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Penguins Report: Practice 5/15/13

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Coach Paul MacLean said after practice that he did not have an update on defenseman Eric Gryba, who left Tuesday's Game 1 after Brooks Orpik stood him up on the blue line. But he said they were not ruling Gryba out to play on Friday. MacLean also said that Jason Spezza will not play in Game 2, saying "Jason continues to skate in Ottawa. Honestly, every day he skates is progress."

MacLean did say that If Gryba cannot play, they have (Mike) Lundin and (Andre) Benoit here in Pittsburgh that could take his spot in the lineup. But he added that as of right now, he would say Patrick Wiercoch is not available with his lower-body injury.

Here's more of what the Sens and their coach had to say...

We captured MacLean and Anderson on video...

Paul MacLean

Craig Anderson

--Michelle Crechiolo


When asked why he skated, Anderson joked, "Figured I’d work on my scoring abilities, shooting the puck down the ice. "

Anderson stretches in front of a crowd of media #BecauseItsTheCup

Anderson's goalie partner Robin Lehner

The guys warm up their goaltenders

Goalie fist bump

--Michelle Crechiolo

One glaring difference between the Pens’ series with the Senators from their series with the Islanders is the physical component. The Islanders like to use their speed and talent to attack. The Senators also have some speed, but they also play a much more physical style.

The physical aspect of this series was demonstrated in Game 1 (more on that here) when the teams combined for 66 hits (Penguins – 40, Senators – 26). And that’s something you can expect to see for the rest of this series.

“There is a physicality in both teams that’s going to be there,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “I heard them talk about wanting to be more physical going to the net. I’m just looking at our team and the way we came out.”

Chris Neil led the Senators with five hits, but they’ve also got a few other bruisers in their lineup like Matt Kassian, Zack Smith, Jared Cowen and Marc Methot. But the Penguins also have guys that like to use the body: Matt Cooke (5 hits in Game 1), Brooks Orpik (4), James Neal (4) and more.

“They have guys that can wear on you. They try to have that physical factor to their game, as do we. A lot of what playoff hockey is opposing your will on the other team and trying to create some space for yourself. That’s going to be a factor going forward in the series.”

The Penguins coaching staff track their own hit statistics. They were very pleased with the results, especially early in the game.

“We had significantly more hits in the first period than in the rest of the game,” Bylsma said. “I liked the way we came out and played on our toes in the first period and the way we played in the offensive zone. The first half of that period was how we need to play.”

The Penguins have the speed, skill and talent it takes to compete at a high level. But to win in the playoffs you also need to have some grit and toughness to your game.

“You have to play that way if you want to have success in the postseason,” Niskanen said. “That’s been our game plan. Get in on forechecks and put a dent in them. Make them hard minutes for their defenseman and their top guys. That’s a focus for us. If you want to have success in the series we’re going to have to match their physicality.”

--Sam Kasan


Dan Bylsma

Kris Letang

Brandon Sutter

Matt Niskanen

Craig Adams

--Sam Kasan


--Sam Kasan

The Senators also had an optional practice. Theirs was at 2 p.m. Nine skaters and both goalies (Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner) participated.

--Michelle Crechiolo


Geno in a hoodie and sweats

The MVP stickhandling

Adams with one heck of a shiner

"Girls love"

Coach and Geno practicing their secret handshake

Eaton gets ready to work on his gap control in a drill

Off he goes!

Glass looks like he's telling an epic story to Beau. "When I was your age..."

Jussi J

Engelland practiced after playing last night

Hartzell with some new goalie pads

Fleury joined the practice late

View from his net

--Michelle Crechiolo

Here is the list of Penguins participating in today's optional practice: Craig Adams, Jussi Jokinen, Beau Bennett, Dustin Jeffrey, Tanner Glass, Deryk Engelland, Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo and Mark Eaton. Eric Hartzell is the only goalie on the ice and Evgeni Malkin is skating in sweats.

