter if the puck’s going in or not. But I think you probably emphasize that stuff a little more when they’re not going in as often, and that’s the case here. We’ve just got to continue to keep those good habits and you know if you do that, you’re going to get rewarded.

On how goals like that are often critical in the playoffs:
Yeah. Those are the type you get, especially this time of year. You’ve got to find ways to make that happen, and I think that this is when they’re probably magnified even more, at this time of year.

Mark Letestu

On the importance of getting wins down the stretch, not just for points but for momentum:
I think teams usually talk about peaking at the right time. I think we’ve been playing pretty well, obviously we didn’t get the results our last couple of games here but as a team, I think we’re close. We’re close to where we want to be. There’s 4-5 games here left where we’ve got a chance to really tune it up and go into the playoffs in top gear.

On how his timing has been a couple of games into his return from an upper-body injury:
It’s coming. There’s been some chances where I probably could have put it away or had some better execution, so it’s not so much an injury thing or getting back into it, it’s just a matter of bearing down a little bit and executing a little better. So my play is coming. It’s got to be better than what it has been. And these last couple games before the playoffs is kind of what I’m gearing towards.

On what it’s like playing between James Neal and Alex Kovalev, who have been playing some of their best hockey as of late:
It’s good that there’s a chance every time I’m out there. There’s a chance something’s going to go right. They’re both gifted offensively, Nealer probably played one of this best games (Thursday). Didn’t get rewarded for it, but it’s going to come. I think patience is key right now. Not how many, it’s when, right now. You get the big goals at the right times and everybody’s happy.

1:37 PM:
Pens coach Bylsma had updates on the absenses of Asham and Dupuis.
  • Asham has a minor lower-body injury
  • Dupuis was given a maintenance day

1:32 PM:
Practice pics....

Neal pre fish (left); Neal post fish (right)



Staal sleeping (left); everyone look to your left (right)

Coach Bylsma (right)

12:16 PM:
The Pens had a little fun at practice with James Neal. "Someone" stuck a fish on the back of his jersey. He's been going all practice without a clue.

12:08 PM:
Here is the update on Crosby from a Penguins official. The reason he is at practice is because there wasn't enough time for him to schedule ice time for a solo workout. So instead, he is with his teammates. But he is only doing flow drills. He is not participating in any battle drills or other typical elements of practice.

Basically, he couldn't work out on his own so the only time he could get his work in was during the practice session. But he's not taking part in full practice.

11:45 AM:
The Pens are on the ice and they've got company. Captain Sidney Crosby is currently on the ice with his teammates for the start of their practice.

The only players not out for Pittsburgh are Arron Asham and Pascal Dupuis.

11:00 AM:
I’m in Miami! OK, technically it’s Sunrise, Florida at the Bank Atlantic Center. The Pens have an 11:30 a.m. practice here today and will take on the Panthers Saturday night.

The last time these two teams hooked up was last Sunday in Pittsburgh. In that contest the Penguins prevailed with a 2-1 shootout win on shootout tallies by Alex Kovalev and James Neal. It was the fourth straight victory in a row earned in a shootout for Pittsburgh – setting a new NHL record.

While in Miami, the Pens are looking to bounce back from a loss in Tampa Bay, solidify home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs and, maybe, solve a few murders.

“They say she came down to drink mojitos and catch some sun.”
“It looks like …. something …. (glasses) …. caught her.”

“So our accident …. (glasses) …. is not an accident at all.”

“No matter how you cut it, war sucks.”
“Frank …. (glasses) …. it’s a killer.”

“The verdict is in Frank …. (glasses) …. but the jury is out.”

For the music today, we’re going with a fun song. Nothing says cheesy 90s song quite like Will Smith’s “Miami.” Check out his “chicken walk” at the 1:40 mark.

Best part of the video: Eva Mendes.

“Can y’all feel that?” Enjoy.

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