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Penguins Report: Practice 4/15/10

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

We have some breaking news from the Senators camp. Forward Milan Michalek will be out for the rest of the series with a torn ACL in his left knee, general manager Bryan Murray announced at a press conference this afternoon. Ryan Shannon will take his place in the lineup.


3:33 PM:
Sounds heard around the Senators locker room:

Senators general manager Bryan Murray
Bryan Murray

On the team’s resiliency through player injuries this season:

I think that it goes around the league. We were doing a little planning for going forward with the organization this past week. With the Olympic year as it was and the games piled so close together, I think that if you look around the league, there were a lot of teams with a lot of problems because of the injuries and call-ups that had to take place. The good thing about it is that it gave a lot of younger players at the start of the year an opportunity to play games. Peter Regin went from a fourth line player to a first line player, because he got a chance to be put in situations where, in a normal year, that may not have happened. Now we see Zack Smith will have to come in and be a priority player for us as we move forward. There is good and bad to it. You see the depth of the organization. Like every group, you have so many guys that you can call on before you start running out of numbers. It’s been a tough year, and Cory (Clouston) and the coaching staff and players have done a real fine job. It’s part of the reason that we were so streaky I think. We had a good run. We lost five in a row. We were missing a couple of key guys. It’s hard to fill in for top players. Milan (Michalek) is a top player. (Alex) Kovalev is a top player. (Filip) Kuba is a top player. We will probably miss Kuba as much as anybody on the back end. He was such a poised, offensive type of guy for us that made everybody else up front look better.

On what he liked the most about last night’s game:

Just our effort – I think that we had structure. We knew that we’d have that. We liked the way that our guys for the most part worked and certainly the role that players played in the game. We think that we made lots of mistakes or turnovers or opportunities that we gave away, and a couple of goals that they scored were not great goals because of man advantage situations and wrong decisions in the offensive zone – in particular, the Adams goal. But I liked the way that we hung in there. We were so poised. There was a lot of pressure at times. 

On Cory Clouston being the right fit as the Senators’ coach:
He makes demands. He is no-nonsense in a lot of ways, but I can see that he is developing a real good relationship with a lot of the players that maybe early on he didn’t care about. He’s very adamant in practice, very adamant in teams and technical to a point. He understands how to coach against good players. He gives them a plan and demands that they stick to it. I think that he’s just a good voice in the room. They respect who he is. That’s the whole goal of coaching – to have the ability to communicate and relate what you think is important to your team.

On establishing a hatred for the Penguins in this series:
We’re playing a game. Hatred is a little bit strong. It’s great for the media to write about and ask the players about, but I think that we’re competitors. I think that Sidney (Crosby) is a competitor. We’ve got lots of people that are. I think that we’re strong competitors with some emotion that will be ramped up a little bit. To go to the extreme of hate – I think that they’re all part of a union, and they’ll all vote together at some point in time for a new leader. I can’t imagine that that’s the right word.
On Jason Spezza’s play since the Olympic break:

Without a doubt, I think that he had a tough start to the year. I think that he put a lot of pressure on himself wanting to be an Olympian. When that didn’t happen, I think that he had a little period of time where he was disappointed. He came back after the break, and I think that he has been outstanding. He is skating better than he has in a while. He looks like he gets the puck and gets going and attacks the net aggressively. I think that our power play is an indication of where he is getting a little better in the offensive zone with just holding the puck and showing some patience. Obviously going forward into the playoffs, if we’re going anywhere, he has to be one of our key players.

Cory Clouston
On the loss of Milan Michalek in the playoffs:

He has shown all year that he has been able to play with injuries. I guess that the only plus side to that is that we have played a lot of games without him. He has had some injuries throughout the season, and we’ve been able to adjust. It’s tough to replace a player like him, but we’ve had to in the past, and we’ll do it again.

On developing relationships with the players as a new NHL coach:
I am who I am. I can always get better in certain areas. I’m not going to change a whole lot. Communication is very important – no matter what level that you’re coaching.