UPDATE (about 1:05 P.M.): Fleury just joined the optional practice. Malkin finished his workout and left the ice.

--Michelle Crechiolo

Think your youngster is the biggest Penguins fan? Check out this 4-year-old boy who not only knows all the players, but their jersey numbers (he even nailed Eric Hartzell). When I was 4 I don't even think I knew my own name, let alone an entire team roster. Maybe he can help me track the players at practice!!

(H/T KDKA link)

--Sam Kasan

Here's one final look back at the coverage from Pittsburgh's Game 1 victory...

Special Teams is the Difference
Heading into the series, the Penguins knew they would face a big challenge in the Senators’ vaunted penalty killing unit, which topped the league by killing 88 percent of their chances against during the regular season, and goalie Craig Anderson, who held a 1.80 goals-against average and .950 save percentage in the postseason after the first round.

But this task didn’t faze Pittsburgh’s power-play unit – ranked atop the postseason leaderboard with a 36 percent efficiency rate - as it surgically dissected the Senators for two power-play goals on three chances. Paul Martin, who was just as effective on the Pens’ penalty kill, opened the scoring with a slap shot from the point set up by Evgeni Malkin about three minutes into the game, while Chris Kunitz wristed a puck past Anderson late in the second period as the result of several through passes to give the Pens a two-goal cushion.

“The threat’s always there,” Kunitz said. “You need to make sure you go out and execute every single time. It’s not something that’s just going to carry over because it happened before. You have to go out and create the momentum, make sure you have crisp puck movement and get in the zone clean, shoot pucks on net. Just create momentum every time that you’re out there.”

Full story here.

Less is More for Malkin
Points-wise, Malkin recorded an assist in the first period in addition to his goal, giving him points in all seven games during this year’s postseason. His previous career-long playoff streak was six games (set May 9-23, 2009). His six multiple-point playoff games are the most of any NHL player this spring, while his 10 assists lead the league and his 13 points (3G-10A) tie him for first in the NHL in scoring this postseason.

But as he said himself, it’s not the points that matter to him. They seem to come no matter what with him because of the superstar that he is. It is his play the entire length of the ice – offensive zone, neutral zone, defensive zone – and how he manages the puck that matter to him. During Pittsburgh's first-round series with the Islanders, at times he tried to do too much when he had possession, and it resulted in turnovers and chances against.

“I had 11 points (in the first round), but I had a couple bad turnovers and the Islanders scored goals and won games,” he said. “Just work in my D-zone more. I’m not seeing my points. I’m seeing my game on both sides. Offensive zone, I can’t score every game. But when I play better in the D-zone, it’s very important to me.”

Full story here.

Analysis: Physical Play Marks Game 1
The Penguins threw 40 hits in the game, led by five each from Chris Kunitz and Matt Cooke. The Senators were similarly willing to take the body. They collected 26 hits, led by Chris Neil’s five.

The Penguins’ opening round series against the NY Islanders was an open-ice, up-and-down affair. The Islanders’ speed and skill players tried to outskate the Penguins. And they were certainly successful during stretches of the series. Team speed and skating was a much bigger emphasis than physicality.

The Senators also have some swift skaters, but they are more apt to play a punishing and physical brand of playoff hockey. Just ask the Montreal Canadiens, who were left battered, bruised and eliminated after five games in their opening round series versus Ottawa.

Full analysis here.

(All photos courtesy of Getty Images)

--Sam Kasan

The Pens jumped out to a 1-0 series lead on the Senators with their 4-1 victory in Game 1 Tuesday night at CONSOL Energy Center. Pittsburgh will hold an optional practice Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. The Senators will have the ice at 2 p.m. for practice.

Stick right here for the latest info on both teams...


We'll start the day by looking at the Pens-Sens Game 1 highlights - which of course ended in a 4-1 Pens' victory.

--Sam Kasan

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