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Penguins Report: Practice 4/2/10

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Head coach Dan Bylsma said that he expects both defenseman Sergei Gonchar and forward Evgeni Malkin to return to the lineup Saturday afternoon against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Malkin has missed seven of the team's last eight games with a foot injury. Gonchar has been out for the past four games with an illness.

"I think so, yes," Gonchar replied when asked if he was good to go Saturday. "I'm feeling better with every day. I've been improving the last couple of days and feeling better and better."

3:28 PM:
Penguins fans will not be seeing former Pittsburgh forward Colby Armstrong when the Penguins take on the Thrashers at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. The National Hockey League just announced Armstrong has been suspended for two games following his hit on the Washington Capitals Mathieu Perreault on Thursday night.

1:39 PM:

The Atlanta Thrashers held a practice at 1 p.m. at Mellon Arena. The team flew in Friday night from Washington and will faceoff with the Penguins Saturday afternoon.


1:04 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room:

Dan Bylsma
On facing the Atlanta Thrashers:
The one thing that is evident from watching them play last night and the games that we’ve scouted is the work level and the tenacity to which they’re playing right now. I think that it’s something that they’re bringing to the table every night. They’re a desperate team. They’re approaching this like a playoff game, and they have tough opponents going down the stretch. We’re expecting that from that team – a tenacious, high work ethic for 60 minutes. We need to be ready for that.
On if Gonchar and Malkin will be in the lineup tomorrow:
That’s the anticipation.
On players who did not have a strong start to the season earning more points in recent games:
I think that the break was used in a lot of different ways. The first five games were probably our best five games identity-wise and team-wise. You’ve seen players like Tyler Kennedy and Ruslan Fedotenko get back to their games and bring their foundation more. That has come from rest and focus over the break. That’s something that we need to do for our team, as well.
On players going to the net more:
That’s been a huge factor for Pascal’s success this year. Pascal has been known for a big shot down the wing to score goals. Earlier in the year, he was the forward whose shots were farthest away from the net on average. Now he continues to score goals in the blue paint by going to the net and picking up second chances and digging in and around for rebounds. That’s not something that Pascal was known for before, but he has been going there with regularity to get it. He added something new to his game, and that’s why he has been playing on the same line as Sid for a while now.
On his feelings toward the team at the moment:
Whenever you have a group of guys and a team that you’ve won with and you’ve seen them lead – you’ve seen what they’ve done in the past, and you’ve seen what they bring to the table with leadership and tough times – you have a lot of faith with what they do. That’s a faith that underlines the situation that we’re in now. We’re not as consistent as we want to be, but there’s a lot of faith in our room about the guys and the leadership. We need to be better as a team, and we need to respond and get to our game. The care factor and the leadership in our room is one where you know what you have from your leaders.

Sidney Crosby
On the team bouncing back with a couple of practices:
That’s what we have to do. We’ve always done that I think. We’ve had bad games, and two practices have been really good. We have a big game here tomorrow.
On facing teams like the Atlanta Thrashers and the Tampa Bay Lightning that are fighting to end the season on a positive note:
I think that Atlanta is in a little bit of a different category than Tampa. I think that they’re still fighting for their playoff lives. Tampa obviously had a little bit of hope but a lot less than Atlanta has. We know that they’re going to be desperate, and that’s a good thing for us. I think that we need that with whoever we play. In the next five games, we have to worry about ourselves. We know that we’re better than we’ve played the last little bit.
On having Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar back on the ice:
There’s no doubt that those guys are really hard to replace. Certainly having them back is going to be a big boost for us. It doesn’t make things any easier without them, but if anything hopefully we’re better for it. As we move along here, we’ll hopefully be healthy and be at our best.
On the Colby Armstrong hit:
I think that I saw the hit, but I didn’t get a good look at it. I didn’t immediately think that he went to his head when I saw it. I don’t think that he left his feet, and he hit him forward. When you’re talking about whether the guy is leaning forward, you have to analyze the hit. It’s a fast game.
On the league taking a stand against head shots:
I think they’re talking about guys going from the blind side. If he’s leaning forward, that’s the first part of the body that you hit. It’s hard to argue that, too. I’m all about protecting players. We don’t want head shots for sure, but there are times where it may happen depending on how guys are positioned. You have to treat each one individually. You can’t look at one and categorize it with everything else.
On having an urgency to win the remainder of the games in the regular season:
We’ve had some success. When you do, you forget the details sometimes. Down the stretch, you have to re-focus on those details, especially this year. You don’t have a ton of practice time, and I think that it’s easy to overlook those details sometimes. Sometimes you need a wakeup call, and you need to realize those things quickly. Hopefully last game was that for us. I think that we needed that. If anything, that was something that will hopefully make us better in the long run.
On ending the regular season on a winning streak:
You can play good games and lose. That’s part of the game. It’s knowing that we’re playing the right way – whether it was this year or last year or the year before. I don’t think that you ever think that you have to win all of the remaining games to feel good about yourself going into the playoffs. It’s making sure that each guy is playing the way that he needs to, and hopefully as a group we’re doing the right things. That has to be our focus in the next five games.

Sergei Gonchar
On regaining strength after sitting out a while:
Yeah, the strength was gone but I have been working on it the past three or four days. It’s tough to do things with the team when you are not skating with the team. Obviously you are a little behind. I want to play as soon as possible so I can catch up to them.
On the media being more concerned about their play than the team is:
I don’t know people outside (feel). I know inside we recognize the situation and know what to do. We have had a few meetings. We know we have only five more games to prepare ourselves because when the playoffs start we have to be 100 percent. We have to be ready when the playoffs start.
On facing Atlanta without Kovalchuk:
Kovy is a great player. He creates a lot of offense for the teams he plays for. They are going to miss him, for sure. They still have a lot of talent up front which can score. They are playing very organized hockey. They are battling for the playoffs so they are going to be desperate. It’s going to be an interesting game tomorrow.
Matt Cooke
On how comfortable the team is with its game:
If you are basing it off last game then not very close at all. I think it is a mindset. It’s not like a light switch – it doesn’t just happen. We all know that and understand that. We have five games to get on the winning way and get a winning attitude.
On being easier to get up for a team such as Atlanta:
It shouldn’t be. The end of the year is a critical time for us. Our focus should be there. Tomorrow being a one o’clock game, it has to start now.
On missing Malkin and Gonchar:
You are going to have injuries during the regular season and playoffs. We had them last year. You have to overcome them. You have to do whatever your team needs to be successful. I don’t think that we have done that as well as we should have. When they come back none of us know. We have to make sure we are doing the right things to win hockey games right now.
On getting back with Staal and Kennedy:
I look forward to it. It’s for a lack of a better word – comfortable. I have played the better part of two years with those guys. There is something to be said about knowing where your linemates are going to be and the consistency of going out on the ice with the same guys. We communicate together very well. We are all trying to achieve the same thing. It’s a good line.
Assist Caitlin Kasunich and Jason Seidling

12:24 PM:

Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis work on shot deflections with Marc-Andre Fleury (right)

Pascal Dupuis and Brooks Orpik (left)

Evgeni Malkin (left) and Sergei Gonchar (right) have missed the past few games with injuries

12:13 PM:
The Penguins have taken the ice for their noon practice at Mellon Arena. All players are accounted for and the line workings look as follows:

The fourth line was a cluster of the remaining players.
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