On his mindset going into Game 2:
It’s not going to be any different than the one going into last night. We’re approaching one game at a game. To throw out another cliché, it’s more like one shift at a time. That’s what we’re trying to do. That hasn’t changed, and it’s not going to change no matter what game it is.
On Jason Spezza’s play since the Olympic break:

Obviously, he’s very important. He’s one of our elite top players. For us to be successful, he has to play well. He is doing a lot of little things very well. He is managing the puck better. He is skating better. His attention to detail has improved a lot. His competitiveness has really shown. He wants to be a go-to guy. To a large extent when he plays well, we win games.
On Chris Kelly’s defensive game:
We’ve said it all along that we’re not going to be able to do it with just one guy or one mind. You have to do it by committee. Defensively, that’s a real solid line. They check well. They are responsible. They know what they need to do. To get three goals from that line is a bonus, but we’ve had other games throughout the season where they have scored some very important goals for us. Hopefully, they will continue to play well offensively. Our main concern with that line is being able to create momentum, be strong defensively and chip in when they can offensively. 

On the players buying into what he wanted to do when he arrived as the coach:

I think that it’s the right way to play for this team, and I think that they see that. I think that as a group, as a coaching staff, we came prepared. They saw what we were trying to preach, and it wasn’t long before they did see results. We don’t play exactly the same way as we did last February when I got here, but we play very, very similar. We always make adjustments. It’s like a game of chess. It goes back and forth. We assume that they’re going to make a few adjustments tomorrow night. We’re going to have to do the same. For the most part, we play very, very similar to what we did a year and a little bit ago. I think that the players enjoy that. They like how we play.

Jason Spezza
On team growing to dislike each other:

I think it always builds throughout the series. There are more and more emotions that get run in. We play each other so much that – that is the fun part of the playoffs – how you play the same team over and over again. 

On any surprise he might have to the Penguins talking about now having a healthy dislike for the Senators:
Not really, no. It is what you would expect in the playoffs.

Jarkko Ruutu

On the opening game:

We were productive. You have to chip in if you want to succeed in the playoffs. Every line has to chip in every now and then. Yesterday was our turn. Tomorrow is a new game.

On the play of his line at both ends:

We try to play simple. That is the type of hockey which is most effective during the playoffs. There is nothing fancy – just really simple – throwing the puck at the net when you have the chance and make sure the puck gets deep or gets out of the zone. That’s how you create most of your chances. You try to put pressure on their defense and force them to turn over the puck. You want to capitalize on turnovers.

On any talking he said to Malkin:

I don’t think I said anything to him. We just happened to step in the same lane. He skated right into me.

3:24 PM:
Head coach Dan Bylsma said that Brent Johnson did not practice because he is suffering from "flu-like symptoms." To be safe, the Penguins recalled goaltender Brad Thiessen from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

There was a nice piece on Thiessen on the Americna Hockey League's main website.

2:39 PM:
Coach's Corner with Dan Bylsma:

Dan Bylsma
On establishing a rivalry with Ottawa in future playoff games:

I think that the desperation level and the urgency level – they were better in that department yesterday. I think that they played exactly how we expected with what their game play was. They were very good in that regard. We have to get to that right now. If (the Senators) beating us in our building in Game 1 – that hatred and that desperation better be enough right now to bring to Game 2 and be ready to get to our game. If we didn’t have it, we should have it right now with the way that we played and the way that they played against us.

On the challenges that come with being a young coach in the NHL:
I think that there are challenges certainly in a lot of different areas – the credibility as a coach, the message that you are sending and getting the message clearly to the players. If I walked up to the door with encyclopedias right now, you’d probably just slam the door on me real quick. I used to work at one point in time to sell encyclopedias but not anymore. You have to know your message, be real clear, get it to the right people in the right way and you have to be able to reinforce it, as well. Those are the challenges. There are different ways to deal with it. I think Cory and I are different coaches in different regards, but we are probably preaching pretty close to the same message with the way that they are playing.

On giving Sidney Crosby more time and space on the ice in future playoff games:

Having watched two periods of the game and almost the whole third, half of the matchups were in our favor in terms of what we got and in terms of what they were trying to get. We got those situations to get matchups after icings and so forth. I think that it is not so much that our team tries to do something for Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. To get more room has to do with how we need to execute and the mentality with which we execute – how we play the game will result in us getting more zone time. That’s something that we have to get better at – the mentality at which we play. They had a third guy back a lot. At times, they were able to create turnovers that we weren’t able to turn into the offensive zone and create that space and zone time that results in more shots on net for everybody.

On the team being in playoff mode yesterday:

Was that our best game? Did we play with the necessary desperation urgency that we wanted to? Did we execute with the right mentality? We didn’t do that.
On if he ever had any run-ins with Jarkko Ruutu when he played:
I did have run-ins with Ruutu. Other than the smirk on his face, I can’t remember much about them.

On what was wrong with Brent Johnson today: 

Brent Johnson just has flu-like symptoms today and is suffering from that right now.

On the positive aspects of the team’s game that he was satisfied with last night:
I thought that our power play did a good job at getting us the lead in the game and responding right away. We also got back in the game with a second goal from Geno (Evgeni Malkin), and I think that we were able to work it around in the offensive zone like we wanted to and thought we could. We did, in the second period, minus the two goals that we gave up – the power play goal on the dump-in and the other power play goal – we did a couple of times put pucks behind their defense. Max Talbot got in and created a scoring chance for (Alexei) Ponikarovsky. We had several chances in the offensive zone. The ones leading up to the Kunitz penalty were good shifts. We had the momentum going in our way. There were bits and pieces that were evident of how we need to play and will play. We have to be ready to play against a team that is going to play good defensively. Our execution and mentality has to be more consistent with getting pucks north and fast and quick to the offensive zone and making it tough for them to have to go back. We did not do that enough. We did that at times in the second period and got six scoring chances as a result of that. We need to be more ready and more apt to do that with our execution.


2:09 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room:

Sidney Crosby
On if the Penguins underestimated Ottawa’s defense last night:

Not at all. We expect exactly what we saw from them everywhere. We didn’t underestimate anything. That’s for sure.

On how the Penguins can bounce back from the first playoff game:

We have to get to our game a little bit more – our game, speed and forechecking. Definitely in the first period, we didn’t go a good job of that. It hurt us over the course of the game. We know what things that we have to change are, and we have to get to our game a little bit more to put more pressure on them.

On how Ottawa has been able to contain the Penguins during games:

I think that they just play a good team defense. That’s pretty much the key to any strong defense against anybody. Playoff hockey is going to be tighter whether we’re playing Ottawa or anyone else. It’s going to be tight. There is not going to be a lot of chances. You just have to make the most of them, but honestly I don’t see anything different.

On if last night’s game affected the team’s confidence:

We didn’t come in here expecting to win four straight. It’s going to be a tough series. If anything, last game should motivate us even more. We hadn’t played Ottawa for a long time. We have a history with them in the playoffs, and I don’t think that the element of not liking them was really there enough because of the long period that it has been since we played them. That’s definitely there now.

On trying to get more pucks on the net in future games:

I’m not going to change anything to be honest. It’s pretty hard to shoot if we don’t get the puck in the offensive zone. We have to do a better job of that. But to say that I’m just going to start shooting needlessly just to shoot – that’s not smart either. You have to trust your instincts, and one game doesn’t mean that you have to reinvent the wheel here. They won the game, but that’s playoff hockey.    

Jordan Staal
On what the Penguins need to do:
I think that’s the willingness to go and do the right things to find a way to win. That is sticking to the plan and knowing the right way to play. We have to find the players in here to do it.
On making it too easy for Ottawa:
They played well but we didn’t play our best. There are too many things we need to get better at. Hopefully we addressed that today.
On Thursday’s practice:
I think we had a great practice today and a good meeting before. It is time for us to take ownership and do things the right way.
On getting caught off guard:
No, we knew they were going to come out strong. They are a good team. We know it is going to be a challenge. Nothing is easy in the playoffs. We wanted to take the easy game but it isn’t going to happen that way.
On how the forwards can help the defense:
Playing in their end is always the best defense. If we are holding onto the puck and working in their end to tire them out then it is a lot harder to score goals. We have to track back and be there for our D so they can have a good gap. It’s just little things like that which can take our game to another level.
On having to get nasty:
We hadn’t played that game in a while so maybe we lost that hatred for them and stuff like that. After last night it was a battle. I think we’ll have that grittiness back in our game tomorrow.
Brooks Orpik
On what Ottawa did:
They didn’t do anything we didn’t expect. They played better than we did and they are up 1-0. We move on from it.
On needing more shots thrown Elliott’s way:
I thought our start was great. We came out with a lot of energy and got that first goal on the power play. I think that first (Ottawa) goal really settled them down. You could tell they were on the run and were nervous. I think that goal really gave them a little bit of confidence there.
On figuring out what can work against a team as a series goes on:
I don’t think so. I think we were pretty well prepared coming in. I think it is just a matter of doing it. You can talk until you are blue in the face. We watched it on video today and it was exactly what we expected. We just have to get everyone into buying into the same way to play. They didn’t do anything different. They were just opportunistic. Every break we gave them they did a great job of capitalizing on them.

Pascal Dupuis
On getting more shots on goal:
We just need to want it more. The way we played the first game wasn’t the way we wanted to start the series. Now a little slap in the face will wake us up a bit.
On slapping themselves:
We didn’t give our best effort. We know we have stuff to work on. The emotional level that we need to bring to win games in the playoffs wasn’t there.
On doing that:
Individually we have to realize that we’re in the playoffs. We were the Stanley Cup champs from last year but this is a new quest. We just need to want it again.
On bouncing back:
It’s a race to four. They are up 1-0 right now. It’s the playoffs. You don’t want to be back in the series, but at the same time we know that if we play the right way for a long period of time I think we are gong to win.

Chris Kunitz
On caught off guard:
They were jumping and we weren’t reacting. We saw them going and we tried to play catch up. Game plans change as you go along through the playoffs. It’s one game. We let it get away from us. We didn’t get to our game. They beat us to our game. The outcome is losing by a goal.
On losing the compete level of year’s past:
It was emotion, being responsible with the puck. One bad shift led to another bad shift. We have to control each other, put pucks where we need to put pucks, generate that flow and tilt the ice in our favor. That’s something we didn’t get to early in the game.
On the loss:
They just beat us to our game, plain and simple. We knew what they were trying to do and we didn’t get to our game as quickly as we wanted to.
On being tentative after missing time:
I don’t think I was tentative at all. I went out and tried to play the game I’m used to playing.
On facing the trap:
We didn’t generate enough opportunities to shoot the puck. We could have put a few more towards the net. They were doing a great job of quick-up, getting pucks past us in the neutral zone, making our D go back for it, making us skate the whole lengh of the ice. We had a few turnovers that generated their offense. We just have to get back to our game, get pucks behind them and put pucks towards the net.


2:00 PM:
The Senators played a little pre-practice soccer outside their locker room at Mellon Arena.


1:45 PM:
We have some breaking news from the Senators camp. Forward Milan Michalek will be out for the rest of the series with a torn ACL in his left knee, general manager Bryan Murray announced at a press conference this afternoon.

11:37 AM:
Penguins video coordinator Jim Britt is in net for the Penguins at their Thursday practice. Goaltender Brent Johnson is not on the ice and we expect to get an update from Bylsma on his status after the skate.

The forward combinations were as follows:

11:30 AM:

Marc-Andre Fleury makes a diving save on Chris Kunitz

Jordan Staal (left) and Bill Guerin (right)

Max Talbot (left) had one of his best games of the season in Game 1 vs. Ottawa

11:05 AM:
The Penguins are huddled up on the ice at Mellon Arena listening to head coach Dan Bylsma discuss strategy. The team has an 11 a.m. practice Thursday in preparation for its Game 2 showdown with the Ottawa Senators Friday night.

The Senatos are also here. Ottawa's coaching staff and management are in the stands watching the practice. The Senatos are scheduled to practice at Mellon Arena at 1 p.m. today.
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